Archive for 'Research News'

Does leg length play a determinative role for success in ballet? [research study]

Monday, March 19th, 2018

A unique 2009 research project quantified (for the first time) the changes in elevation angles of ballet dancers’ legs between 1946 and 2004. Now a new study has examined (again for the first time) leg-length in relation to selected ballet performance indicators.

“The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationships between leg length and selected dance movements representative of power, dexterity, and range motion, in a sample of female ballet dancers ranging from recreational to professional standards.”

The researchers found that long legs (when thought of as long levers) :

“[…] are advantageous only when the associated muscles are strong enough to bring about their maximum function.”

Furthermore :

“A shorter leg can cope with inertia better than a longer one, as the later requires greater muscular strength in order to move.”

Thus, in conclusion :

“We found no clear evidence that leg length plays a determinative role for success in ballet.”

See: Leg-Length in Relation to Selected Ballet Performance Indicators in Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 32 Number 3: Page 165 (September 2017).

Also See: Attractiveness of Leg Length (updated)

The photo shows ballerinas Pierina Legnani as Medora (right) and Olga Preobrajenskaya as Gulnare (left) in the scene Le jardin animé from the ballet Le Corsaire, 1899.

The PIZZA & POPCORN issue of the Annals of Improbable Research

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

The special Pizza & Popcorn Questions issue (vol. 24, no. 1) of the Annals of Improbable Research is now available.

The issue’s table of contents is online. And you can obtain, for a pittance, the full issue. The magazine is in splendid PDF form, packed with info yet lighter by far than a feather or a popcorn kernel.

The Evolution of Popcorn” is a featured article. Lead author Russ Hodge will discuss the evolution of popcorn, when he joins the Ig Nobel EuroTour. Hodge will be part of the events in Berlin (March 19), Langen (March 21), and  Heidelberg (March 23). Come see and hear him!

Harvesting Midges for Fertilizer (research study)

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

In many parts of the world, e.g. N. W. Scotland, New Zealand, British Columbia and Nova Scotia (etc etc) there are almost incalculable numbers of pesky biting midges. A colossal nuisance to tourists and locals alike. But perhaps they could be put to good use – by capturing them and then using them as fertilizer? Researcher Amer Aldahi at the University of Sheffield, UK, believes so. In an experimental setup, he used a ‘Predator’ octanol-based midge collector and collected midges in prodigious amounts.

[…] wet midge biomass was evaluated here for its fertilizer potential. Such biomass could be applied to soils directly or after a period of composting and could be used alone or together with waste plant materials. One could envisage large amounts of such biomass being produced by individuals or perhaps council-run midge collectors (and co-operatives) and, as a result, relatively large amounts of material could be made locally available to farmers and the public. Transport costs might however, limit the wide-spread collection and use of midge biomass on an industrial scale. Certainly however, an individual octanol-based collector, when located in a high midge area, could supply useable nitrogen fertiliser to homes, allotments, and even small to medium sized fruit and commercial fruit and vegetable growers. The production costs of midge biomass could be offset by local authorities, hotels or other tourist locations, where the waste is produced when attempts are being made to reduce the tourist-nuisance potential of vast numbers of midges or mosquitoes.”


Note: The midge mountain photo is provided courtesy of MidgeBusters of Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland, from whom you can purchase a Predator.

Acoustical Analysis of Shouting Into the Wind

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

The physics of shouting into the wind are now slightly better plumbed.

Details emerge in the study “Effects of flow gradients on directional radiation of human voice,” Ville Pulkki [pictured here, performing the experiment], Timo Lähivaara, and Ilkka Huhtakallio, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol. 143, no. 2, 2018, pp. 1173-1181. (Thanks to Lauri Savioja for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Aalto University and the University of Eastern Finland, report:

“In voice communication in windy outdoor conditions, complex velocity gradients appear in the flow field around the source, the receiver, and also in the atmosphere. It is commonly known that voice emanates stronger towards the downstream direction when compared with the upstream direction. In literature, the atmospheric effects are used to explain the stronger emanation in the downstream direction. This work shows that the wind also has an effect to the directivity of voice also favouring the downstream direction. The effect is addressed by measurements and simulations. Laboratory measurements are conducted by using a large pendulum with a loudspeaker mimicking the human head, whereas practical measurements utilizing the human voice are realized by placing a subject through the roof window of a moving car.”

This video shows the road work:

Recent progress in sham acupuncture needles

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

A new ‘sham’ (i.e. fake) needle has been developed for use in electro-acupuncture trials – one which has neither a needle nor a valid electrical connection. [See diagram].

It’s described by Dr Yiu Ming Wong of the Health Science Unit (PEC), Hong Kong Physically Handicapped & Able Bodied Association, Kowloon, Hong Kong, in a letter for Acupuncture in Medicine, February 2018, Volume 36, Issue 1, entitled : ‘Evaluating blinding effectiveness of a novel Ryodoraku sham needle device’. In an experimental setup, 95% of participants reported that they felt they had been treated with a real needle. Dr Wong says that the new sham needle may help determine the efficacy of Ryodoraku electro-acupuncture (REA) in future clinical trials.

A supplementary video (in .mp4 format) which shows the sham needle in use (or rather not in use) is available here for download.

Also see previous post : Sham acupuncture needles – how do they perform?