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Archive for 'Research News'

The Wombot and the Wombats

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Ig Nobel Prize winner Scott Carver, at the University of Tasmania, and colleagues demonstrate and explain the wombot—their wombat-sized robot for wombat research—in action, in this ABC News report:

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Patricia Yang, Alexander Lee, Miles Chan, Alynn Martin, Ashley Edwards, Scott Carver, and David Hu, for studying how, and why, wombats make cube-shaped poo.

That prize-winning research is documented in these studies:

  • How Do Wombats Make Cubed Poo?” Patricia J. Yang, Miles Chan, Scott Carver, and David L. Hu, paper presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics, Abstract: E19.0000, November 18–20, 2018
  • Intestines of Non-Uniform Stiffness Mold the Corners of Wombat Feces,” Patricia J. Yang, Alexander B. Lee, Miles Chan, Michael Kowalski, Kelly Qiu, Christopher Waid, Gabriel Cervantes Benjamin Magondu, Morgan Biagioni, Larry Vogelnest, Alynn Martin, Ashley Edwards, Scott Carver, and David L. Hu, Soft Matter, vol. 3, 2021

Was Something Wrong with Beethoven’s Metronome?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Was something wrong with Beethoven’s metronome? Well, was something wrong? Well? A fair number of people have tried hard to find out. Four of them produced this mathematics-based analysis:

Was Something Wrong with Beethoven’s Metronome?Sture Forsén, Harry B. Gray, L.K. Olof Lindgren, and Shirley B. Gray, Notices of the AMS, vol. 60, no. 9, 2013. The authors explain:

The pianist and musicologist Peter Stadlen (1910–1996), who devoted many years to studies of Beethoven’s markings, regarded sixty-six out of a total of 135 important markings as absurdly fast and thus possibly wrong. Indeed, many if not most of Beethoven’s markings have been ignored by latter day conductors and recording artists….

We investigate possible sources of error as to why Beethoven may not have been able to correctly note reliable and transferable time measures. We hope to demonstrate that there are possible mathematical explanations for the “curious” tempo markings—explanations that hitherto have not been considered except perhaps by Stadlen, who even went so far as to locate Beethoven’s own metronome.

Here is video of one of Beethoven’s composition being played, possibly with incorrect timing, by someone other than Beethoven:


Painfully fashionable : The consequences of wearing pointy shoes in medieval England [study]

Monday, July 19th, 2021

It’s known that if you wear overly pointy shoes for long periods, you’re likely to damage your feet How long has this been going on? Was it prevalent in, say, medieval Cambridge, UK?

To find out, researchers examined the human remains of 177 adult individuals (11th > 15th century) from four cemeteries located in Cambridge, England, to check their toes for shoe damage.

18% had Hallux valgus (deformed big-toes) caused, very probably, by wearing overly pointy shoes (see dwg). The researchers also noted that many of the individuals who had apparently been wearing painfully fashionable shoes also had fractures consistent with falling over – especially so-called FOOSH injuries (Falls On OutStretched Hand ).

Ref : Fancy shoes and painful feet: Hallux valgus and fracture risk in medieval Cambridge, England 


This B&W photo, courtesy Kamstein @ Wikipedia, shoes a pair of modern-day(ish) Winkle Pickers. 

Question: What Is Defined as ‘a Succession of Random Jerks’?

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Random jerks fascinate some people, a few of whom, at least, might be captivated by the study “On the Seismic Jerk,” Ramiro Sofronie, Journal of Geological Resource and Engineering, vol. 4, 2017, pp. 147-52. The author reports:

“In the year 1936, only with four years before the strong earthquake that occurred in Romania, on November 10, 1940, the late Professor Aurel A. Beleș (1891-1976), published a paper about the role of jerk in dynamics. Then in 1941, after the earthquake, in his quality of official expert for analyzing the collapse of Carlton Hotel in Bucharest, the same professor published two extended papers together in a book entitled The Earthquake and the Buildings. In that original scientific document an earthquake is defined as a succession of random jerks…”

Ig Nobel Prize winner Bolsonaro’s Hiccups: Will He Demand 2006 Winner’s Treatment?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Medical experts are eager to see whether 2021 Ig Nobel Prize winner Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, will cure his intractable hiccups with the digital-rectal-message treatment devised by 2006 Ig Nobel Prize winner Dr. Francis Fesmire.

Bolsonaro’s ailment is reported in many news outlets. The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant says, today: “Brazilian President Bolsonaro hospitalized with persistent hiccups—There is a lot of speculation in Brazil as to why President Jair Bolsonaro has had the hiccups for ten days.”

The 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to Dr. Francis M. Fesmire, for his medical case report “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage“; and to Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven, for their subsequent medical case report also titled “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage.”

President Bolsonaro is himself an Ig Nobel Prize winner.

The 2020 Ig Nobel Prize for medical education was awarded to Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Narendra Modi of India, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald Trump of the USA, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, for using the Covid-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.

Improbable Research