In search of Flensmark (of high-heels and schizophrenia fame)

June 8th, 2019

The NeuroSkeptic blog reports:

Neuroscience’s Shoe Saga

If you delve into the wildest depths of the scientific literature, you will find a trilogy of papers so weird, that they have become legendary.

In these articles, spanning a 12 year period, author Jarl Flensmark says that heeled shoes cause mental illness, while flat footwear promotes brain health:

Unsurprisingly, Flensmark’s bizarre work has been a regular feature of ‘weird science’ compilations such as Improbable Research and many others. But did Jarl Flensmark really believe that shoes affect brain function, or was it all a joke? ….

PhD. Thesis of the Week: Yoga and Saxophone Performance

June 7th, 2019

Yoga and Saxophone Performance: The Integration of Two Disciplines,” by
Allison Dromgold Adams.Arizona State University, Ph.D. thesis, 2012.

Special HABITS & TRICKS issue of Improbable Research

June 6th, 2019

The special Habits & Tricks issue (volume 25, no. 2) of the Annals of Improbable Research is now available, in PDF form as usual. You can purchase a single issue, or subscribe to the magazine (six new issues every year), or if you like, read a few of the articles free online.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

The features marked with a star (*) are based entirely on material taken straight from standard research (and other Official and Therefore Always Correct) literature. Many of the other articles are genuine, too, but we don’t know which ones.

Special Section: Habits and Tricks

Research on Nosepicking*
Research on Fidgeting*
Habits Research: Dishwashing and Downloading*
Ig® and Beyond: Shopping and Retracted Habits*
Eating Habits*
Medical Patients’ Habits: Mouth Breathing, Cable Chewing, Sucking*
Medical Professionals’ Habits: Mask Wiggling, Role Modeling*
Medical Trick Question: No Bullet, But… Butt?*
Magic and Rodeo Tricks Research*
Forensic Research: Knot Habits*

Improbable Research Reviews*

Improbable Research: Bacteria and Birthday Cakes*
May We Recommend: Cactus Spine Puncture Performance*
Boys Will Be Boys: Flatulence, Exciting, Usage*
Icky Cutesy: Willingness Toupee, Russian Roulette*

News & Notes

AIR Vents (letters from our readers): More Musty and Wiener Sausage
Ig® Nobel Limericks: Hijacker Packaging, Report Reporting*
Editorial Board
Index of Special Issues
Teachers’ Guide
Unclassified Ads

Innovative Scientists Talk About Their Childhood (2): Nicole Sharp and the Space Station

June 6th, 2019

Here’s Nicole Sharp talking about the space station that, when she was a child, excited Nicole in a way that led to her eventual unusual career. Nicole created and runs FYFD, the most popular fluid dynamics web site in this part of the universe.

ABOUT THIS LITTLE VIDEO SERIES—This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David Hu, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frans de Waal, Nicole Sharp, Diego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

A FURTHER NOTE ABOUT THIS SERIES: These little videos are not quite as good as they ought to have been, due to curious decisions made by the video editor. The most obvious of those strange decisions was to dose everything with goopy, slightly distracting music. The editor also objected to some of the content of the videos, deeming them somehow too offensive to record. The lesson we learned: choose our video editor more carefully.

Wednesday is Dead Duck Day

June 5th, 2019

The 24th annual Dead Duck Day celebration happens on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Dead Duck Day honors the mallard duck that became known to science as the first (documented) ‘victim’ of homosexual necrophilia in that species, and earned its discoverer, Kees Moeliker, the 2003 Ig Nobel Biology Prize.

Kees Moeliker, who is now director of the museum where the incident occurred, invites everyone to join in the celebration:

Dead Duck Day also commemorates the billions of other birds that die(d) from colliding with glass buildings, and challenges people to find solutions to this global problem.

Please join the free, short open-air ceremony next to the new wing of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam (the Netherlands), right below the new Dead Duck Memorial Plaque — the very spot where that duck (now museum specimen NMR 9989-00232) met his dramatic end….

After the ceremony, join us for the traditional six-course (dead) duck dinner at the famous Tai Wu Restaurant. This dinner, also, is open to the public (at your own expense). Reserve your seat by e-mailing to: info [at]

[Read full details on Kees’s blog.]

UPDATE: Here’s video from this year’s Dead Duck Day:

Here is the TED Talk Kees did about the duck:

Dead Duck Day has many admirers. Here is one of them:

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!