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Archive for 'Research News'

Boredom at the cinema – an exploration [study]

Monday, September 14th, 2020


Have you ever been profoundly bored watching a film? If so, is it possible that you may have overlooked the positive aspects of profound boredom? Either way(s), there’s an article on the subject of cinematic boredom in the current issue of the journal Film Philosophy, in which Dr Chiara Quaranta of the University of Edinburgh, argues that :

“[…] boredom – that from which we daily try to shy away – has the potential to un-conceal the ways we understand and interact with moving images in the world we currently inhabit.”

See (in full) : A Cinema of Boredom: Heidegger, Cinematic Time and Spectatorship, Film-Philosophy, Volume 24 Issue 1, Page 1-21.

Note: The film above (cited in the article) is ‘On Venom and Eternity’ (Traité de Bave et d’Éternité, 1951), from Isidore Isou, whom, Dr Quaranta explains, set out to “ […] dismantle cinema as entertainment; that is, he wished to destroy cinema as a way of killing time to escape boredom.”

Research research by Martin Gardiner

A Big Spring in One’s Step Makes One Faster

Friday, September 11th, 2020

An almost-Nakamatsian invention would let human runners run much faster, explains a new study:

How to run 50% faster without external energy,” Amanda Sutrisno and David J. Braun, Science Advances, vol. 6, no. 13, March 25, 2020, eaay1950. The authors, at Vanderbilt University, report:

“Humans have attempted to surpass their natural running capability using springs for at least a century… We conceive an unconventional means of running, which could allow the human to maximize top running speed by supplying energy in the air instead of on the ground. This may be achieved by augmenting the human with variable stiffness springs attached to the limbs. In the air, the limbs supply energy by simultaneously compressing and increasing the stiffness of the springs.”

The Spring Shoes of Dr. Nakamats

Dr. Nakamats, the world’s most prolific inventor (more than 3300 patents, and counting), who also has an Ig Nobel Prize (for having photographed every meal he’s consumed during much of his life), famously invented a spring-driven shoe, many years ago. Here’s video of a young man taking a Nakamats-enhanced stroll:

Taking Laughter Seriously at the Supreme Court [study update]

Monday, September 7th, 2020

Studies into possible implications of laughter episodes at the US Supreme Court were initiated in 2005 by Professor Jay D. Wexler (Boston University School of Law) who was the first to calculate the ‘Laughter Episodes Instigated Per Argument Average’ (LEIPAA) from the records of court proceedings.

Details here in a 2016 Improbable Article.

Then, in 2019, Professor Tonja Jacobi (Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) and Professor Matthew Sag (Loyola University Chicago School of Law) took the matter further with another study which looked (amongst other things) at laughter over time initiated by justices and advocates, per five thousand words (1955 – 2015).

“The performative nature of courtroom humor is apparent from the uneven distribution of judicial jokes, jests, and jibes. The Justices overwhelmingly direct their most humorous comments at the advocates with whom they disagree, the advocates who are losing, and novice advocates.”

With the finding that the number of (justice initiated) laughter episodes in a hearing can be used to predict the outcome of the case.

“Building on prior work, we show that laughter in the courtroom is yet another aspect of judicial behavior that can be used to predict cases before Justices have even voted.”

See: Taking Laughter Seriously at the Supreme Court  Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol 72, No.5, 1423 (2019)

Update update: Siyu Li, who is PhD Candidate at the Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. US, has contacted us to alert to a new research paper :

“In our study, we find that attorneys whose remarks cause more laughter in the Courtroom (audible from the recording; justices are not necessarily laughing) are more likely to win justices’ votes. Furthermore, we find that the role of laughter is mediated by other factors, such as justices’ ideology, the legal quality of the attorney’s argumentation, and case complexity.”

See: Humor and Persuasion  : The Effects of Laughter during US Supreme Court’s Oral Arguments, Law & Policy, Volume 42, Issue 2, April 2020.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

Successor Rules for Flipping Pancakes and Burnt Pancakes

Friday, September 4th, 2020

The theoretical advanced in pancake flipping, discusses in the August 2020 issue of mini-AIR, were not the end of the story.  Further advances can be found in this study:

Successor Rules for Flipping Pancakes and Burnt Pancakes,” Joe Sawada and A. Williams, Theoretical Computer Science, vol. 609, part 1, 4 January 2016, pp 60-75. The authors, at the University of Guelph and at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, report:

“A stack of n pancakes can be rearranged in all n! ways by a sequence of flips, and a stack of n ‘burnt’ pancakes can be rearranged in all… ways by a sequence of… flips. In both cases, a computer program can efficiently generate suitable solutions. We approach these tasks instead from a human perspective. How can we determine the next flip directly from the current stack? How can we flip the minimum or maximum number of (burnt) pancakes overall? What if we are only allowed to flip the top… (burnt) pancakes?… For the third question, we prove that solutions almost certainly exist for pancakes and burnt pancakes using only these three flips.”

Coffee and Cow Manure: In Search of the Optimal Inoculum

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

Man and woman’s yearning for perfection, in this case perfection keyed to the deployment of coffee and cow manure, is the driving force behind this new study:

In Search of the Optimal Inoculum to Substrate Ratio During Anaerobic Co-Digestion of Spent Coffee Grounds and Cow Manure,” Çağrı Akyol, Waste Management and Research, epub 2020. The author is  at Boğaziçi University, Turkey, and Marche Polytechnic University, Italy.

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