Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Alternate histories of the universe

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

There are many alternate histories of the universe. Here are two.

A Briefer History of the Universe

Eric Schulman’s 60-second-long History of the Universe began as a print piece (“A History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less,” in the Jan/Feb 1997 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research), had its first public performance as part of the 1997 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, was expanded into book form (a publisher, in the audience that night, solicited Schulman on the spot to write it), and has been performed many times.

The original 200-word version was eventually translated into many languages, by volunteers on various parts of the planet Earth. Much of that Universal History Translation Project survives, still, on the Internet Archive.

You can see video of a special performance at the National Science Foundation:

A Dominoic History of the Universe

Recently, the Scope of Science web site created a more expanded history of the universe, involving dominoes. Here’s video of that (thanks to Scott Langill for bringing it to our attention):

Plain-words challenge: Wedding Words

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Today’s challenge is to translate a paragraph into clear language that anyone can understand. This paragraph appears in the study “Consumption as common sense: Heteronormative hegemony and white wedding desire,” by Patricia Arend [pictured here], published in the journal Journal of Consumer Culture [vol. 16, no. 1, 2016, pp. 144-163]:

“[This] article examines the white wedding desires of women who experience them as common sense. I use Ludwig’s concept of heteronormative hegemony to provide a more thorough account of both gendered subject formation and white wedding desire. In this analysis, women’s social consumption of mass media, embodiment of gendered habitus as taste and ritualized conversations with other women are particularly salient.”

Portrait of a Self-Recognized Genius: Jordan B. Peterson

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Jordan B. Peterson, one of the world’s great self-recognized geniuses, gets a warm appreciation in The New York Times. Nellie Bowles writes:

Mr. Peterson, 55, a University of Toronto psychology professor turned YouTube philosopher turned mystical father figure, has emerged as an influential thought leader….

[He says some people want] to eliminate hierarchies, which he says are the natural order of the world. In his book he illustrates this idea with the social behavior of lobsters. He chose lobsters because they have hierarchies and are a very ancient species, and are also invertebrates with serotonin. This lobster hierarchy has become a rallying cry for his fans; they put images of the crustacean on T-shirts and mugs.

Professor Peterson boiled down his thoughts about lobsters. The boiled mass is served up in Professor Peterson’s paper called “The Functional Neuroanatomy and Psychopharmacology of Predatory and Defensive Aggression.”

BONUS (possibly unrelated): The 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology was awarded to Gordon PennycookJames Allan CheyneNathaniel BarrDerek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit” [published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10, no. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563].

The Benefit, for Bedbugs, of Dirty Laundry

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Bedbugs in search of cheap travel options would be well-advised to consider humans’ dirty laundry, suggests a reading of this study:

Bed Bug Aggregation on Dirty Laundry: A Mechanism for Passive Dispersal,” William T. Hentley, Ben Webster, Sophie E.F. Evison, and Michael T. Siva-Jothy, Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 11668, 2017. The authors, at the University of Sheffield, UK, report:

“Bed bugs have shown a recent and rapid global expansion that has been suggested to be caused by cheap air travel. How a small, fightless and anachoretic insect that hides within its host’s sleeping area manages to travel long distances is not yet clear. Bed bugs are attracted to the odour of sleeping humans and we suggest that soiled clothing may present a similarly attractive cue, allowing bed bugs to ‘hitch-hike’ around the world after aggregating in the laundry bags of travellers. We show that (1) soiled clothing is signifcantly more attractive than clean clothing to active bed bugs moving within a bedroom sized arena and (2) elevation of CO2 to a level that simulates human occupancy in the same arena appears to initiate search behaviour rather than direct it. Our results show, for the frst time, how leaving worn clothing exposed in sleeping areas when travelling can be exploited by bed bugs to facilitate passive dispersal.”

BONUS BOOK: Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World

The Straight Poop: Sociology of Canadian Donut Shops, Ongoing

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

The sociology of Canadian donut shops plays out afresh, as described in a New York Post report headlined “Lady poops on restaurant floor, flings it at cashier.” That report includes action video.

The 1999 Ig Nobel Prize for sociology was awarded to Steve Penfold, of York University in Toronto, for doing his PhD thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut shops. Penfold’s dissertation is: “The social life of donuts: Commodity and community in postwar Canada.” He later expanded it into book form: The Donut – A Canadian History, University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2008. Penfield is now a professor at the University of Toronto.