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The opera “Dream, Little Cockroach” [the whole video]

October 15th, 2020

The opera “Dream, Little Cockroach” premiered as part of the 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, on September 17, 2020. Here’s video of the opera, by itself.

Plot summary: A man dreams that, although he was always a cockroach, he has been transformed into a human being. His family, and scientists, and the whole population, argue about how to respond. They decide to make him their leader.

Here’s the cast and crew of this premiere performance:

Musical Director: Maria Ferrante
Video director and editor: Bruce Petschek
Additional videography and audio editing: Alexey Eliseev

NARRATORS: Karen Hopkin and Christopher Hopkin

Piano: Yulia Yun
Accordion: Dr. Thomas Michel
Cello: Dr. Julie Reimann
Bass: Dr. Bruce Koplan

Maria Ferrante
Dr. Fred Tsai
Bobbie Hill
Jan Hadland
Ted Sharpe
Lizhou Sha

The man who might be a cockroach: Alexey Eliseev

Rich Roberts, Frances Arnold, Marty Chalfie, Eric Maskin, Andre Geim, Jerome Friedman, Alessandro Pluchino & spouse, Andrea Rapisarda, Michael Smith & spouse, May Berenbaum, Sabine Begall, Richard Vetter, Kiyoshi Furusawa, Melissa Franklin, Jean Berko Gleason.

Portaborse: Michele Liguori


Research about liars and con men

October 14th, 2020

The special Liars & Con Men issue of the magazine (vol. 26, no. 5) is stuffed with research about liars and con men.

Surveilance Reports About Self-Touching

October 14th, 2020

Surveilance Reports About Self-Touching

Most Self-Touches Are with the Nondominant Hand,” Nan Zhang, Wei Jia, Peihua Wang, Marco-Felipe King, Pak-To Chan, and Yuguo Li, Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-13. (Thanks to Adrian Smith for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at The University of Hong Kong and The University of Leeds, report:

“Self-touch may promote the transfer of microorganisms between body parts or surfaces to mucosa. In overt videography of a post-graduate ofce, students spent 9% of their time touching their own hair, face, neck, and shoulders (HFNS). These data were collected from 274,000 s of surveillance video in a Chinese graduate student office. The non-dominant hand contributed to 66.1% of HFNStouches. Most importantly, mucous membranes were touched, on average, 34.3 times per hour, which the non-dominant hand contributed to 240% more than the dominant hand. Gender had no signifcant efect on touch frequency, but a signifcant efect on duration per touch.”

Person Authentication Using Finger Snapping [study]

October 12th, 2020

When it comes to biometric authorization systems, there are many to choose from – candidates include face recognition, fingerprint recognition, ear recognition, voice recognition, tongue recognition and body odour recognition etc etc. But none is 100% perfect, so there’s always a demand for improvement and innovation.

In 2016, a team from the Department of Computer Science and Technology, Ocean University of China, and the School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia proposed (and tested) a new one : finger-snapping recognition :

“The security of smart devices has been a major concern for people nowadays. For example, a range of methods have been applied for user authentication on smartphones and smart watches, such as password, PIN and fingerprint. They can be either easily stolen by attackers or need extra sensors for input. In this paper, a new biometric trait, finger snapping, is applied for person authentication. The sound of finger snapping is easy to capture with the microphone embedded in the smart devices. Besides, it is easy to perform and do not require explicit remembrance for the reason that finger snapping only depends on muscle memory.”

“Finger snapping is an act of making an impulsive sound with one’s fingers and palm. It is often done by connecting the thumb with another (middle, index or ring) finger, and then moving the other finger immediately downward to hit the palm. Such act of finger snapping involves physiological characteristics which refer to inherited traits that are related to human body, as the sound of finger snapping is differentiated by the size of palm and skin texture. In addition, it also involves behavioral characteristics which refer to learned pattern of a person, as it is the movement of the finger creates the sound.”

“A survey is carried out on 74 people about whether they can snap their fingers and accept the finger snapping authentication. Results show that 86.5 % of the respondents can snap fingers, of which 89.2 % would like to authenticate themselves using a simple finger snap. Besides, through our finger snapping collecting phase, we come to find out that people who could not snap their fingers can learn to do it after understanding the method of finger snapping.”

See: Yang Y., Hong F., Zhang Y., Guo Z. (2016) Person Authentication Using Finger Snapping — A New Biometric Trait. In: You Z. et al. (eds) Biometric Recognition. CCBR 2016. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 9967. Springer, Cham. (a full copy may be found here)

BONUS Assignment [optional] : Can you snap your fingers? If so, can you do it (exactly) the same twice?
Research research by Martin Gardiner

Pocket-Sized #1037: “Chernoff Faces”

October 11th, 2020

In this Pocket-Sized episode #1037, Marc Abrahams shows an unfamiliar research study to Mason Porter. Dramatic readings and reactions ensue.

The research mentioned in this episode is featured in the special Mathematics issue (Vol. 16, #4) of the Annals of Improbable Research Magazine. 

Mason Porter encounters:

Chernoff and the Face Value of Numbers,” Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 16, no. 1, July-August 2010.

The Use of Faces to Represent Points in K-Dimensional Space Graphically,” Herman Chernoff, Journal of the American Statistical Association, vol. 68, no. 342, 1973, pp. 361–8.

Graphical Representation of Multivariate Data by Means of Asymmetrical Faces,” Bernhard Flury and Hans Riedwyl, Journal of the American Statistical Association, vol. 76, no. 376, December 1981, pp. 757-65. 

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