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Archive for February, 2012

Four Ig Nobel winners coming to Leeds on 8 March

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

The Ig Nobel show—featuring a full gaggle of Ig Nobel Prize winners—is coming to Leeds for the first time ever, as the kickoff event in the Ig Nobel Tour of the UK, part of National Science & Engineering Week. The Ig winners have each been honored for doing something that makes people laugh, then think. They each will explain, to the extent possible, what they did and why they did it.

When: Thursday, 8 March, 2012, 6:00 pm

Where: Leeds Festival of Science, University of Leeds, Conference Auditorium 1


TICKETS are available now

Experiments with inflatable & other life-size dolls

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

A generic life-size doll, with no modifications, was the key element in at least one unplanned experiment — the experiment documented in a 1993 monograph called Transmission of Gonorrhoea Through an Inflatable Doll, published in the journal Genitourinary Medicine. But generally, scientists who conduct planned experiments that rely on life-size dolls prefer to carefully optimise, or even create, their own doll.

That unplanned inflatable doll experiment centred on a ship’s captain who “with some hesitation … told the story” while being treated at a sexual disease clinic in Greenland. The captain had without permission entered an absent crewman’s cabin, borrowed a piece of equipment, and later suffered the consequences.

That inflatable doll was not purpose-built for scientific use. Only through delightful happenstance did it satisfy the scientists’, as well as the captain’s, needs. Most scientists hate to depend on serendipity, especially if they have to depend on a doll.

A new study called Convective Heat Transfer From a Nude Body Under Calm Conditions: Assessment of the Effects of Walking With a Thermal Manikin [mannequin] exhibits the forethought and niggling care that can go into acquiring a suitable nude doll….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.

BONUS [shown in photos accompanying this blog item]: Two modern inflatable dolls, one called “Judy“, the other called “Big Mouth Toys Inflatable John“. The versions pictured here are off-the-shelf models, not intended exclusively for scientific experimentation.

Presidents’ Face Shapes and Achievements

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

The shape of American presidents faces tells much about how they would and did act, suggests a new study (which cites a recent similar study about corporate CEOs’ face shapes and their companies’ performance):

Facial width-to-height ratio predicts achievement drive in US presidents,” G.J. Lewis, C.E. Lefevre, T.C. Bates, Personality and Individual Differences, in press 2012.

The authors, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and the University of Edinburgh, explain:

“Facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) has been associated with aggression, unethical behavior, company profit, and dominance; however, it is currently unclear whether this facial trait relates to politically relevant character traits. Here we examine fWHR in an elite sample of political leaders, former US presidents (n = 29), who were rated for forcefulness, pacifism, inflexibility, and achievement drive; traits potentially linked to fWHR. The first three of these traits were unrelated to fWHR, but we found a positive association between fWHR and achievement drive (r = .58, p < .01), and a negative association to the trait “poise and polish” (r = −.38, p < .05). These results extend associations of behavior with facial structure to individuals in the highest echelons of power, suggest connections from biology to politically relevant character traits, and indicate that fWHR may also be associated with achievement-striving alongside associations with dominance and aggression”


It Pays to Be Classy [study]

Monday, February 27th, 2012

People from higher social classes are most likely to find ways to ruin the careers of the scholars who wrote this new study, implies the study:

Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” Paul K. Piff [pictured here], Daniel M. Stancato, Stéphane Côté, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, and Dacher Keltner, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. epub February 27, 2012. The authors explain:

“Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals”

BONUS: Randy Dotinga gives his take in a HealthDay news article called “Are the Rich Really Different From You and Me?

(Thanks to investigator Hugh Henry for bringing this to our attention.

Loveseats at the patent office

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Anthony Vitale, of San Rafael, California, US, has recently been granted a US patent for his ‘Contoured Loveseat’.

There have been a number of loveseat-like patents over the years, (see list below) but this new one has – according to the inventor – some considerable advantages over previous designs (in patent lingo termed ‘the prior art’).

“…there is a deficiency in the prior technology in that none of the prior art shows a contoured loveseat that includes a the convenient storage of a plurality of support cushions within its frame. Additionally, none of the prior art shows a rectilinear design where one side of the loveseat is designed for a male body form and the opposite side of the loveseat is designed for a female body form. Furthermore, none of the prior art shows a contoured loveseat where the width of the seat is designed to allow an individual’s legs to straddle the seat while in a prone position. Finally, none of the prior art shows a design that is aesthetically pleasing and looks at home at the foot of a bed in a standard bedroom.”

Here’s a partial list of some prior art in the loveseat arena. Of varying degrees of technical complexity, and with accompanying illustrations.







Sir Elton John and Graham Norton explore Rocketman’s harness – encountering some practical aspects.

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