Archive for 'Research News'

An hour of Improbable Research, in the crucible of Standards & Technology

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Historic video:  An hour of improbable research, presented at the National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] in 2014—with Marc Abrahams [founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony] and Theo Gray [2002 Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize winner for inventing the 4-legged periodic table table.]

Here’s the official NIST description of this event:

Dung beetles finding their way home via the Milky Way. Calculating the forces acting on a ponytail. Preventing patients from exploding during colonoscopies. What do these real-life scientific studies have in common? They were all recipients of the Ig Nobel Prize, the brainchild of the April 25, 2014, NIST Colloquium speaker, Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of the Annals of Improbable Research. In his talk, Abrahams entertained NIST staff with a set of haphazardly selected examples of Ig Nobel Prize-winning and other research “that makes people LAUGH, then THINK.”

Recent progress in Kung Fu Panda studies

Monday, May 21st, 2018

In 2008, the launch of the Kung Fu Panda© film series kicked off a series of opportunities for in-depth academic study across the globe. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of progress in Kung Fu Panda studies over the last ten years or so :

• Kung Fu Panda: Animated Animal Bodies as Layered Sites of (Trans)National Identities The Velvet Light Trap, issue 69.

• Highlights for the Construction of a Didactic Discourse Focused on the Learning Subject in “Kung Fu Panda” Animation Studies and Current Trends in Science of Education, pp 121-130.

• Translation Methods Used in Writing Indonesian Subtitles of “Kung Fu Panda Holiday” Nurmallah, Vol 2, No 2.

• The Analysis on the Chineseness of Kung Fu Panda Journal of Qinghai Nationalities University (Education Science Edition), 2010-01.

• The Gene Culture Applied in the Animated Cartoons in “Kung-fu Panda” Art & Design 2008-08

• Procedural Fracturing and Debris Generation for Kung-Fu Panda SIGGRAPH 2008, Los Angeles, California.

• Adoption, Cynical Detachment, and New Age Beliefs in Juno and Kung Fu Panda Comparative Literature and Culture, 2017

• The Western Gaze in Animation: A Case Study of Kung Fu Panda Journal of Content, Community & Communication (Amity School of Communication) Vol. 6 Year 3, June – 2017.

• A Study on the Modification of Characters` Role and Desire in Series Animation : focusing on the case of Kung Fu Panda Series Animation Cartoon and Animation Studies, 2016, pp 77-102.

• Kung-Fu Panda Philosophy – The Solution For Diminishing Competitive Pressure in Children Proceedings book of 16th European conference of sport psychology: Sport and exercise psycholgy [sic] : Human performance, well being and health.

• Kung Fu Panda, Go Home!  The China Beat, July 2008.

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.

Many People Look at Many Other Looks at Other People Who May Have Been Drinking Coffee and Thinking

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

The mystery of whether drinking coffee affects people’s minds is still mysterious, thanks to the results of a new, complex academic study of many old, complex academic studies:

Habitual coffee consumption and cognitive function: a Mendelian randomization meta-analysis in up to 415,530 participants,” Ang Zhou, Amy E. Taylor, Ville Karhunen, et al., Scientific Reports, epub 2018. The large team (28 co-authors) reports:

“Coffee’s long-term effect on cognitive function remains unclear with studies suggesting both benefits and adverse effects. We used Mendelian randomization to investigate the causal relationship between habitual coffee consumption and cognitive function in mid- to later life. This included up to 415,530 participants and 300,760 coffee drinkers from 10 meta-analysed European ancestry cohorts. In each cohort, composite cognitive scores that capture global cognition and memory were computed using available tests.”

The people considered to have been drinking coffee may not all have been drinking coffee. The study explains:

“A genetic score derived using CYP1A1/2 (rs2472297) and AHR (rs6968865) was chosen as a proxy for habitual coffee consumption…. Despite the power to detect very small effects, our meta-analysis provided no evidence for causal long-term effects of habitual coffee consumption on global cognition or memory.”

Were the Coffee-Drinkers Coffee-Drinkers?

Part of the same team of researchers did an earlier study on the very question of whether many people thought to have been drinking coffee may have been drinking coffee. They concluded that yes, many people thought to have been drinking coffee may have been drinking coffee. That study is:

Phenotype refinement strengthens the association of AHR and CYP1A1 genotype with caffeine consumption,” George McMahon, Amy E. Taylor, George Davey Smith, and Marcus R. Munafo, PloS One, vol. 9, no. 7, 2014, e103448. The authors report:

“Two genetic loci, one in the cytochrome P450 1A1 (CYP1A1) and 1A2 (CYP1A2) gene region (rs2472297) and one near the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) gene (rs6968865), have been associated with habitual caffeine consumption…. We used data from between 4,460 and 7,520 women in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal birth cohort based in the United Kingdom. Self-report data on coffee, tea and cola consumption (including consumption of decaffeinated drinks) were available at multiple time points. Both genotypes were individually associated with total caffeine consumption, and with coffee and tea consumption.”

Women and Men at a British Pedestrian Crossing

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Is it daring to cross the street at a designated pedestrian crossing? If so, are women more daring than men—or vice versa? A study explores this question:

Gender Differences in Use of a Pedestrian Crossing: An Observational Study in Newcastle upon Tyne,” Eryn O’Dowd and Thomas V. Pollet, Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, vol. 9, no.1, 2018. The authors, at Northumbria University, UK, explain:

“Evolutionary psychologists have put forward that there are evolved differences in risk taking between men and women. Potentially, these also play out in every day behaviours, such as in traffic. We hypothesised that (perceived) gender would influence using a pedestrian crossing. In addition, we also explored if a contextual factor, presence of daylight, could modify risk taking behaviour. 558 pedestrians were directly observed and their use of a crossing near a Metro station in a large city in the North East of England was coded. Using logistic regression, we found evidence that women were more inclined than men to use the crossing. We found no evidence for a contextual effect of daylight or an interaction between daylight and gender on use of the crossing. We discuss the limitations and implications of this finding with reference to literature on risk taking.”

This passage in the paper gets at what the authors mean by “risk taking”:

“The entrance to the metro station is to the left of the wooden shoulder. The safe route makes use of the crossing, the risky route is effectively ‘jaywalking’ between the metro entrance and the path.”

(Thanks to Joseph H Lynch for bringing this to our attention.)