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Archive for 'Research News'

The mystery of how some animals lock themselves into place

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Benno Meyer-Rochow, who won an Ig Nobel Prize in 2005 for calculating the pressures produced when penguins poo [see diagram, below] is now investigating a different kind of biological mystery.

Meyer-Rochow wrote an essay that begins:

You can lock arms with someone, you can lock on to something or be locked in or even be locked up or locked out. But this essay is about animals that possess locking mechanisms. In the tropical waters of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, for example, I once caught a pair of matchbox-sized trigger fish and observed their behaviour in my aquarium on board of the research vessel “Walter Herwig”. These denizens of the tropical seas as well as their cousins, the file fishes, can wedge themselves into rock cracks and coral crevices in such a way that it is virtually impossible to dislodge them by pulling at their tails.

You might think that these fish must be mighty strong, but in reality they hardly use any energy at all in this process of “locking in”. Their first dorsal fin ray is a spine that possesses a groove on the backside; but when fully erect a smaller second spine behind the first one is pushed home into the groove of the spine in front, so that the first bigger spine cannot be depressed by external forces, except when the second smaller one is retracted first. A very fine and effective device that is….

“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.)

The load on a human hair during combing [study]

Monday, January 13th, 2020

“The objective . . .” of a 2018 research project from the Fashion Business School, London College of Fashion, and Dr Chris Gummer at Cider Solutions Ltd., Chilworth, UK, was “ . . . to assess the frequency and magnitude of combing forces on individual hairs against a hypothesis that fibres on a consumer’s head rarely experience significant loads during routine combing.”

So, what is the load on a human hair during combing?

“During combing, individual fibres may not experience any significant load and are unlikely to experience repetitive loads >10g “

See: Measuring the frequency of consumer hair combing and magnitude of combing forces on individual hairs in a tress and the implications for product evaluation and claims substantiation in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Volume 40, Issue 5.

BONUS: Does anti-ageing advertising have a future? by Dr Chris Gummer at Cider Solutions Ltd..

Image credit : Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Woman Combing Her Hair (1865)

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