Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Method to Improve Rats’ Skill at Driving Cars [research study]

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Driver education for rats—and how to improve it—is the subject of this new study:

Enriched Environment Exposure Accelerates Rodent Driving Skills,” L.E. Crawford, L.E. Knouse, M. Kent, D. Vavra, O. Harding, D. LeServe, N. Fox, X. Hu, P. Li, Clark Glory, and Kelly G. Lambert [pictured here], Behavioural Brain Research, epub 2019. The authors, at the University of Richmond, Virginia, explain:

“In the current study, following preliminary research establishing that rats could be taught to drive a rodent operated vehicle (ROV) in a forward direction, as well as steer in more complex navigational patterns, male rats housed in an enriched environment were exposed to the rodent driving regime. Compared to standard-housed rats, enriched-housed rats demonstrated more robust learning in driving performance and their interest in the ROV persisted through extinction trials.”

Peppermint Odor in Sports

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Although few organized sports focus on the smell of peppermint, a study published almost two decades ago zeroed in on the practice.

The study is: “Enhancing Athletic Performance Through the Administration of Peppermint Odor,” Bryan Raudenbush, Nathan Corley, and William Eppich, Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol.23, 2001, pp. 156-60. The authors, at Wheeling Jesuit University, explain:

“Forty athletes undertook a series of physical tasks under conditions of no-odor or peppermint odor. The peppermint odor condition resulted in increases in running speed, hand grip strength, and number of push-ups, but had no effect on skill related tasks such as basketball free-throw shots.”

New ammo in the boys/girls argument about who’s better at what: math and writing

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

There’s new paper ammunition for all combatants in the eternal anger-and-joy-filled war to explain why more men than women officially keep on studying mathematics.

The new paper that provides—that is itself—the ammunition is:

Girls’ Comparative Advantage in Reading Can Largely Explain the Gender Gap in Math-Related Fields,” Thomas Breda and Clotilde Napp, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116, no. 31, July 30, 2019, pp. 15435-15440.

The authors, at the Paris School of Economics, at Paris-Jourdan Sciences-Economiques, and at Université Paris Dauphine, Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University, explain:

“we show that female students who are good at math are much more likely than male students to be even better in reading. As a consequence, the difference between 15-y-old students’ math and reading abilities, which is likely to be determined by earlier socialization processes, can explain up to 80% of the gender gap in intentions to pursue math-studies and careers.”

BONUS: An old song:

Tangential bonus to the bonus:

Another fan video about the Ig Nobel Prizes

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

More people are making videos about the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s another:


Double-Ig Nobel Prize Winner David Hu Awarded Science Communication Prize

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

David Hu, whose research on urination duration led to the 2015 Ig Nobel Physics Prize and whose research on why wombat poo is cube shaped led—three weeks ago—to the 2019 Ig Nobel Physics Prize, has this week been given a new honor:

The American Institute of Physics Announces 2019 Science Communication Award Winners

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 3, 2019 — Since 1968, the American Institute of Physics has recognized journalists, authors, reporters and other diverse writers for their efforts in science communication. The winners of the 2019 Science Communication Awards are announced….

The BOOK PRIZE [has]co-winners: David L. Hu for “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls” (Princeton University Press) and Marcia Bartusiak for “Dispatches from Planet 3” (Yale University Press)…

BOOK CO-WINNER: “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls” by David Hu

David Hu’s “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls,” published by Princeton University Press, is one of two winners for this year’s book award. Hu’s book explores the astounding diversity and versatility of animal locomotion and how engineers are inspired by it as they design robotics. His team discovered how dogs shake dry, how insects walk on water and how eyelashes protect the eyes from drying.

Judges praised Hu’s book for featuring an interdisciplinary group of scientists working the front lines of their fields.

“A lot of people ask me where I get my ideas. I like to study things that relate to everyday life,” Hu said. “I get inspiration from raising my children. From a diaper change with my son, I was inspired to study urination. From watching my daughter being born, I was inspired by her long eyelashes.”

Hu earned a doctorate in mathematics and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently a professor of mechanical engineering and biology as well as an adjunct professor of physics at Georgia Tech. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award for young scientists, the Ig Nobel Prize in physics, and the Pineapple Science Prize.

Hu’s previous work has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, Saturday Night Live and Highlights for Children. He is originally from Rockville, Maryland.

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