Archive for 'Improbable Investigators'

Professor Kosinski, Generator of Improbable Research

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

The Guardian profiles Michael Kosinski, a Stanford University assistant professor of organizational behavior. Professor Kosinski is a prolific generator of improbable research:

Artificial intelligence (AI)—
‘I was shocked it was so easy’: ​meet the professor who says facial recognition ​​can tell if you’re gay

… Weeks after his trip to Moscow, Kosinski published a controversial paper in which he showed how face-analysing algorithms could distinguish between photographs of gay and straight people. As well as sexuality, he believes this technology could be used to detect emotions, IQ and even a predisposition to commit certain crimes. Kosinski has also used algorithms to distinguish between the faces of Republicans and Democrats, in an unpublished experiment he says was successful – although he admits the results can change “depending on whether I include beards or not”.

How did this 36-year-old academic, who has yet to write a book, attract the attention of the Russian cabinet? …

Here’s video of a TV interview with Professor Kosinski:

David (Daedalus) Jones, and Perpetual Motion Machines

Friday, June 29th, 2018

Perpetual Motion Machines” is a documentary film about the great David Jones, creator the Daedalus column that for decades made the readers of New Scientist, Nature, and The Guardian laugh, then think.

David took part in the 2001 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, to the great delight of many.

Who Might You Meet at the Ig? London’s Pioneering Theatrical Electrician

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

If you come to the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, you might enjoy chatting with your neighbors, in the audience. Many have done amazing things. In this video, Ann Crighton-Harris tells how she became the first woman to be a professional electrician in London’s theaters.

Perhaps you sat near Ann Crighton-Harris in the audience at the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. That year her husband, John Senders, was up on stage, being awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for Public Safety, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him. Here’s video of John Senders doing that driving research:

Who’s next?

Who might you meet at this year’s Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony? Come and see. TICKETS go on sale Tuesday, July 10, at noon (Boston time), available exclusively from the Harvard Box Office.

Whoever you meet at the Ig also has a rare opportunity. They get to meet you!

(Thanks to Margo Howard for bringing this wonderful Ann Crighton-Harris video to our attention.)

Professor, expert on losing control, loses control and retires instantly

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Professor Todd Todd Heatherton today lost control. [And if you follow the link attached to his name, you may see that his university web page has lost nearly all mention of him.]

Heatherton is co-author of the book Losing control: How and why people fail at self-regulation [Academic Press, 1994], and co-author of the study  “Self-regulation failure: An overview,” Roy F. Baumeister and Todd F. Heatherton, Psychological Inquiry, vol. 7, no. 1 (1996): 1-15.

The college newspaper The Dartmouth reports, on June 14, 2018:

Heatherton retires following sexual misconduct allegations

Psychological and brain sciences professor Todd Heatherton has elected to retire immediately following a recommendation from Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Elizabeth Smith, upheld by the faculty-elected Review Committee, that his tenure be revoked and his employment terminated. Smith’s recommendation follows a review of Heatherton by an external investigator for sexual misconduct….

The study “Self-regulation failure: An overview” reaches this conclusion:

Our review has led us to reject the model that self-regulatory failure is typically the result of irresistible impulses. Although it would be excessive to say that people freely choose to lose control, they do seem to show considerable active participation and acquiescence in the behaviors that constitute self-regulatory failure….


STILL MORE INFO: Dead Duck Day, June 5th, honoring homosexual necrophilia in the mallard

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018 is the 23rd edition of Dead Duck Day, arriving precisely one year after last year’s Dead Duck Day. At exactly 17:55 h [Rotterdam time] we will honor the mallard duck that became known to science as the first (documented) ‘victim’ of homosexual necrophilia in that species, and earned its discoverer the 2003 Ig Nobel Biology Prize.

We presented some info about this yesterday. Here are further details.

Dead Duck Day also commemorates the billions of other birds that die from colliding with glass buildings, and challenges people to find solutions to this global problem.

Please join the free, short open-air ceremony next to the new wing of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam (the Netherlands), right below the new Dead Duck Memorial Plaque — the very spot where that duck (now museum specimen NMR 9989-00232) met his dramatic end.

This is what will happen:

  • The traditional Ten Seconds of Silence.
  • Review of this year’s necrophilia news, with (1) applause for Harshil Patel, Pranav Vaghashiya, and Shantilal K. Tank for publishing their paper ‘Necrophiliac Behavior in the Common Asian Toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus (Schneider 1799) in Western India‘ and (2) the first public appearance of dead duck specimen NMR 9989-05220 a new victim of heterosexual necrophilia in the mallard.
  • The official announcement of ‘Der Entenmann‘ – the long-awaited German edition of ‘De eendenman‘ [The Duck Guy].
  • The reading of the special ‘Dead Duck Day Message’. This years message, a dead duck story, send in by Eva Menasse, author of amongst others the novel ‘Tiere für Fortgeschrittene‘ [Animals for the Advanced] will be read by Kim Zieschang.
  • Presentation of an addition to the Dead Duck Day Fashion Line, designed by Mark Prinsen.
  • A six-course duck dinner, after the ceremony. The traditional six-course (dead) duck dinner at the famous Tai Wu Restaurant is also open to the public (at your own expense). Reserve your seat by e-mailing to: info [at]

UPDATE (June 9, 2018): A few days after Dead Duck Day, the museum director had a fluid dynamics adventure with the police, in connection with a nature television shoot.