http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ImprobableResearch/~3/cAkIZ7oXWg8/

http://www.improbable.com/?p=54832

The bombardier beetle’s violent method self-defence can now be applied to defending bank cash machines, as explained in this study be researchers at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland:

Self-defending anti-vandalism surfaces based on mechanically triggered mixing of reactants in polymer foils,” Jonas G. Halter, Nicholas H. Cohrs, Nora Hild, Daniela Paunescu, Robert N. Grass and Wendelin Jan Stark (pictured here), Journal of Materials Chemistry A, epub March 17, 2014. (Thanks to May Berenbaum for bringing this to our attention.) The authors report:

Prof_Stark_ETH_Zurich“The bombardier beetle uses attack-triggered mixing of reactants (hydrochinone, hydrogen peroxide H2O2 and enzymes as catalysts) to defend itself against predators. Using multi-layer polymer sheets with H2O2 and catalyst (MnO2) filled compartments we developed a 2D analogous bio-inspired chemical defence mechanism for anti-vandalism applications. The reactants were separated by a brittle layer that ruptures upon mechanical attack, and converts the mechanical energy trigger (usually a few Joules) into a chemical self-defence reaction involving release of steam, and optionally persistent dyes and a DNA-based marker for forensics. These surfaces effectively translate a weak mechanical trigger into an energetic chemical reaction with energy amplification of several orders of magnitude. Since the responsive materials presented here do not depend on electricity, they may provide a cost effective alternative to currently used safety systems in the public domain, automatic teller machines and protection of money transport systems.”

Here are details from the study (and here’s a press release from the university):

beetled-tests

beetle-method-on-card

BONUS: Video of a bombarder beetle in action:

BONUS (related, though not in a relevantly meaningful way): The strange tale of the strange tale Bomby the Bombardier Beetle

 

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ImprobableResearch/~3/xXmy1jkNY4w/

http://www.improbable.com/?p=54815

The April issue of mini-AIR (our monthly e-mail newsletter just went out. (mini-AIR is a wee little supplement to the magazine). Topics include:

  • How Many Joints?
  • Ig Nobel Eurotour Thanks, and Next Year
  • Green: Thumb Injury Limerick Competition
  • Salamander 5th Toe Loss
  • and more
It also has info about upcoming events.

Mel [pictured here] says, “It’s swell.”

mini-AIR is the simplest way to keep informed about Improbable and Ig Nobel news and events.

Want to have mini-AIR e-mailed to you every month? Just add yourself to the mini-AIR list.

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ImprobableResearch/~3/EW9AWWieYiQ/

http://www.improbable.com/?p=54722

Psychologist B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning work inspired the work of Marian Breland Bailey. Bailey’s work inspired this study:

Marian Breland Bailey: The Mouse Who Reinforced,”  John N. Marr, Arkansas Historical Quarterly. Vol. 61, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 59-79. Marr writes:

Marian and her first husband, Keller Breland, had become the most experienced and accomplished mammal, fish, reptile, and bird trainers in the world, and they did most of their work in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They were the first scientists to see that the methods used in that original pigeon project of World War II could be employed to train animals to do almost anything within the creature’s repertoire to work for and to entertain humans…

Other rooms contained chickens walking the “circus high wire” or pecking a button that caused a miniature baseball bat to hit a ball into the left field fence as the chicken ran the bases for a home run. Ducks played drums or pecked at the keys of a piano. Squirrels raised a flag up a pole to the sound of a bugle. Rabbits rode on the back of a miniature fire truck when the fire alarm rang or kissed a bunny doll until it “lit up.” Raccoons had to stuff a ball through a basket before a food light would blink. The baseball-playing chicken exhibit was also displayed in the window of a large department store in New York. The chicken’s performance was not in the least affected by the cheering of a large crowd on the sidewalk when she “hit” a home run; she would even trot back to home plate to try again when the ball was “caught” or hit foul (signified by the failure of a small light at first base to light up).

 (Thanks to investigator Mason Porter for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS (not necessarily not related): Chicken, Chicken, Chicken

Walmartisation of academia

This post published in 'Hightower lowdown' about the "Walmartisation" of the aspiring academic made for a rather depressing read. Has the state of American academia already spread to other parts of the world? Would unionisation help, or is it merely a minor delay to the inevitable?

