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Archive for 'Arts and Science'

A math cookie recipe for extra-ambitious caterers

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Caterers who cater to every whim can tuck away this cookie recipe, saving it for the day a customer demands mathematics-laced cookies:

This recipe was cooked up by Jon Jacobsen and Kym Louie, for the Mathematics Association of America.

(Thanks to Stanley Eigen for bringing this to our attention.)

The point of the Ig

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

The Weiter Denken blog distilled, into about 700 words, the essence of the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s a machine translation, from German into English, of what they wrote:

A prize for the square from the round

Scientists always keep to themselves in the academic ivory tower? The Ig Nobel Prize proves that there is another way – a prime example of successful communication on rather demanding topics.

The Ig Nobel Prize puts research results in the spotlight that would otherwise probably never have been heard of. For example, why wombat droppings are square or how much saliva a person produces in a day. What these questions have in common is that they seem bizarre at first glance, but are highly relevant for business and progress. Those who devote themselves to such topics have, with a bit of luck, been honored in a solemn, but definitely not time-honored ceremony since 1991. A good atmosphere is created when the personified human error – a man with a target in front of his stomach – is pelted with paper airplanes and a little girl loudly (and persistently!) Calls on the winners in their acceptance speeches after exactly 60 seconds to end come. A spectacle

But it is not just this spectacle that makes the Ig Nobel Prize so successful. Because despite all the fun, its inventor, Marc Abrahams, is pursuing a serious goal: The format should offer alternative access to today’s science and draw attention to the relevance that even seemingly bizarre research can have. Making the audience laugh at it is a means to an end. Because this way the topics stay in your head in a special way – which then makes you wonder why researchers are concerned with such a topic. Why this format works so well is ultimately a communicative question. In the following we want to break down the success mechanisms.

Simplification creates understanding
In the presentation of research, the Ig Nobel Prize reduces the respective topics to their core. Hard work, as the inventor admits. Distracting detailed information about the experiments is sorted out and the central message, which we should laugh about first and then think about, stands out. For example, when a researcher like Fritz Strack is honored for refuting himself. Like him, countless psychologists feel when the results of social experiments inexplicably cannot be repeated – a complex dilemma due to the interplay of countless factors. The focus on the bare end result, however, allows people who are not specialists to grasp and understand the complex problem.

Shortening prevents excessive demands
At the same time, this reduction shortens the topics presented so that they are not only easy to understand but also quick. In this way, research that otherwise fills entire books is made accessible to the masses without overloading it with too much information – for example, by reducing the replication dilemma of psychology to a ballad that can be performed in just 60 seconds. Because in a time when people seem to be chronically short of time, it is essential to get to the point quickly.

Show value generates attention
It is also important to generate interest and attention. With the Ig Nobel Prize, this succeeds almost automatically by setting unique themes and the wonderfully eccentric traditions (such as throwing paper planes). The fact that real Nobel Prize winners regularly present the Ig Nobel Prize provides additional impetus and at the same time ennobles the event. This recognition of the award by the academic community shows that this is not a mocking display of unusual research, but a new format for presenting serious science.

Humor makes topics more accessible
With the winking celebration of science in all its facets – the successful and sometimes also the failed – the Ig Nobel Prize makes topics palatable to laypeople that they might otherwise avoid. Because humor offers information packed in entertainment. That hits the nerve of scientists and laypeople alike. The result is a new communication format that multiplies by itself – in that the media and communication professionals worldwide report on it.

The Ig Nobel Prize is thus a successful piece of (science) communication, from which we can certainly cut off one or the other slice of inspiration for our daily work.

A slightly mysterious book about a blowhard

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Several databases include mention of a book titled “The death of Booth: Affidavit Dec. 1, 1904 in pension claim of Wm. H. Collyer, a blowhard.” Apparently it is brief—just three pages long.

We have been unable to find a copy of that book. If you have a copy, we would enjoy seeing an image of the cover and the insides.

Recent progress in Pokémon GO studies

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Since its launch in 2016 Pokémon GO has attracted a wealth of academic studies – covering the social, psychological, medical, security and legal aspects of the game.

[ For those not familiar with the subject, here is some background : Pokémon GO is an augmented reality (AR) mobile game for iOS and Android devices. It was developed and published by Niantic in collaboration with The Pokémon Company ]

Here are some examples of scholarly studies (no particular order)

• Analysis of Pokémon GO using sociophysics approach

• Gotta Catch a Lawsuit: A Legal Insight into the Intellectual, Civil, and Criminal Battlefield Pokemon Go Has Downloaded onto Smartphones and Properties around the World

• Is Pokemon GO feminist? An actor-network theory analysis 

• Videogame-Related Illness and Injury: A Review of the Literature and Predictions for Pokemon GO!

• Correlates of excessive Pokemon Go playing among medical students

• What the Pokemon Go have study adolescents for? 

• Could Pokemon Go boost birding?

• Who is still playing pokemon Go? a Web-based survey

BONUS : Interview with the scientists who wrote the paper about Pokémon Improbable Research, 2016

Resarch research by Martin Gardiner

A look back at more sex from A Slob

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

A Slob was appreciated twelve years ago, in the September, 2008 issue of mini-AIR. Let’s take a fond look back:

2008-09-08 More Sex From A. Slob

Investigator P.J. Finn complains that we have neglected the once-popular feature called “Sex From A. Slob.” Dr. Slob, investigator Finn reminds us, is based at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. To lessen investigator Finn’s unhappiness, the series resumes:


Sexual Arousability and the Menstrual Cycle,” A. Koos Slob, et al., Psychoneuroendocrinology. vol. 21, no. 6, August 1996, pp. 545-58.


Age, Libido, and Male Sexual Function,” A. Koos Slob, Prostate, vol. 10, 2000, pp. 9-13.

That same issue of min-AIR included a rare star turn from science limericist R. Burpee Bohaker.

There was, too, a preview of that year (2008)’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony:

2008-09-06 More about the Ig

More of what’s on tap at the ceremony:

This year’s 24/7 Lecturers (each explaining a subject first in 24 seconds, then in seven words) and their topics:

Benoit Mandelbrot: Fractals
Anna Lysyanskaya: Cryptography
Steven Pinker: The Human Mind
Dany Adams: Biology
William Lipscomb: Redundancy

The ceremony will include the Win-a-Date-With-Benoit-Mandelbrot Contest, and the premiere, for the first time, of the mini-opera “Redundancy, Again.”

Also, several past winners are returning to take a bow.

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