SIL e-Books – the bees’ knees for rhyming jingles (linguistics study)

March 12th, 2018

If you’re after in-depth information about hanky panky, tittle tattle, or even argy bargy then where better to look than the pages of SIL e-Books ? In particular, chapter 16 of ‘A Mosaic of languages and cultures: studies celebrating the career of Karl J. Franklin*‘ – ‘Helter skelter and ñugl ñagl: English and Kalam Rhyming Jingles and the Psychic Unity of Mankind’ 

Wherein Professor Andrew Pawley BA (NZ), MA, PhD (University of Auckland), FRSNZ, FAHA (Department of Linguistics College of Asia & the Pacific, Australian National University) examines English rhyming jingles such as dilly dally, rumpy pumpy, hocus pocus, nitty gritty and topsy-turvy.

He then compares them with those of Kalam, a language spoken by about 20,000 people living in the Bismarck and Schrader Ranges in SW Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. For example ;

Godey Bodey (to swing round like a propellor)
Gadal Badl (higgledy piggledy)
Cnaŋ Mnaŋ (to wear strings of beads that cross the chest and back diagonally) and, of course,
ñugl ñagl (resound, of the evening chorus of insects, frogs, etc. in the grasslands).

* The entire e-Bbook (476 pages) may be downloaded, for scholarly purposes only, from here.

Note: The bees’ knees means roughly the same as “the cat’s pajamas” i.e. the height of excellence.

BONUS (musical) : Rootin’ tootin’ Hurdy Gurdy music from Andrey Vinogradov.

A Dramatic Non-Reading of William McGonagall’s Bad Poetry

March 10th, 2018

A special dramatic non-reading of the poetry of William McGonagall was a last-minute addition to the Ig Nobel Show at Imperial College on Friday night, March 9, 2018.

McGonagall is famed as the worst poet ever to write in the English language. Ig Nobel shows have, time and again, included dramatic readings of his work. (The literal high point was the group reading, on a train crossing the Tay Bridge, of McGonagall’s “Tay Bridge Disaster“—a poem lamenting the tragic collapse of that bridge.

Many of the Ig Nobel shows we have done at Imperial College have included a dramatic reading of McGonagall poems, performed by Andrew J.T. George, whose persistence on many occasions induced the successful booing and halting of the reading. Professor George was unable to attend this year’s show at Imperial College. Therefore, we sought and found an able substitute performer—a performer capable of delivering a specially restrained performance: noted author and raconteur Stevyn Colgan.

Colgan performed a dramatic non-reading of several poems by William McGonagall, in the midsts of spending the entire evening on stage at Imperial College, gagged, and bound to a chair.

The entire Ig Nobel show began, proceeded, and finished during Colgan’s evening-long on-stage tenure. Here are photos of that performance by Stevyn Colgan. Many audience members clambered onto the stage to have their photographs taken with Colgan.

The Ig Nobel Show at Imperial College was the first event in the Ig Nobel EuroTour. The tour will also include shows in the UK, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and other countries.

UPDATE: Here is the photo taken by Tom Williamson, whom you can see (in photo number 2, above) taking this photograph:

Recent progress in sham acupuncture needles

March 8th, 2018

A new ‘sham’ (i.e. fake) needle has been developed for use in electro-acupuncture trials – one which has neither a needle nor a valid electrical connection. [See diagram].

It’s described by Dr Yiu Ming Wong of the Health Science Unit (PEC), Hong Kong Physically Handicapped & Able Bodied Association, Kowloon, Hong Kong, in a letter for Acupuncture in Medicine, February 2018, Volume 36, Issue 1, entitled : ‘Evaluating blinding effectiveness of a novel Ryodoraku sham needle device’. In an experimental setup, 95% of participants reported that they felt they had been treated with a real needle. Dr Wong says that the new sham needle may help determine the efficacy of Ryodoraku electro-acupuncture (REA) in future clinical trials.

A supplementary video (in .mp4 format) which shows the sham needle in use (or rather not in use) is available here for download.

Also see previous post : Sham acupuncture needles – how do they perform?

Some Kinds of Coffee Are More Fragrantly Attractive to Ants

March 7th, 2018

Humans are not the only animals that (in many cases) are attracted by the smell of coffee. This study focuses on ants’ attraction to coffee smells:

Olfactory behavior and response of household ants (Hymenoptera) to different types of coffee odor: A coffee-based bait development prospect,” Abdul Hafiz Ab Majid, Hamady Dieng, Siti Salbiah Ellias, Faezah Syukriah Sabtu, Abd Hafis Abd Rahim, and Tomomitsu Satho, Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology, vol. 21, no. 1, March 2018, pp. 46-51.

The authors, at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia, and Fukuoka University, Japan, report:

In a series of Y-tube olfactometer bioassays, we examined the behavioral responses of Tapinoma indicum (TI), Monomorium pharaonis (MP) and Solenopsis geminata (SG) to various coffee-induced odor stimuli, comprised of extracts from Arabica, Robusta and Liberica….

Arabica extract mixed with sugar (S) elicited a significant attraction from workers of all three species in a balanced competition with either unsweetened Arabica extract or water. These results indicated that coffee, particularly Arabica, was attractive to the foragers of TI, MP and SG…

(Thanks to Neil Martin for bringing this to our attention.)

Video of a historic attempt to reproduce wombat, quasi-cubic poo

March 6th, 2018

This historic (2998) video by Robyn Lawrence documents an attempt to understand and reproduce the forces and constraints that allow or induce wombats to produce somewhat cubic excrement. (Thanks to Pat Kight for bringing it to our attention.)

Currently, Patricia Yang [pictured here], a graduate student at Georgia Tech, who shared the 2015 Ig Nobel Physics Prize, for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds)—is working on the same general question.