Maybe I should abandon the increasingly unrealistic dream...

For those curious, this post was encountered in the 'Diaspora' network; see here

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ImprobableResearch/~3/8RzcyudKZ4o/

http://www.improbable.com/?p=54761

This is quite possibly the worst paper I’ve read all year,” writes Lior Pachter in his blog, Bits of DNA, proceeding to perform a detailed, methodical autopsy. He’s talking about this paper, which has been the subject of many scare-inducing news reports (with scare-inducing headlines like this one: “Even Casual Marijuana Use Causes Brain Abnormalities“):

J.M. Gilman et al.Cannabis Use Is Quantitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users, Neurobiology of Disease, 34 (2014), 5529–5538.

Professor Pachter, after dissecting the study, ends his essay with a tidy thought:

…I believe that scientists should be sanctioned for making public statements that directly contradict the content of their papers, as appears to be the case here. There is precedent for this.

(Thanks to investigator Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.)

Here are:

  • The official press release about the study.
  • breiterThe study’s authors, and the institutions with which they are affiliated (as listed in the study):  Jodi M. Gilman1,4,5, John K. Kuster1,2,*, Sang Lee1,6,*, Myung Joo Lee1,6,*, Byoung Woo Kim1,6, Nikos Makris3,5, Andre van der Kouwe4,5, Anne J. Blood1,2,4,5,†, and Hans C. Breiter [pictured here]1,2,4,6,†
  • Those institutions  (as listed in the study): 1 Laboratory of Neuroimaging and Genetics, Department of Psychiatry, 2 Mood and Motor Control Laboratory, 3 Center for Morphometric Analysis, Department of Psychiatry, and 4 Athinoula A. Martinos Center in Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, 5 Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, and 6 Warren Wright Adolescent Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 06011

Here, also as listed in the study, are the “author contributions” to the study:

  • J.M.G., M.J.L., B.K., N.M., A.J.v.d.K., A.B., and H.C.B. designed research; J.M.G., J.K.K., S.L., and A.J.v.d.K. performed research; M.J.L., B.K., A.B., and H.C.B. contributed unpublished reagents/analytic tools; J.M.G., J.K.K., S.L., M.J.L., N.M., A.B., and H.C.B. analyzed data; J.M.G., A.B., and H.C.B. wrote the paper.
  •  *J.K.K., S.L., and M.J.L. contributed equally to this work.
  •  †A.J.B. and H.C.B. contributed equally to this work.

BONUS: Description of a talk by Dr. Breiter1,2,4,6,† (the anchor editor of the cannabis study), with a modestly extensive biography of Dr. Breiter, highlighting a few of Dr. Breiter’s many accomplishments.

 

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ImprobableResearch/~3/RNQQ7i-5JEA/

http://www.improbable.com/?p=54705

J.C.M. Stewart conveys an unusual kind of information in this medical paper:

Tomatoes cause under-arm odour,” J.C.M. Stewart, Medical Hypotheses, vol. 82 (2014) pp. 518–521. (Thanks to Jean-François Sauvé for bringing this to our attention.) The author, in Downpatrick, Co Down, Northern Ireland, explains:

“I was more than usually aware of my AO [armpit odor] one hot summer seven years ago when colleagues became restless and routinely opened windows in my presence. Nothing was ever said of course but this happened so regularly that there was no doubt about it, I eventually realised: I was the centre of a perfect pong. This is embarrassing and totally unacceptable to anyone working in a professional capacity. Yet a scrupulously cleansing shower each morning did not eliminate the problem. It happened I did not use deodorants or anti antiperspirants so the AO was not artificially suppressed.”

Veganism and elitism

One of the biggest myths I hope to dispel in my promotion of veganism is that it's only for the elite. Some vegan cookbooks and web recipes are full of exotic, expensive ingredients or champion all raw food paired with juicers and dehydrators. None of this is necessary for a healthy diet. The most exotic food I ate yesterday was quinoa, and on most days I eat old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast. Many of the meals I enjoy on a regular basis consist of ingredients that can easily and cheaply be found in any supermarket in the U.S.:

- Bean and veggie burritos
- Pasta with tomato or peanut sauce and veggies
- Stir-fry rice and veggies
- Soup with beans, veggies, and/or sweet potatoes
- Salad and baked potatoes

I made that last meal yesterday for lunch. Normally I prefer to bake potatoes in our toaster oven, as I find the taste is so much better oven-baked than microwaved (which is really steamed). But there's no difference nutritionally, and since I didn't plan an hour ahead and was hungry I decided to nuke. I had been a bit annoyed at boyziggy for buying this Potato Express gadget as he didn't realize I almost always baked potatoes in our toaster oven, but since we already had it I decided to try it. What do you know, it makes perfectly tasty potatoes. Not markedly better than just nuking them without the protective bag, so I definitely wouldn't buy it unless you're going to be eating microwaved potatoes on a frequent basis. But I admitted I was too hasty to criticize.

A similar issue came up on Facebook yesterday, where although I've been successful at scaling back I have been logging in more frequently in the last couple of weeks to promote and post photos from my last concert. Dr. McDougall, whose diet plan I mostly follow, posted a link to Simply Spuds, microwavable bags of potatoes and sweet potatoes. A number of commenters gave him an unbelievable amount of shit, asking how he could recommend such an abomination when it was so easy to prep potatoes yourself, saying that microwaves were dangerous, accusing him of selling out (when in reality he's published some recipes that use microwave ovens from the very beginning), etc. This kind of thing is exactly why I've been avoiding most discussions on Facebook and other web forums.

But then Natala from the Engine 2 Diet team, a courageous woman who I met at a potluck last year, posted this beautiful blog post on the issue. It was a good reminder that most people are not in a position to have a diet consisting of only the most "perfect" food prepared in the most "perfect" way. As Jeff Novick (who advocates a diet consistent with McDougall's) humorously commented in his re-post of Natala's blog (excerpt; full comment in this thread):
I am going to start a FB page for the Nutrition & Health Elites. Members can eat only 100% fresh grown organic whole and unprocessed food that is GMO-free, local and in season. At least 80% of their diet (by calories) must be raw food and they must include 2 oz of walnuts every week. They can never use any plastic, microwaves or any salt, sugar or oil, let alone anything that comes in a box, package or bag of any kind or eat white potatoes or any oil or animal products.

All of this brouhaha is a good reminder that I really became vegetarian and later vegan primarily for ethical reasons. The health aspects absolutely are important as well. But there's no agreement on the specifics of what constitutes the "perfect" vegan diet.

So, back to elitism. What I really think is elitist is to say that the solution to our health and environmental problems is to switch to all grass-fed animal agriculture. Even if I could support that idea morally, the economic reality is that meat procured from truly "free-range" animals could not even begin to meet the current demand for meat in this country, and would be prohibitively expensive for most people. (Same goes for dairy and eggs.) I recently read a critical essay on that subject that goes into more detail about land use and locavore schemes that involve animal foods.

Meanwhile, I'll stick with my oatmeal, potatoes, and pasta, and keep bringing vegan baked goods to chorus rehearsals. At last night's rehearsal, every one of my mini maple muffins got eaten. :-)

Tags:

My (probably) Final Ravencon Schedule

Originally published at Lawrence M. Schoen. You can comment here or there.

One week from today, look for at Ravencon.

There’s been some ups and downs with regard to my programming, but here’s where I think we’ve landed:

Friday, April 25th

5:00 p.m. | York You’re Getting Sleepy: Lies and Truths about Hypnosis
A short lecture about common misperceptions of hypnosis (as maintained by media and popular culture), what doesn’t work, and what does, and maybe even a brief demonstration.
Just me and a room full of victims interested participants.

Saturday, April 26th

5:00 p.m. | Bon Air Secrets of Small Press Publishing
Nearly every SF/fantasy author has been published by smaller press some point in their careers. It is also known for publishing new authors, midlist authors, short story collections, and other “odd” books typically rejected by the big New York publishers. Our panelists represent a spectrum of publications, and can “tell all”
Philippa Ballantine, Rich Groller, Dan Hoyt, Edmund R. Schubert, and me.

6:00 p.m. | Board Room Reading
I’ll read a story from Buffalito Buffet, tell you a bit about my novel coming out next year from Tor, and maybe talk a little about the new book I’m working on.
Just me (and Barry).

Sunday, April 27th

12:00 p.m. | Room E Comfort Reading
Panelists discuss their favorite stories and novels for reading (and reading again) when you’re feeling under the weather.
T. Eric Bakutis, Elizabeth Bear, Parick Vanner, Rachael Hixon, and me.

1:00 p.m. | Room E Xeno-Linguistics
a discussion of how alien languages are used in SF, some simple tips for would-be writers to make their aliens sound… alien, general complaints about the use of “universal translators,” and more
Sarah A. Hoyt, Stephen H. King, Monica Marier, and me.

As you can tell from the list above, Programming did not give me a Signing slot. It’s apparently policy not to double-up authors (which seems sad and lonely to me) and the times they offered me didn’t fit my schedule. But, if you have something that cries out for my autograph, I’ll be happy to scribble in it in between panels.

Not only will this be my third con of the year, but also my third “southern” convention. Am I detecting a trend?

My (probably) Final Ravencon Schedule

Originally published at Lawrence M. Schoen. You can comment here or there.

One week from today, look for at Ravencon.

There’s been some ups and downs with regard to my programming, but here’s where I think we’ve landed:

Friday, April 25th

5:00 p.m. | York You’re Getting Sleepy: Lies and Truths about Hypnosis
A short lecture about common misperceptions of hypnosis (as maintained by media and popular culture), what doesn’t work, and what does, and maybe even a brief demonstration.
Just me and a room full of victims interested participants.

Saturday, April 26th

5:00 p.m. | Bon Air Secrets of Small Press Publishing
Nearly every SF/fantasy author has been published by smaller press some point in their careers. It is also known for publishing new authors, midlist authors, short story collections, and other “odd” books typically rejected by the big New York publishers. Our panelists represent a spectrum of publications, and can “tell all”
Philippa Ballantine, Rich Groller, Dan Hoyt, Edmund R. Schubert, and me.

6:00 p.m. | Board Room Reading
I’ll read a story from Buffalito Buffet, tell you a bit about my novel coming out next year from Tor, and maybe talk a little about the new book I’m working on.
Just me (and Barry).

Sunday, April 27th

12:00 p.m. | Room E Comfort Reading
Panelists discuss their favorite stories and novels for reading (and reading again) when you’re feeling under the weather.
T. Eric Bakutis, Elizabeth Bear, Parick Vanner, Rachael Hixon, and me.

1:00 p.m. | Room EXeno-Linguistics
a discussion of how alien languages are used in SF, some simple tips for would-be writers to make their aliens sound… alien, general complaints about the use of “universal translators,” and more
Sarah A. Hoyt, Stephen H. King, Monica Marier, and me.

As you can tell from the list above, Programming did not give me a Signing slot. It’s apparently policy not to double-up authors (which seems sad and lonely to me) and the times they offered me didn’t fit my schedule. But, if you have something that cries out for my autograph, I’ll be happy to scribble in it in between panels.

Not only will this be my third con of the year, but also my third “southern” convention. Am I detecting a trend?

Virtual hand shadow theatrics

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ImprobableResearch/~3/sKJHRBU2u3M/

http://www.improbable.com/?p=54262

If you, like Raymond Crowe shown above, are a professional hand-shadow artist (viz. a shadowgrapher according to Wikpedia) then you might think that your job is one of the relatively few that is unlikely to be replicated by a computer any time soon. Think again. Work underway at the IMAGINE (Intuitive Modeling and Animation for Interactive Graphics & Narrative Environments) Laboratory, Grenoble, France, is attempting just that. Here, they announce an M.Sc. / Ph.D. internship opportunity :

“The goal of the internship will be to design and implement generative methods for automatically animating virtual hands and generating shadow plays driven by objective goals, such as reproducing a given shape or motion; or visualizing a given story.”

 BONUS Shadowgraph of an exploding balloon filled with hydrogen/air (is there a mystery face at around 11 seconds, or is it an illusion?)

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