The photovoltaic effect of “ferroelectric” bananas [new study]

April 18th, 2019

Building on the work of Prof. James F. Scott, FRS of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge UK, who showed that :

“[…] ordinary bananas exhibit closed loops of switched charge versus applied voltage that are nearly identical to those misinterpreted as ferroelectric hysteresis loops in crystals.”
See: Hysterical ferroelectric banana misinterpretations’, November, 2015)

Muhammad Ismail and colleagues at Zhejiang Normal University, China, have now been able to demonstrate, for the first time, that ordinary bananas can not only be thought of as ferrorelectric, but also that they can exhibit a pseudo-photovoltaic response.

Their work involved illuminating banana skins fitted with sliver electrodes, and enabled the following conclusion :

“In summary, the pseudo-photovoltaic effect is found in bananas, which are neither a ferroelectric material nor photovoltaic material.”

See: Photovoltaic effect of “ferroelectric” bananas in EPL (Europhysics Letters), Volume 125, Number 4, March 2019.

Dance of the Dung Beetles: A book for all humans to savor

April 18th, 2019

Ig Nobel Prize winner Marcus Byrne has a new book called Dance of the Dung Beetles. It can please and enlighten anyone—human or beetle or both (Beatle)—who ever has contact with with dance, dung, life, or the universe.

The 2013 Ig Nobel Prize for biology and astronomy (a rare double-category win!) was awarded to Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke Scholtz, and Eric J. Warrant, for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.

The new book is co-authored by Marcus Byrne and Helen Lunn, published by WITS University Press, EAN 978-1-77614-234-7.

Talking About Dung

Professor Byrne, at the University of the Witwatersrand, made the book title famous before there was a book, in his TED Talk called “Dance of the Dung Beetles“. His colleague and Ig Nobel co-winner Marie Dacke, at Lund University, made a different title famous, in a TED talk she did called “A Crap Talk About Orientation.”

How much cybersecurity is enough to save the world?

April 17th, 2019

Security? What kind of answer does that question really have? This paper gives an answer, kind of:

Cybersecurity is not very important,” Andrew Odlyzko [pictured here], University of Minnesota, Revised version, March 18, 2019. The author explains:

“There is a rising tide of security breaches. There is an even faster rising tide of hysteria over the ostensible reason for these breaches, namely the deficient state of our information infrastructure. Yet the world is doing remarkably well overall, and has not suffered any of the oft-threatened giant digital catastrophes. This continuing general progress of society suggests that cyber security is not very important. Adaptations to cyberspace of techniques that worked to protect the traditional physical world have been the main means of mitigating the problems that occurred. This ‘chewing gum and baling wire’ approach is likely to continue to be the basic method of handling problems that arise, and to provide adequate levels of security….”

“The general conclusion of this essay is that from the start, the “bean counters” understood the basic issues better than the technologists, even though they usually did not articulate this well. The main problem all along was risk mitigation for the human world in which cyberspace played a relatively small role. It was not absolute security for the visionary cyberspace that technologists dreamed of.”

(HT Bruce Schneier)

Relative Risk of Motor Vehicle Collision on Cannabis Day Celebration

April 16th, 2019

How high is the risk of colliding on a highway with someone who is high, on a highness celebration day? The answer, if there is one, can perhaps be teased out by studying this new study of drivers in the UK and also older study of drivers in the USA:

The Relative Risk of Motor Vehicle Collision on Cannabis Day Celebration in Great Britain,” Sotiris Vandoros and Ichiro Kawachi, Accident Analysis and Prevention, epub 2019. The authors, at King’s College London, and Harvard University, explain:

“Cannabis celebration day, also known as ‘420 day‘, takes place at 4:20pm on April 20 every year. The objective of this paper is to study whether there is an increase in road traffic collisions in Great Britain on that day. We used daily car crash data resulting in death or injury from all 51 local police forces covering Great Britain over the period 2011–2015. We compared crashes from 4:20pm onwards on April 20 to control days on the same day of the week in the preceding and succeeding two weeks, using panel data econometric models. On the average cannabis celebration day in Britain, there were an additional 23 police-reported collisions compared to control days, corresponding to a 17.9% increase in the relative risk of collision.”

The study of high and not high Americans is:

The April 20 Cannabis Celebration and Fatal Traffic Crashes in the United States,” John A. Staples and Donald A. Redelemeier, JAMA Internal Medicine. vol. 178, no. 4, April 2018. The authors, at the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto, explain:

“The 25-year study interval identified 1.3 million drivers involved in 882 483 crashes causing 978 328 fatalities. In total, 1369 drivers were involved in fatal crashes after 4:20 pm on April 20 whereas 2453 drivers were in fatal crashes on control days during the same time intervals (corresponding to 7.1 and 6.4 drivers in fatal crashes per hour, respectively). The risk of a fatal crash was significantly higher on April 20.”

Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize Winner in the News Again

April 15th, 2019

BBC News reports:

The former chief executive of the carmaker Volkswagen has been charged in Germany over his involvement in the company’s diesel emissions scandal.

The public prosecutor in Braunschweig charged Martin Winterkorn and four other managers with fraud.

VW said it would not comment on the indictments.

The 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Volkswagen, for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.

[For background info, see: “EPA, California Notify Volkswagen of Clean Air Act Violations“, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency news release, September 18, 2015.]


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