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Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Daily Defecation Outputs of Mountain Gorillas

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Output takes center stage in this new study of what some gorillas left behind:

Daily Defecation Outputs of Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda,” Elie Sinayitutse, David Modry, Jan Slapeta, Aisha Nyiramana, Antoine Mudakikwa, Richard Muvunyi, and Winnie Eckardt, Primates, epub 2020. (Thanks to Damien Caillaud for bringing this to our attention.)

The authors, at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International; the University of Rwanda, Butare; the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Czech Republic; the Czech Academy of Sciences; the University of Sydney, Australia; the University of Rwanda; and the Rwanda Development Board, report:.

“We weighed 399 wet fecal samples deposited at nest sites and on trails between nest sites by gorillas of varying age and sex, determined by lobe diameter, from five social groups (n = 58 gorillas) that range in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. We found increasing daily average defecation outputs with increasing age-sex class (infants, 435 g; juveniles, 1346 g; medium-sized gorillas, 2446 g; silverbacks, 3609 g). Gorillas deposited two– to threefold the amount of feces at nest sites compared to on trails, suggesting that nest sites may function as hotspots for enteric pathogen infections through direct contact or when gorillas ingest foods contaminated with infectious larvae during site revisits in intervals matching the maturation period of environmentally transmitted gastrointestinal parasites.”

PERSONAL (by Marc) NOTE: In my 9th grade biology class the teacher gave me an F on a book report, because she insisted I was concocting the details. The details were about observing gorilla droppings. The book, I’m pretty sure, was either by or about Dian Fossey. The teacher was so angry at me that, even after I retrieved the book from the library and showed her the things I had described she still insisted on giving me an F for that report. It’s the only F I ever got, and I am still proud of it.

Psychotic Visitors to the White House [research study]

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

The final performance in tonight’s Improbable Dramatic Readings session, at Arisia, was a two-minute-long reading from this research paper:

Psychotic Visitors to the White House,” Joseph A. Sebastiani and James L. Foy, American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 122, no. 6, December 1965, pp. 679-86.

The study authors, at the University of Cincinnati and Georgetown University, report: “This study describes an unusual group of hospitalized patients who, with few exceptions, insisted on seeking a personal interview with the President of the United States at his official residence, the White House. Secret Service agents and White House guards met with each visitor initially and weighed the possibility of serious mental illness because of the visitor’s unwillingness to leave or his reasons for trying to see the President.”

TONIGHT: Dramatic Improbable Readings Teledistantly

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Tonight we’ll do our first-ever-teledistant Improbable Dramatic Readings event, at Arisia, 6 pm US eastern time.

The dramatic readers —Sonya Taafe, Mason Porter, Robin Abrahams, Dean Grodzins, David Kessler— all are always-boffo performers, and the material is of course ace.

We (Improbable Research) plan to do lots more online Dramatic Readings events elsewhere, in adapting to the pandemic era.

The lotsa-people-gathered-in-a-performance-space Dramatic Readings events always worked well. This first re-engineered, teledistant event is, for me, especially fun and exciting, full of little how-will-we-manage-to-do-THAT-particular-aspect mysteries. 

Monkeys Prefer Reality Television [research study]

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Some humans might prefer to read the entirety of this study, rather than see any summary that we or anyone else would provide:

Monkeys Prefer Reality Television,” Eliza Bliss-Moreau [pictured below], Anthony C. Santistevan, and Christopher J. Machad, PsyAxXiv, DOI 10.31234/, 2021. The authors are at the University of California Davis; Flatiron Health, Inc., New York; and Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, California.


Musical Coordination in a Large Group Without Plans or Leaders

Friday, January 15th, 2021

An experiment looked at whether harmony, in its many meanings, might emerge from a tossing together of musicians. This study tells what happened:

Musical Coordination in a Large Group Without Plans Nor Leaders,” Louise Goupil, Pierre Saint-Germier, Gaëlle Rouvier, Diemo Schwarz, and Clément Canonne, Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 20377, 2020. (Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

“A widespread belief is that large groups engaged in joint actions that require a high level of flexibility are unable to coordinate without the introduction of additional resources such as shared plans or hierarchical organizations. Here, we put this belief to a test, by empirically investigating coordination within a large group of 16 musicians performing collective free improvisation—a genre in which improvisers aim at creating music that is as complex and unprecedented as possible without relying on shared plans or on an external conductor. We show that musicians freely improvising within a large ensemble can achieve significant levels of coordination, both at the level of their musical actions (i.e., their individual decisions to play or to stop playing) and at the level of their directional intentions (i.e., their intentions to change or to support the music produced by the group).”

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