“Penises of the Animal Kingdom” poster in museum-boosting video

September 1st, 2015

Jim Knowlton’s poster “Penises of the Animal Kingdom”, for which Mr. Knowlton was awarded the 1992 Ig Nobel Prize for art, is featured in this travel video. The video, made by Pommie Travels, is called “Giant Animal Penises: The Phallological Museum, Iceland”:

Melon bug and Sorghum bug ice cream

August 31st, 2015

“Ice cream was made by using 0.5% insect’s gelatin and compared with that made using 0.5% commercial gelatin as stabilizing agent.”

SAM_8059modeldThe two insects concerned, the melon bug (Coridius viduatus) and sorghum bug (Agonoscelis versicoloratus versicoloratus) were the subject of an investigation described in a new paper (for the journal Food Science and Technology International) by Professor Abdalbasit Adam Mariod Al-Nadif [pictured] of the Faculty of Sciences and Arts-Alkamil, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and colleague Hadia Fadul of the Department of Food Science & Technology, College of Agricultural Studies, Sudan University of Science & Technology, Khartoum North, Sudan.

The researchers note that:

“The properties of the obtained ice cream produced using insects [sic] gelatin were significantly different when compared with that made using commercial gelatin.“

Unfortunately, the paper’s abstract doesn’t specify what the significant differences were. See: ‘Extraction and characterization of gelatin from two edible Sudanese insects and its applications in ice cream making’ Food Science and Technology International, July 2015 vol. 21 no. 5 380-391.

Note: The sorghum bug is a species of the Agonoscelis genus, which along with the Tessaratomidae family, are commonly referred to as stink-bugs. See: Nutritional value of eating stinkbugs

Also see: (Ice cream related)

• The McMath ice cream licking hypothesis
• Dr. Altschuler on … Applied Ice Cream Headaches
• Kids’ brain response to ice cream and a milkshake

Bonus: The paper cites a definition of ice cream provided by Choo et al. 2010 :

“Ice cream is a frozen and aerated dairy-based dessert that [is] usually associated with happiness, pleasure and fun. Psychologically, the consumption of ice cream evokes an enjoyable state for a person.”

Wears Wears Out

August 30th, 2015

Doctor Wears confides, in a new paper, about the depths of his training:

DrWearsWorn Out by Fatigue Training,” Robert L. Wears [pictured here], MD, PhD, Annals of Emergency Medicine, vol. 66, no. 3, September 2015, pp. 334-335. (Thanks to Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.) Dr. Wears, at the University of Florida and also at Imperial College London, writes:

I was sitting quietly in our department’s faculty meeting, trying to surreptitiously catch up on some reading while appearing politely attentive. This is academic medicine’s equivalent of “just walking down the street, minding my own business”—when the equivalent of ‘and then some dude shot me’ jolted me back to the meeting; it was the distantly heard phrase ‘mandatory training.’ My heart sank….

I went back to my office to do my duty. The video was called ‘Fatigue Training,’ so napping through it somehow seemed just right. I propped my feet on my desk and settled down to protect myself against that demon, fatigue….

As I was ‘training,’ I drifted off, no doubt because— surprise—I was fatigued. I began to dream about all the mandatory training I’ve taken in the past few years, and the pile of official-looking certificates I’ve got to keep track of, and to produce at a moment’s notice to maintain hospital privileges, board eligibility, or general membership in polite society…

[Eventually] I suddenly awoke—alone, in my office, sweating, mildly tachycardic, but blessedly alone. My secretary came in to ask if I was all right. ‘I thought I heard you call out,’ she said. ‘No, not me; must have been the wind,’ I lied. ‘But I’m going to take the rest of the day off. Fatigue Training has worn me out.’

BONUS: Here is one of many fatigue training videos available to you. This particular one is for Australian truck drivers:

Inspired by pancakes: Further findings on the flatness of Kansas

August 29th, 2015

Joshua Campbell and his colleague Jerome E. Dobson, inspired by the article “Kansas is Flatter Than a Pancake,” did some research on their own. Campbell tells about it in his  Disruptive Geo blog:

The Flatness of U.S. States

It all started with delicious pancakes and a glorified misconception. In a 2003 article published in the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), researchers claimed to scientifically prove that “Kansas is Flatter Than a Pancake” (Fonstad et al., 2003). The experiment compared the variation in surface elevation obtained from a laser scan of an IHOP pancake and an elevation transect across the State of Kansas. And while the researchers’ conclusion is technically correct…


Now, I can take a joke, and at the time thought the article was clever and funny. And while I still think it was clever, it began to bother me that the erroneous and persistent view that Kansas is flat, and therefore boring, would have negative economic consequences for the state. I grew up on the High Plains of southwestern Kansas…

As luck would have it, a few years after the AIR article I found an opportunity to work on this question of flatness and how to measure it. As part of my PhD coursework I was investigating the utility of open source geospatial software as a replacement for proprietary GIS and needed a topic that could actually test the processing power of the software. Combining my background in geomorphology and soil science with a large terrain modeling exercise using the open source stack offered the perfect opportunity to address the question of flatness. What emerged from that work was published last year (2014) in the Geographical Review as a paper coauthored with Dr. Jerry Dobson entitled “The Flatness of U.S. States” (Dobson and Campbell, 2014).

Here are citations for the two studies:
Dobson, J. E., & Campbell, J. S. (2014). The Flatness of U.S. States. Geographical Review, 104(1), 1–9.
Fonstad, M., Pugatch, W., & Vogt, B. (2003). Kansas is Flatter Than a Pancake. Annals of Improbable Research, 9(3), 16–17.

Evaluating a fake teacher (à la a fake babe on a dating site)

August 28th, 2015

Two medical educators injected a fake teacher into an evaluate-your-teachers survey, in a medical school. Ivan Oransky, writing in MedPage Today, describes the study and the incident that motivated those two medical educators:

Dear medical school faculty members, here’s a question that may come to mind as the new academic year gets underway: What if you earned an evaluation for a course you hadn’t taught?

00-Sebastian-UYou might keep it to yourself, I suppose, if the evaluation was good. But if it was just average — as happened to Sebastian Uijtdehaage, PhD [pictured here], of the Geffen UCLA School of Medicine in 2006 — you might be “flummoxed.”

In fact, if you’re Uijtdehaage, the episode might raise “the sticky question of whether medical students are completing [teaching evaluations] mindlessly, without due diligence,” and might prompt you to study the subject — which Uijtdehaage and his colleague Christopher O’Neal, PhD, did.

The researchers went so far as to  include a photo “of an attractive young model who, perhaps regretfully, did not resemble any of our faculty members.” That fake teacher-babe drew some responses — though fewer responses when her picture was included than when she was a mere textual description.

The study itself is: “A curious case of the phantom professor: mindless teaching evaluations by medical students,” Sebastian Uijtdehaage and Christopher O’Neal, Medical Education, Volume 49, Issue 9, September 2015, pages 928–932.