Reinventing the chopstick(s) [new patent]

October 11th, 2018

Sometimes, the simplest technology can be the hardest to improve upon. Nevertheless, inventor Dang Minh Tran of San Diego California has re-invented the chopstick(s) :

“A pair of chopsticks are commonly used as eating utensils. Each chopstick commonly has two sections, one section for picking up food that can be referred to as an eating section and the other end for holding by a user that can be referred to as a handling section. In use the section for picking up food, also the chopstick eating section, may become covered with bits of food or sauce. When not in use, chopsticks may be placed flat on a horizontal surface, such as a tabletop commonly causing an area of the chopstick eating section to contact the horizontal surface. To avoid contaminating a chopstick eating section or a selected horizontal resting surface area (i.e. table), a user may rest or lean the chopsticks on a chopstick rest or other item to prevent undesired eating section contamination. It may be inconvenient and wasteful to employ a separate object to rest a chopstick. The present invention eliminates the need for a separate rest object.”

See: United States Patent 10,058,202, August 28, 2018, Self-elevating chopsticks

[ Research Research  by Martin Gardiner ]

Tom and Joan Steitz, and a clarinet player

October 11th, 2018

Tom Steitz has died; his obituary is in New York Times. He was half of a marriage of two great and celebrated chemists, who met while they were grad students of the great and celebrated Professor Lipscomb, whom many of you saw and met at two decades of Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies.  (We met at a memorial for Bill Lipscomb, in 2011.)

Tom and Joan are the glamorous mystery couple featured on the back cover of the special Professor Lipscomb issue (vol. 17, no. 4, 2011) of the Annals of Improbable Research., along with a clarinet player named William Lipscomb.

The Times obituary says:

Thomas A. Steitz, a towering figure of late-20th-century science who shared a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for figuring out the structure of a huge molecule central to translating the genetic code into the proteins that make up living matter, died on Tuesday at his home in Branford, Conn. He was 78….

…he went to Harvard for graduate school. Dr. Steitz decided then and there to become an X-ray crystallographer. He joined a group led by William N. Lipscomb, the only scientist at Harvard using that technique. Dr. Lipscomb was awarded the chemistry Nobel Prize in 1976….

After Cambridge Dr. Steitz began a long career at Yale, which also hired his wife, Joan Argetsinger Steitz, an eminent molecular biologist and recipient this year of a prestigious Lasker special achievement award in medical science….

Perception of the chilled groceries foodscape, with and without refrigerator doors

October 10th, 2018

The researchers state their worry bluntly:  “The purpose of this paper is to contribute to an understanding of how consumers behave and what they perceive when shopping chilled groceries from cabinets with doors and without doors in the supermarket.”

Sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch are all perception tools that help aid the decision making process for buying groceries. Researchers from Sweden and Denmark decided to put these tools to the test against a formidable opponent: a transparent door. They re-state their purpose, a bit less bluntly:

“The purpose of this paper is to contribute to an understanding of how consumers behave and what they perceive when shopping chilled groceries from cabinets with doors and without doors in the supermarket.”

Concerning olfaction some informants explained that they found most chilled groceries difficult to smell due to the packaging. “I want to
smell it.” […] “even if it’s well packaged, I think that if it’s really, really bad, I have to be able to smell something, even if it is packaged.” They also described smelling chilled groceries as awkward. If they do this, they always do it discretely as they do not want to be perceived as strange… The informants discussed that doors on cabinets can stop odors from getting into the room. However, at the same time, whenever a door is opened, the odor may cause strong reactions among the informants.

Some informants describe that doors on cabinets in general are good when it comes to making the store feel less cold. One informant describes this: “When there are doors, it feels like the cold is more isolated and being kept in its place. I like doors.”

The study in which they state these things is: Consumer perception and behavior in the retail foodscape–A study of chilled groceries,” (2018). Lindberg, U. [pictured here], Salomonson, N., Sundström, M., & Wendin, K. Journal Of Retailing And Consumer Services, 40, 1-7.

Here’s a video of co-author Karin Wendin explaining a different line of research, centering on the eating of insects:

In search of…

October 9th, 2018

Seven years ago Google went to a lot of effort and expense to film a very short documentary about how we at Improbable Research do internet searching in innovative ways.

This little documentary was going to be an ad for Google, both on TV and on the internet. And it might have introduced a LOT of people worldwide to Improbable Research.

But Google never showed that little documentary about us — because they suddenly diverted ALL their advertising efforts to promote the then-new Google+

This week, in 2018, Google announced that they are shutting down Google+

Google says: “We are shutting down Google+ for consumers.”

Oh, well!

Celebrating Professor Arnold’s Further and Future Adventures

October 9th, 2018

I have to say I feel pretty tickled (and yes, honored) by the final minute of this Science Friday interview with new Nobel Chemistry Prize winner Frances Arnold.

After hearing the interview, I of course got in touch with Professor Arnold, inviting her to take part in next year’s (2019) Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. She replied: “marc, wonderful!  Can’t promise to come, since my life is a tornado and I am a leaf, but it is high on my list!”

The Nobel committee honored Professor Arnold specifically for her research on “the directed evolution of enzymes.” Many thanks to Ira Flatow and Charles Bergquist at Science Friday, for helping engineer the new bit of directed social/ceremonial evolution.

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