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Archive for 'Arts and Science'

What Mummy Said, Sort of, 3000 Years Later

Friday, January 24th, 2020

This report sounds like it is saying that the authors managed to hear what a person who became a mummy sounded like before he became a mummy.

The report is: “Synthesis of a Vocal Sound from the 3,000 Year Old Mummy, Nesyamun ‘True of Voice’,D.M. Howard [inventor of the Vocal Tract Organ], J. Schofield, J. Fletcher, K. Baxter, G.R. Iball, and S.A. Buckley, Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 45000, 2020. The authors, at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK; the University of York, UK; Leeds General Infirmary, UK, and the University of Tübingen, Germany; report:

“The sound of a 3,000 year old mummified individual has been accurately reproduced as a vowel-like sound based on measurements of the precise dimensions of his extant vocal tract following Computed Tomography (CT) scanning, enabling the creation of a 3-D printed vocal tract. By using the Vocal Tract Organ, which provides a user-controllable artificial larynx sound source, a vowel sound is synthesised which compares favourably with vowels of modern individuals.”

The Vocal Tract Organ

What is a Vocal Tract Organ? The Bibliolore blog talked about that, so to speak, in 2015:

“The vocal tract organ is a new musical instrument that consists of three-dimensional (3D)-printed vocal tracts (throat and mouth) for individual vowels sitting on loudspeakers to enable static vowel sounds to be produced. The acoustic excitation from the loudspeakers is a synthesized version of the typical waveform produced by the vibrating human vocal folds during pitched sounds, which enables the instrument to be played from a keyboard….”

BONUS (not necessarily related): Animal squawks squeaks and songs (with helium)


Sad news: Terry Jones is dead

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Terry Jones has died. His achievements as a Monty Python, and as a writer, director, and actor in other realms, are well and duly celebrated. He was a very nice and good person. And rather funny.

We were lucky to have collaborated with him on some small things. Here are two performances of bad poetry by William McGonagall. The second video features Terry with Dr. Elena Bodnar, Ig Nobel Prize-winning inventor of the Emergency Bra, a device that in an emergency can be quickly separated into a pair of protective face masks:

Terry was going to be the English language narrator on the Ig Nobel Operas television series, a project that was launched with great excitement about eight years ago but (in the tradition of the television industry!) disintegrated for nonsensical business reasons.

“Big Men” in leadership roles [new study]

Monday, January 20th, 2020

How does body weight and size affect the perceived persuasiveness of ‘leaders’ (when the ‘leader’ is a man) ? This question has recently been examined by three professors from the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, US. Professor Kevin Kniffin and Professor Vicki  Bogan, along with faculty colleague Professor David Just (also now at Universita degli Studi di Catania, Italy), present a series of six studies :

“[…] in which we find that the anthropological concept of “big men” can carry literal meaning–in relation to “big”ness and “men”– in contemporary settings.”

Alongside the finding, the authors caution that prospective ‘leaders’ should exercise restraint with the idea of deliberately putting on more weight in order to enhance their gravitas.

“Our findings do not suggest that men should acquire more weight to be viewed as more persuasive; […]”

As can clearly be seen in the graph below :

Reference : “Big men” in the office: The gender-specific influence of weight upon persuasiveness in PLOS ONE, Nov., 2019.

Note : PLOS ONE is a rebranded version of the journal previously known as PLoS ONE. The diminutive ‘o’ in the original logo having been replaced, in 2012, by a more imposing big ‘O’.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

“Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder” (new research study)

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Jonathan Fugelsang, whose team was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2016 for studying the power of pseudo-profound bullshit, has a new study, with other colleagues, about the power of bullshit:

Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder,” Martin Harry Turpin, Alexander C. Walker, Mane Kara-Yakoubian, Nina N. Gabert, Jonathan A. Fugelsang, and Jennifer A. Stolz, Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 14, no. 6, November 2019, pp. 658-670.

The new study says:

Across four studies participants (N = 818) rated the profoundness of abstract art images accompanied with varying categories of titles, including: pseudo-profound bullshit titles (e.g., The Deaf Echo), mundane titles (e.g., Canvas 8), and no titles. Randomly generated pseudo-profound bullshit titles increased the perceived profoundness of computer-generated abstract art, compared to when no titles were present (Study 1). Mundane titles did not enhance the perception of profoundness, indicating that pseudo-profound bullshit titles specifically (as opposed to titles in general) enhance the perceived profoundness of abstract art (Study 2). Furthermore, these effects generalize to artist-created abstract art (Study 3). Finally, we report a large correlation between profoundness ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and “International Art English” statements (Study 4), a mode and style of communication commonly employed by artists to discuss their work. This correlation suggests that these two independently developed communicative modes share underlying cognitive mechanisms in their interpretations. We discuss the potential for these results to be integrated into a larger, new theoretical framework of bullshit as a low-cost strategy for gaining advantages in prestige awarding domains.

Here’s further detail from the study:

Sheep facial recognition software efforts in New Zealand

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

Sheep facial recognition software is in the offing, suggests an October 22, 2019 news report in the New Zealand Herald:

The world’s first sheep facial recognition software, developed in Dunedin, is set to be prototyped this year.

Sheep NN, a project created by artificial intelligence and machine learning company Iris Data Science, has received a $40,000 grant from Callaghan Innovation towards the $100,000 project that will take the model to prototype by the end of the year.

(Thanks to Mason Porter for bringing this to our attention.)

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