Archive for 'Research News'

What Happens to The Cool Kids, Later In Life [research study]

Friday, July 6th, 2018

What Ever Happened to the ‘Cool’ Kids? Long-Term Sequelae of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior,” Joseph P. Allen, Megan M. Schad, Barbara Oudekerk, and Joanna Chango, Child Development, vol. 85, no. 5, 2014, pp. 1866-1880. The authors, at the University of Virginia, explain:

“In a multimethod, multireporter study following a community sample of 184 adolescents from ages 13 to 23, early adolescent pseudomature behavior was linked crosssectionally to a heightened desire for peer popularity and to short-term success with peers. Longitudinal results, however, supported the study’s central hypothesis: Early adolescent pseudomature behavior predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships, as well as significant problems with alcohol and substance use, and elevated levels of criminal behavior.”

Read that and more, in the column “Soft Is Hard—Further evidence why the “soft” sciences are the hardest to do well” [free, downloadable PDF], in the special NOISE issue of the Annals of Improbable Research.

For heaps of improbable research, subscribe to the magazine (or if you like, buy single issues). The magazine has six new issues a year, all in PDF form.

Flow, metaphor, flow: Constructal Law

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Some things can remind you about almost everything. (Jane Siberry demonstrated this with her song “Everything reminds me of my dog.”) Some ideas can explain specific physical patterns—patterns you can see around you if you start looking for them, patterns you can try to measure and ruthlessly compare with each other. And some of those ideas also can be metaphors that explain, in more general, more vague ways, all sorts of things about how people behave.

CONSTRUCTAL LAW is one of the theories that can be applied to all sorts of things. The theory suggests (or insists) that almost everything evolves over a long period of time shaped by the flow of this and that. Why does the person who gave name to Constructal Law call it a “law,” rather than just calling it a “theory”? Because, as he sees it, the idea truly applies, always, to the things to which it applies. (As a metaphor, it can be applied, in truly clever ways, to almost everything.)

Quartz magazine has a couple of essays about constructal law: “Physics can explain human innovation and enlightenment” and “Everything created is predicted by nature: A new video explains the physics of flow.” Here’s that video about Constructal Law and about Adrian Bejan, the person who thought it up.

And here’s a video of Jane Siberry’s dogged dog-idea idea:

(Thanks to Jennifer Ouellette for bringing this to our attention.)


Noseworthy on Contagion Effects of Celebrity Memorabilia (study)

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

What do Britney Spears’ (chewed) bubble gum, Bernie Madoff’s footstool and Lady Gaga’s fake fingernail have in common? They’ve all been sold at celebrity memorabilia auctions.

Professor Theodore J. Noseworthy [pictured] is an expert on the so-called ‘contagion’ effects of such celebrity memorabilia, and says (in a Schulich.School of Business press release on the subject)

“[…] people can make some pretty odd inferences about the behaviour of people known to have purchased celebrity memorabilia,”

“For example, if someone were to buy a jacket previously owned by convicted fraudster Bernard Madoff and then behaved in an honest way, such as returning a lost wallet with money intact to the owner, they would be judged to be even more morally exemplary than their behaviour indicated.”

See: How inferred contagion biases dispositional judgments of others , Journal of Consumer Psychology, Volume 27, Issue 2, April 2017, Pages 195-206.

Note: The paper mentions that :

“[…] people are willing to pay more for George Clooney’s sweater as long as it has not since been dry-cleaned.“ citing Newman et al., 2011 – but Improbable has so far been unable to find any mention of George Clooney in the paper.

Men of The Netherlands, men of Denmark, men of Germany—Beware!

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

If you are a male bicyclist—as is more likely in some nations than in others—consider the implied warning in this new medical study. Men of The Netherlands, men of Denmark, men of Germany—Beware!

The study is  “Effect of Oscillation on Perineal Pressure in Cyclists: Implications for Micro-Trauma,” Thomas Sanford, Adam J. Gadzinski, Thomas Gaither, E. Charles Osterberg, Greg P. Murphy, Peter R. Carroll, and Benjamin N. Breyer, Sexual Medicine, epub 2018. The all-male authors, at the University of California, San Francisco, report:

Genital numbness and erectile dysfunction in cyclists may result from repeated perineal impacts on the bicycle saddle (micro-trauma) that occur during routine cycling….

METHODS: Participants were fit to a study bicycle to ensure all cyclists had the same torso angle (60 ± 1 degree) and maximum knee angle (150 ± 1 degree). A lever system was used to generate oscillation events of 3 progressively increasing magnitudes. Perineal pressure was continuously measured using a pressure sensor on the bicycle saddle….

CONCLUSION: …We found a strong linear relationship between oscillation magnitude and perineal pressure during cycling, which was mitigated by a seatpost shock absorber. The use of shock absorption in bicycle design may reduce perineal micro-trauma and potentially improve cycling-associated perineal numbness and erectile dysfunction.

Divine boredom (new papers)

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Has God ever been bored, or is currently bored, or might, at some stage, become bored? In a 2017 paper for the scholarly journal Religious Studies (Volume 53, Issue 1, pp. 51-70) authors Vuko Andrić (Akademischer Rat., University of Bayreuth, Germany) and Attila Tanyi (University of Tromsø, Norway) suggest that if God is omnitemporal [i.e. always has been, is, and always will be] he* might be quite likely to suffer from boredom. And if so, they say, that would give rise to a fundamental philosophical paradox :

“[However] since God is the greatest possible being (as we assumed God to be, following perfect being theology), he cannot be bored. Hence, God cannot be omnitemporal, but must be timeless; and if he cannot be timeless, then he does not exist.”

See: ‘God and eternal boredom’. 

This viewpoint, however, has now been questioned, perhaps challenged, or even refuted, by Jerome Gellman (emeritus professor of philosophy, Ben-Gurion University, Israel) who, in a new paper for the same journal, asserts that :

“Since God has no self-needs, God has no unfulfilled needs. But, to fall into boredom requires experiencing a lack, having self-regarding needs unfulfilled. So, God cannot fall into boredom.”

And so, by extension :

“Since it is logically impossible for God to fall into boredom, God can be everlasting in time.”

See: ‘It is logically impossible for everlasting God to fall into boredom’ Religious Studies (2018) 54, 285–288

* BONUS Assignment [optional] : The authors of both papers consistently use the personal pronoun ‘he’ when referring to God – discuss.