Crime and Sniffles

November 20th, 2019

Crime may be affected by the sniffling of potential criminals which may be affected by the amounts of pollen in the air, which might explain all sorts of things, suggests this new study:

More sneezing, less crime? Health shocks and the market for offenses,” Aaron Chalfin, Shooshan Danagoulian, and Monica Deza, Journal of Health Economics, vol. 68, December 2019, 102230. the authors, at the University of Pennsylvania, Wayne State University, and CUNY – Hunter College, explain:

“We consider the responsiveness of crime to a pervasive and common health shock which we argue shifts costs and benefits for offenders and victims: seasonal allergies. Leveraging daily variation in city-specific pollen counts, we present evidence that violent crime declines in U.S. cities on days in which the local pollen count is unusually high and that these effects are driven by residential violence. While past literature suggests that property crimes have more instrumental motives, require planning, and hence are particularly sensitive to permanent changes in the cost and benefits of crime, we find that violence may be especially sensitive to health shocks.”

Nations use the Ig Nobel Prize as a propaganda cudgel

November 19th, 2019

Every nation is keen to find new propaganda weapons to use against its rival nations. Some nations now gleefully use the Ig Nobel Prize.

Here’s a recent (September 18, 2019) example, in an editorial in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun:

Ig Nobel Prizes encourage people to enjoy science with a smile

Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize — an award that praises humorous achievements in scientific research — have been announced. Although the prize parodies the renowned Nobel Prize, there is much to be learned from it, such as a positive attitude toward enjoying science….

Japanese scientists have been awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for 13 consecutive years. Although the Japanese are occasionally said to lack originality, this may not be true regarding their capabilities in science. Their achievements seem to show the depth of generosity so firmly inherent in Japanese science that it accepts somewhat eccentric studies.

In contrast, China has received only a few Ig Nobel prizes, despite having produced a large number of theses in recent years. This seems to indicate that seemingly useless research cannot easily develop into anything good in an environment where practical studies are promoted as a state policy.

But in fact, many Chinese scientists have won Ig Nobel Prizes.

And China is home to a relatively new prize —the Pineapple Prize—that was created in homage to the Ig Nobel Prizes. Here’s a news report about that, in 2012:

Pineapple Science Prize launched to promote science

A ceremony was held in Hangzhou Saturday evening to give away China’s first “Pineapple Science Prize”, which is designed to honor researches with great imagination and to arouse the public enthusiasm for science.

Jointly launched by China’s most popular science and technology social network and Zhejiang Provincial Science and Technology Museum, the first Pineapple Science Prize is expected to promote the country’s science popularization….

Pineapple Science Prize, with the slogan of “Laugh and Think,” was designed differently from ‘Ig Nobel Prize.’

“I was inspired by the ‘Ig Nobel Prize,’ but decided to make the prize more acclimatized to China. By launching the prize, we hope more people will get to know science and science will become more popular among the public,” Ji said.

“Some research topics seem to be weird but actually have deep meaning, which inspires us in a different way.”

The benefits of management short sightedness [new study]

November 18th, 2019

High-level decision-makers within a company often behave in a short-sighted way – with a pronounced lack of concern for what might happen in the future. In other words, they’re managerially myopic. You might think that such behaviour could damage a firm’s performance. And you’d be right. [See, for example, Blockholder Trading, Market Efficiency, and Managerial Myopia, a 2009 paper from Professor Alex Edmans of the London Business School.]

But maybe it’s not always detrimental? A new paper from Professor Cheng Li at ​ Mississippi State University, draws attention to the (previously under-explored) benefits that short-sighted managers can bring to their firms.

“[…] a moderately myopic manager incentivizes the proponent of a risky long-term project to produce more information about the project, leading to more informed decision making and higher firm value.”

Raising the question – should myopic managers (who might inadvertently increase their firm’s value) be rewarded financially for their short-sightedness?

“Future work may examine the optimal compensation scheme for managers when the firm’s information environment is endogenously determined as in our paper.”

See: Informational benefits of managerial myopia in Economics Letters, Volume 185, December 2019. A full copy of which is currently available here via the professor’s website.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

Magic Sand and Degradation, at the Shi-Ting River

November 15th, 2019

Degradation, over long periods of time, is a worry to some scientists, as is evident in this new study:

Can magic sand cause massive degradation of a gravel-bed river at the decadal scale? Shi‑ting River, China,” Chenge An, Gary Parker, Marwan A. Hassan, and Xudong Fu, Geomorphology, vol. 327, February 15, 2019, pp. 147-158. (Thanks to Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; the University of Illinois, USA; and the University of British Columbia, Canada, report:

Massive bed degradation (20 m in 7 years) has been observed in the Shi‑ting River, Sichuan Province, China, since the 2008 Wenchuan Ms. 8.0 earthquake. The reason for the massive bed degradation has not been well understood. A hypothesis has been proposed that relates bed degradation to the augmentation of sand supply after the earthquake. The effect of sand on gravel mobility (magic sand effect) has long been observed in laboratory experiments. In this paper, we study whether the augmentation of sand supply and its magic sand effect can lead to the observed massive degradation at decadal scales….

Our simulation results also indicate that despite the fact that magic sand effects are not explicitly included in most sediment transport relations, they are at least partly built in via the hiding function that is contained in most sediment transport relations for gravel-sand mixtures.

The insect sex research adventures of Yoshitaka Kamimura

November 13th, 2019

This insect-sex-reversal-centric profile of 2017 Ig Nobel Biology Prize co-winner Yoshitaka Kamimura appeared a year ago in the Keio Times:

Sex-Role Reversal Research in Insects Wins Ig Nobel Prize for Keio Professor Yoshitaka Kamimura

…In 2012, Prof. Kamimura was first invited to join a research team led by Kazunori Yoshizawa, an associate professor at Hokkaido University, whose award-winning research focuses on cave-dwelling species of insect from Brazil that belongs to the genus Neotrogla. In most insects, the male penetrates the female reproductive organ to transfer seminal fluid, but for Neotrogla, it is the female that has a penis, which it uses to penetrate the male in order to receive seminal fluid and nutritional substances.

“Neotrogla are small, 3mm-long insects that inhabit caves in Brazil. Our first face-to-face encounter with these fascinating creatures was in 2016, when we donned headlamps and explored the caves in search of them. The caves they inhabit are quite dry and food is scarce, which forces them to rely on bat guano and mouse droppings to survive….”



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