“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.

Serial killers and the Permian–Triassic boundary mass extinction

May 16th, 2019


Mikhail Simkin writes about his discovery of a discovery:

A Killer Reference

I got a request from Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy to review the paper “Serial Killers Profiling and Target Victims: Is there a connection?” The article looked pretty banal until I got to chapter 2.1 where I read:

“Biologically speaking, Heydari et al. (2008) observed the most common biological characteristics of serial killers and noted that they have distinctive features like; face asymmetry, irregular ears sizes, either standing out or very small, irregular nose shape, and protruding lips.”

This was intriguing so I scrolled to the end of the article for the reference. It was:

Heydari, E., Arzani, N., & Hassanzadeh, J. (2008). Mantle plume: the invisible serial killer— application to the Permian–Triassic boundary mass extinction. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 264(1), 147-162….

Recent progress in mermaid (and merfolk) studies

May 16th, 2019

Mermaids (and, more recently merfolk) have been the subject of examination in a number of scholarly studies. Here are a few examples from the last 5 years (or so).

ARE MERMAIDS REAL? Rhetorical Discourses and the Science of Merfolk.in Shima, Volume 12 Number 2 2018

● Swimming with mermaids: Communication and social density in the Second Life merfolk community in Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 48, July 2015, Pages 226-235

● How the Naturalists Described Merfolk or Mermaids: Fishes, Women, and Mammalia in Hikaku Bungaku Journal of Comparative Literature

● How fast could a mermaid swim? in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, Volume 7, 2018

● Bodies and technologies: Becoming a ‘mermaid’: myth, reality, embodiment, cyborgs, windsurfing and the sea in Living with the Sea, Knowledge, Awareness and Action, 2018 – Taylor & Francis

● Scaled for Success: The Internationalisation of the Mermaid in Western Folklore; Chico Vol. 78, Iss. 1, (Winter 2019):

Research research : Martin Gardiner

Photo credit : Miss ‘Definitely’ Downtown. A Norfolk mermaid.
Photographer: Captain Albert E. Theberge
Affiliation: NOAA Corps (ret.)
Date: 2003 June
Location: Virginia, Norfolk
Subject: Coastline
Subject: Mid-Atlantic Virginia
Subject: Art

Speaking of the Blob

May 15th, 2019

Audrey Dussutour is speaking about the blob:

Blobs on the Mind

Lots of other people are speaking about the blob, too—about the blob and intelligence. The blob is also known as “slime mold.” Intelligence is known to make people curious.

Lots of this talking was inspired by the work of Toshiyuki Nakagaki and his colleagues, who been honored with two Ig Nobel Prizes.

The Two Slime Mold Ig Nobel Prizes

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for cognition was awarded to Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.

The 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for transportation was awarded to Toshiyuki NakagakiAtsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan BebberMark Fricker of the UK, for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.

For details of those Ig Nobel Prize winning experiments see:

Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design,” Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Dan P. Bebber, Mark D. Fricker, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi, Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Science, Vol. 327. no. 5964, January 22, 2010, pp. 439-42. [VIDEO]

REFERENCE: “Intelligence: Maze-Solving by an Amoeboid Organism,” Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, and Ágota Tóth, Nature, vol. 407, September 2000, p. 470. [VIDEO]



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