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Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Do Beer Mats Make Bad Frisbees?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Beer mats do make bad Frisbees, this study implies and explains:

Beer Mats Make Bad Frisbees,” Johann Ostmeyer, Christoph Schürmann, Carsten Urbach, arXiv 2106.08238, 2021. (Thanks to Mason Porter for bringing this to our attention.) the authors, at the University of Bonn and at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Germany, explain:

In this article we show why flying and rotating beer mats, CDs, or other flat disks will eventually flip in the air and end up flying with backspin, thus, making them unusable as frisbees. The crucial effect responsible for the flipping is found to be the lift attacking not in the center of mass but slightly offset to the forward edge. This induces a torque leading to a precession towards backspin orientation. An effective theory is developed providing an approximate solution for the disk’s trajectory with a minimal set of parameters. Our theoretical results are confronted with experimental results obtained using a beer mat shooting apparatus and a high speed camera. Very good agreement is found.

Intimate Knowledge of the Ostrich Whisperer?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

In this video, a person called “the Ostrich Whisperer” appears to display an intimate knowledge of how ostriches behave towards humans:


One can wonder many things about the Ostrich Whisperer’s knowledge.

One can wonder how it compares with the knowledge reported in the study “Courtship Behaviour of Ostriches (Struthio camelus) Towards Humans Under Farming Conditions in Britain,” Norma E. Bubier, Charles G.M. Paxton, P. Bowers, D.C. Deeming, British Poultry Science, vol. 39, no. 4, September 1998, pp. 477-481.

Knowledgable readers of this blog know that that study’s authors were awarded the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize in biology.

(By the way, there seems to be more than one person who is called “the ostrich whisperer”.)





The Ups and Downs of Marine Chairs

Monday, June 14th, 2021

In the days when it was essential for marine navigators to be able to get a good visual fix on stars and other astronomical objects, many inventors tried to find ways of creating a ‘Marine Chair’ which would stay still while the ship rolled about in the middle of the ocean. Various national governments offered generous prizes for coming up with an invention which worked.

The illustration shows one of the first attempts – which unfortunately didn’t perform as well as was hoped. Le Cosmolabe by Jacques Besson, published in Paris in 1587. As professor Martin J Murphy PhD FAAPM from the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University, US explains :

“Similar devices were proposed later by Galileo, Neville Maskelyne, and others as a means of making astronomical measurements for the determination of longitude at sea. (They didn’t work.) “

For another short history of the not-so-successful development of marine chairs, see this essay from Dr Alexi Baker who was a postdoctoral fellow at CRASSH, University of Cambridge, UK, and is now collections manager at the Division of the History of Science and Technology, Yale Peabody Museum, Connecticut, US.

BONUS ASSIGNMENT [optional] Why didn’t marine chairs work?

Picture the Heat Stress on Poultry

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

One picture is perhaps worth 1000 squawks. That picture is figure 3 (captioned “Schematic diagram showing an acid-base imbalance in poultry under heat stress”) in this study:

Impact of Heat Stress on Poultry Health and Performances, and Potential Mitigation Strategies,” Sanjeev Wasti, Nirvay Sah and Birendra Mishra, Animals, vol. 10, 2020, no. 1266. (Thanks to Berry Pinshow for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, explain:

High environmental temperature alters the poultry health and performances by causing heat stress. Heat stress elicits physiological, behavioral, and production changes in poultry. This review article summarizes these changes along with the strategies that have been used in the poultry industry to ameliorate the adverse effects of heat stress in poultry.

An Ig Nobel exercise from Madame Van Isterdael

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

Madame Van Isterdael educates you, in this language-learning video which she calls, enchantingly, “2euro méthodo CE the IG Nobel Prizes“:


Improbable Research