Archive for 'Research News'

10 tips that media library specialists are advised to not follow

Monday, July 16th, 2018

What can be done about the troublesome numbers of overdue library books? A set of strategies (10 in number) is provided by Bacon, Pamela S. in the journal Library Media Connection. For example:

• ‘Never allow students to renew a book’

• ‘No matter what the question . . . always say no first’

• ‘Practice saying “shhh” with as much resentment as you can manage’


The author clarifies :

“Obviously, you’ve figured out by now that no practicing media library specialist would ever follow these 10 tips. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that overdues weren’t so bad after all.”

– in the sense that the implication is that students are actually reading more rather than less, and are probably also sharing books amongst their friends.

“Sure, overdues still bother me – but given the alternative I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

See: Don’t Overdo Worrying about Overdues! Library Media Connection, v24 n3 p45.

Observation: Should you require more info on research into ‘overdues’, then the following is also of note :

“Very little research on overdues and fines has been carried out at UK university libraries; this study aims to address this gap in the literature.”

The quote is from a 2013 study, performed at Leeds University, UK, which not only examined the reasons why students don’t return books on time (for example, because they forgot, because they didn’t realise it was overdue, or had lost it &etc.) but also suggest a variety of strategies to combat the practice – including a one-off fines amnesty.

See : Overdue books at Leeds University Library Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, Volume: 46 issue: 3, page(s): 226-242

NEW SERIES OF EVENTS: Improbable Research Table Talks

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

This month, we’ll begin doing a new kind of Improbable Research event: Improbable Research Table Talks. The first event will happen on Monday morning, July 16.

At each Improbable Research Table Talk, Marc Abrahams (editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, and founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony) will chat with you about one or another research study that makes people laugh, then think. Some of these studies have won Ig Nobel Prizes; others we have explored in the magazine, in the podcast, etc.

These chats will be cozy, informal, and brief, around a table. Sometimes Marc will bring along a professor, physician, engineer, or other famous or infamous researcher.

Please join us!

The first Improbable Table Talk

The first talk will be Monday, July 16, 2018, at 10 am, at Toscanini’s Ice Cream, 159 First St., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. It will include special guest researcher Gus Rancatore, proprietor of Toscanini’s. Bring friends and colleagues, if you like. The event is free.

Future Improbable Table Talks

We will announce many of these talks on the Improbable events schedule.

If you are in the Boston area (or not far beyond it), and would like to gather a few friends and host an Improbable Research Table Talk at your favorite coffee shop, office, lab, library, school, or other cozy place, please get in touch with us.

Primate Social Behavior in the Operating Room [research study]

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Ig Nobel Prize winner Frans de Waal and colleagues purlished a new study, using old techniques to study a little-studied kind of primate: human surgeons at work in an operating room.

The study is: “Ethological Observations of Social Behavior in the Operating Room,” Laura K. Jones, Bonnie Mowinski Jennings, Melinda K. Higgins, and Frans B.M. de Waal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  no. 201716883, July 2, 2018. (Thanks to Philipp Weisser for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

“Hierarchy and gender composition affect the balance of cooperation and conflict on surgical teams. In this investigation, behavior was quantified with methods traditionally used to study nonhuman primate groups. Observers used an ethogram to timestamp 6,348 spontaneous social interactions from 200 surgical procedures. Conflict and cooperation in the operating room [OR] showed a significant interaction effect with regard to professional roles (e.g., conflict was initiated mostly down the hierarchy between individuals several ranks apart) and by gender interaction (e.g., cooperation was better if the attending surgeon’s gender differed from that of the team majority)…. Instead of using post-hoc questionnaires, which are unreliable and often self-serving, we wanted to record actual behavior and relate it to hierarchy and gender. Our findings show that the OR is a microcosm of typical primate social tendencies.”

Katie Langen writes about the study, in Science magazine: “Yelling, cursing less likely to break out in operating rooms when female surgeons are present.”

The 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for anatomy was awarded to Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

REFERENCE for that prize-winning research: “Faces and Behinds: Chimpanzee Sex Perception” Frans B.M. de Waal and Jennifer J. Pokorny, Advanced Science Letters, vol. 1, 99–103, 2008.

The benefits of watering plants with Club Soda (study)

Monday, July 9th, 2018

“We used six Helzine [sic] soleirolii, commonly known as Baby’s Tears, plants to conduct our experiment. The plants were divided into two groups, A and B. Both groups were placed in the same amount of sunlight and given the same soil. The plants were fed according to florist instructions. However instead of plain tap water, group B was fed Club Soda. Every day at 7 pm each plant had one of its shoots measured and recorded. This continued for ten days. At the end of the experiment, data was arranged and compared.”

The research team, from University of Colorado Boulder, US, determined that plants watered with Club Soda fared considerably better :

“Plants given carbonated water not only grew faster but also developed a healthier shade of green in comparison to plants given tap water. […] The nutrients in the Club Soda are like a double dose of essentials for plants.”

See : The Effect of Carbonated Water on Green Plants by Lindsay Danzell and Jessica Greenberg, CU Boulder, Fall 2002.

Note: The study doesn’t specify the brand used in the experiments – the photo shows, by way of an example, President’s Choice Club Soda.

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: