Archive for 'Research News'

“Soil themes” in pop music (new study)

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Have you ever considered how “soil themes” have been represented in popular song? If so, a new paper in the journal Soil Science and Plant Nutrition (Volume 63, 2017 – Issue 5) may be of interest. See:

‘Songs for our soils. How soil themes have been represented in popular song‘    The authors cite songs such as :

• 1959 : Johnny Cash : Five feet high and rising : Songs of our Soils

• 1966 : Peter Seeger : Cement octopus : God Bless the Grass

• 1967 : The Beatles : Strawberry fields forever : Magical Mystery Tour

• 1975 : Johnny Cash : Look at Them Beans : Look at Them Beans

• 2015 : Neil Young : RMA : The Monsanto Years
And, in so doing :

“This paper observes that many of the greatest songwriters and interpreters on the international scene, from all musical genres, have dealt with soil, often from innovative and audacious perspectives. From the prosaic metaphor of the life cycle or as a medium for crops, the soil resource has also been cast as a means of pain, sacrifice, or even redemption. Sometimes seen as a secret world, a helpless creature, treated with a visionary or yet psychedelic approach, the soil has been represented in myriad ways.”

Note : The video above is :

• 1967 : The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band : Jollity Farm : Gorilla

(it features an agricultural theme, but is not cited in the paper).

Looking at Tyrells potato crisp packets (image ecology study)

Monday, April 9th, 2018


Within the academic field of aesthetics, there aren’t all that many essays written   on   about potato crisp packets. There is, however, at least one.

Karin Wagner, who is professor and associate head of department for research in art history and visual studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, specialises in the areas of photography, new media and visual communication, and has a new paper in the Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, volume 10, 2018 – issue 1, entitled : ‘Nostalgic photographs in the contemporary image ecology: the example of Tyrrells crisp packaging’

“The purpose is to explore the ontological transformations of photographs in the contemporary image ecology, blurring the categories ‘analogue’ and ‘digital;. What new meanings and materiality can old photographs acquire when for instance put on packages that are used, thrown away, recycled and sometimes upcycled?”

As a case study, the professor focused specifically on the packaging of crisps from UK-based Tyrells Potato Crisps Ltd., drawing comparison(s) between the real-world thowaway crisp packets and the virtual world, where ‘disposable’ imagery abounds.

“The crisp package is an ephemeral object that is meant to be thrown away. When the bag is opened, the photograph is likely to be destroyed — the bag can be seen as a snapchat photo, that is made to last for a short moment and then disappear. However, there are millions of new pristine samples in the shops, and although most of them are destined to be discarded, some will survive. It is similar to posting pictures on the Internet, once there they are likely to live on.”

BONUS: A 1969 Monty Python sketch, cited in the paper, (Season 1, Episode 3) can be viewed here – starting at around 19:00

Note: As far as can be ascertained, ‘ Tyrells ’ does not feature an apostrophe.

Cuteness Engineering (2017 book)

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Are you looking for a “state of the art monograph which presents a unique introduction to thinking about cuteness and its incorporation into modern, especially computer-based, products and services” ? If so, you could consult Cuteness Engineering : Designing Adorable Products and Services (Springer International Publishing, Hardback £61.99 or e-Book £48.99).

Here is an example chapter -: Taxonomy of Cuteness by Aaron Marcus, Masaaki Kurosu, Xiaojuan Ma, and Ayako Hashizume. The authors use the Manga 109 dataset (compiled by the Aizawa Yamasaki Laboratory, Department of Information and Communication Engineering, the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo) to break down ‘cute’ manifestations into a considerable number of distinct taxonomic groups – for example :

▪ Scary cute with facial scar

▪ Awkward (frustrated) cute with squeezed eyes


▪ Stupid cute with exaggerated eyes and mouth [illustrated]

The taxonomy is an ongoing project, say the authors :-

“We expect it to expand and differentiate in detail as more examples become well known to students of cuteness engineering/ design and as cuteness expands its role in the ongoing development of products and services.”

Also see : Goo Labs’ search engine for Kawaii, things that are cute


Retaliation on a voodoo doll (symbolizing an abusive supervisor) restores justice [new study]

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Mistreated by a supervisor at work? Would it make you feel a little bit better if you could, say, torment a voodoo doll?

Professor Lindie Hanyu Liang (at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada) and colleagues have investigated such things. In return for a $1 payment, 195 full-time employees living in the US or Canada participated in an experiment in which they were given the opportunity to retaliate (after recalling an abusive workplace scenario) against an online Voodoo Doll, provided by (“Your source for dumb stuff”) * see note below

“[…] we asked the participants to use the materials provided (e.g., pins, pliers, fire) on the doll over the next minute.”

It was found that the doll-tormenting did help (in some degree) to alleviate the negative feelings associated with recalling abusive supervision incidents. What are the practical implications?

“Although it is difficult to offer direct practical implications from our study, given that existing researches are suggestive that abusive supervision has a number of negative consequences (Tepper, 2007), our findings provide several indirect organizational implications for how some of these consequences may be alleviated. In particular, we have proposed and found that subordinate retaliation can directly influence subordinate justice perceptions. These findings suggest that retaliation not only benefits individual victims, but may also benefit the organization as a whole, given that justice perceptions is important for employee performance and well-being (Wright & Cropanzano, 1998; Wright, Cropanzano, & Bonett, 2007).”

See: Righting a wrong: Retaliation on a voodoo doll symbolizing an abusive supervisor restores justice in The Leadership Quarterly, Feb. 2018.

* Note :Those who wish to vent their frustrations by tormenting the Dumb Voodoo Doll may experience further vexation, as it requires Flash® to view/play, and many up-to-date browsers now disable Flash® by default due to security concerns.

Deterring hospital patients from ‘drinking’ from hand sanitizers – Dr. Weiner’s solution

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Aside from causing the occasional fire, alcohol-based hand santizers in hospitals have another problem. They’re a handy ‘non-beverage’ source of (jellified) alcohol for those patients who crave intoxication. There are several published formal investigations on the subject – see, for example :

Consumption of alcohol-based hand sanitisers by hospital inpatients The Medical journal of Australia – 2011

Intoxication of a hospitalized patient with an isopropanol-based hand sanitizer N Engl J Med – 2007

Intentional ingestion of ethanol-based hand sanitizer by a hospitalized patient with alcoholism Mayo Clin Proc – 2007

What can be done? Scott G. Weiner, MD, MPH, of Tufts-New England Medical Center, Department of Emergency Medicine, Boston, US, suggests that :

Changing dispensers may prevent intoxication from isopropanol and ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitizers  Annals of Emergency Medicicine – 2007. The newly improved dispenser [pictured] has a security shield that deters patients from drinking the contents (or at least not a whole bottle at one shot).

BONUS assignment [optional] Suggest other (benign) ways to discourage hospital patients from drinking from sanitizers.