Research about winking, and news about Ig Nobel events in Europe

November 21st, 2017

This month’s mini-AIR research spotlight scrutinizes this study about winking:

Elevation of the Eye-Balls on Winking,” W.R. Miles, Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 14, no. 4, Aug 1931, pp. 311-332. The research was done at Stanford University.

That study and other bits of improbable research news congest the November issue of mini-AIR.

mini-AIR is the wee, free monthly supplement to the magnificent magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Get it by email, or read it our web site.

“Gross Appearance of Turkey Cloacae” [research study]

November 21st, 2017

Turkeys are not much celebrated for their beauty. This study exemplifies that non-celebration:

Gross Appearance of Turkey Cloacae Before and After Single or Multiple Manual Semen Collections,” M.R. Bakst and H.C. Cecil, Poultry Science, vol. 62, no. 4, April 1, 1983, pp. 683-9. The authors explain:

“The gross appearance of the turkey cloaca was examined before and after single or multiple semen collections. All cloacae exhibited some degree of hemorrhage formation, the extent of which was dependent upon 1) frequency of semen collection, 2) number of cloacal strokes, and 3) individual differences in semen collectors’ techniques. Cloacae of males subjected to multiple semen collections of more than four cloacal strokes per semen collection were the most severely injured.”

(Thanks to Becky Williams and Tim Arnow for bringing this to our attention.)

BACKGROUND: Here is a discussion, by students from the Animal Science 200 class at the University of Alberta, about semen collection from turkeys and other animals. The discussion begins with the question, “What is AI?”:

Improbable products (with mistakes) increase product preferences (research study)

November 20th, 2017

“[…] we find that consumers actually prefer products that were made by mistake to otherwise identical products that were made intentionally.”

– explain the researchers behind a new study to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The research team performed a series of experiments which described to participants various mistake-prone scenarios, e.g. one in which a chef who was making lasagna sauce accidentally added two teaspoons of cinnamon to his recipe (rather than cumin). The results showed that the prospective consumers had a preference :

“We find that this preference is driven by the perception that a product made by mistake is more improbable than a product made without a mistake. This perceived improbability increases product uniqueness perceptions and subsequent preference.”

see: Made by Mistake: When Mistakes Increase Product Preference

Note: The illustration shows a test scenario from the study, in which participants were told two stories :

“in the mistake condition, they learned that the artist accidentally dropped his ink pen while drawing the face, marking the cheek. In contrast, in the intention condition, participants read that the artist decided to add a mark on the cheek while drawing the face.”

Bonus Assignment [optional] Do you prefer products that have mistakes in them? Or perhaps you prefer products with no mistakes? If you do have a preference, let us know by commenting below.

Ultrasound Probe Grip: The Afternoon Tea Technique

November 17th, 2017

British tea traditions continue to affect the way medicine is taught and practiced. A new study pours out details.

Ultrasound Probe Grip: The Afternoon Tea Technique,” Luke McMenamin, Stephen Wolstenhulme, Max Hunt, Stuart Nuttall, and Asoka Weerasinghe, Journal of the Intensive Care Society, vol. 18, no. 3, 2017, pp. 258-260. The authors, at medical institutions in Leeds and Dewsbury, explain:

“To encourage medical students and trainees to adopt effective probe ‘etiquette’, to prevent poor probe stability, caused by a pencil/pinch-grip (Figure 1), and improve image quality, the ‘afternoon tea technique’ was devised as a teaching method. Classically in Victorian Britain, the fifth finger was held out whilst drinking tea in aristocratic households. Therefore, the notion of ‘afternoon tea’ and the concept of ‘keeping your little finger’ in contact with the patient’s skin was created (Figure 2) in a bid to keep the probe stable whilst carrying out the procedure.”


Seriously Silly Design Fictions (study)

November 16th, 2017

What would be the point of designing and developing “Magic Machines” in the form of a “Poo Detector” …

Or an “Eyes and Ears” gizmo? …

One reason would be to draw attention to the effects of so-called ‘Solutionism’ – prevalent in today’s world where technological ‘solutions’ (esp. gadgets) are constantly presented to solve problems that, previously, no-one really knew they had.

Mark Blythe, who is Professor of Interdisciplinary Design at Northumbria University, UK, specialises in examining such things as ‘Design Fictions’ and ‘Pretendotypes’ and was lead author of the paper ‘Anti-Solutionist Strategies: Seriously Silly Design Fiction’ presented at CHI ’16 Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 4968-4978, San Jose, California, USA — May 07 – 12, 2016.

“This paper has identified a number of practices which reject the search for solutions and deliberately seek to create unuseless, partial or silly objects. It has argued that although critical design and design fiction offer alternative aims for design (critique, commentary) the practice must move beyond satire and irony.”

A full preprint copy of the paper is available here.

BONUS: An example from the plethora of ‘Useless Machine’ videos available on YouTube ‘Another Advanced Useless Machine’