The Secrets Within Prince Shōtoku: The 70 objects inside him

May 21st, 2019

Secrets will be revealed about how the the secrets were revealed about what was secreted inside a seemingly simple statue:

When the sculpture arrived in the United States in 1937, a visiting Japanese conservator discovered that it contained an extraordinary cache of more than 70 dedicatory objects. It has taken over 80 years to begin to unlock the complex secrets of this princely time capsule, thanks to advances in technology and scholarship.

The secrets will be revealed, we are told, in a talk on Tuesday, May 28, at 4:15 pm, at the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s called “Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within.”

The mystery of cutting things in half [philosophical study]

May 20th, 2019

Butchers, bakers and donutmakers probably won’t forsee all that much trouble in cutting something in half. If you’re a philosopher on the other hand . . . Problems arise when trying (to imagine) the process of cutting something exactly in half. Given that most objects could be said to have a centre point of some kind, then, if that object is cut in half, could just one of the two parts ends up with the point? If one half gets the point and the other doesn’t, then the two halves aren’t equal – so the object hasn’t been truly cut in half.

Dr Aaron J Cotnoir. who is a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, Scotland and part of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre, examines such things in his essay ‘How to make donuts and cut things in half ‘ which can be read in its entirety here.
Pointing out – en passant – that :

“As usual, there are no perfect solutions in philosophy, but there are many good ones. And not all good solutions are equally good.”

BONUS: Dr Cotnoir has also investigated whether a God could create a stone so heavy that he/she/it would be unable to lift it and the question of How Many Angels Can be in the Same Place at the Same Time

The illustration shows (one way) to cut a ring-donut (approximately) in half – creating only one boundary with no holes rather than two.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

Migrant Warning: Crossing the Coffee-Cup Barrier

May 19th, 2019

When you get a cup of coffee from a vending machine, are you getting a soupćon of ink in your drink? This study looks into that question:

Determination the Set-Off Migration of Ink in Cardboard-Cups Used in Coffee Vending Machines,” Esther Asensio, Teresa Peiro, and Cristina Nerín, Food and Chemical Toxicology, epub 2019. The authors, at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, explain:

Food and beverages may interact strongly with the materials that they touch and this is specially important in vending machines, where often the contact is at high temperature. These interactions may result in migration of substances from the food contact materials to the beverages, affecting both the odour, quality of food as well as the health of consumers….

The aim of this study was the determination of the migration of compounds coming from different types of cardboard-cups used in coffee vending machines. The volatile compounds present in cardboard-cups were studied and specific migration studies were carried out by solid phase microextraction with headspace coupled to gas chromatography (HS-SPME-GC-MS). The migration of compounds from the cardboard-cups manufacturing material, plastic coating (LDPE) and printing inks were identified and quantified….

it is important to highlight the presence of compounds from both the material of the cardboard-cups (wood pulp) and the plastic coating (LDPE). Several compounds classified as Class II and Class III according to the Cramer rules, stand out the importance of the study and the required control of them, while their analysis suggests that this food contact material is unlikely to contribute significantly to dietary Cramer-threshold exceedance….

Some of the compounds found are not authorized for building food packaging materials. Even though they are coming from printing inks, the contact layer in the cups is LDPE, what makes this structure as a multilayer and then, included in the regulation 10/2011/EU. It is well known that diffusion of low polar organic molecules in LDPE is very fast and consequently the sorpted compounds in direct contact with LDPE can be easily transferred to the food.

“How Scientists Stumble on Their Adventures”

May 18th, 2019

Hauwei Europe produced this three-minute animated introduction to some Ig Nobel Prize winners. (The animation includes small bits of fanciful over-explanation, which you might enjoy trying to tease out from the facts):


Using Amino Acids to Identify Pornographic Images

May 17th, 2019

This study pioneers the use of amino acids for identifying pornographic images:

Using Amino Acids of Images for Identifying Pornographic Images,” Vijay Naidu, Ajit Narayanan, and Manoranjan Mohanty, 2019 IEEE Conference on Multimedia Information Processing and Retrieval (MIPR), 2019.

The authors, at Auckland University of Technology and the University of Aukland, New Zealand, report:

The pornographic images need to be regulated as they can have an adverse effect on the society. This paper purposes an image amino acid-based method to identify a pornographic image. The proposed method works by converting an image into biological amino acid form (e.g., to A, C, D, G, H, etc. form) and then extracting a signature from the image (which is represented in amino acid form) using biological tools. Using this method, a number of signatures are obtained from a set of few known pornographic images. These signatures are then matched against a database of images to find out the pornographic images. The matching is done using the openly available anti-virus scanner Clamscan. Here, the signatures obtained from the pornographic images are represented as signatures of viruses. The experimental result shows that the proposed method can identify a pornographic image with a high detection rate.

Many biologists who view themselves as being experts in the study of amino acids. This up and coming application of amino acids to pornographic images may be surprising to them.

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