Bananas regulations clarifications

January 30th, 2015

Banana-pairThis year is (roughly) the 20th anniversary of the publication of EU Commission Regulation (EC) No 2257/94. So what better time to take another look at ‘Laying down quality standards for bananas’. The regulation caused, and continues to cause debate centering around the acceptable curvature of bananas – which some now cite as a standard example when trying to illustrate effects of what they see as bureaucratic meddling. For instance: ‘Farewell to bendy bananas’ (This is Money, 20 January 2005 )

However … a careful Improbable reading of the regulations reveals that there is definitely no statement specifying exactly how curvy bananas should or should not be – other than a blanket and indefinite declaration that they must be : “Free from malformation or abnormal curvature of the fingers.” But exactly what constitutes ‘abnormal’ remains undefined.

The regulation document does have some other important information – such as the correct way to measure the length of a banana:

“The length of the fruit expressed in centimetres and measured along the convex face, from the blossom end to the point where the peduncle joins the crown. […] The minimum length permitted is 14 cm”

And, the quantity in bunches:

“The bananas must be presented in hands or clusters (parts of hands) of at least four fingers. Bananas may also be presented as single fingers.” Meaning, we believe, that bananas can be sold in any number as long as it’s not 2 or 3.

Note: Rumour has it that the so-called ‘Bent-Banana’ rules are to be, or maybe even have been, scrapped – but Improbable has been unable to verify this.

Plenty more: Improbable bananas research can be found here.


A rock, a paper, a scissors, a bunch of lizards

January 30th, 2015

Hannah Fry, in this Numberphile video, tots up the cases of rock-paper-scissors mathematics as applied to lizards:

This goes back, more or less, to a sex study published in the year 2000:

Polygyny, mate-guarding, and posthumous fertilization as alternative male mating strategies,” Kelly R. Zamudio and Barry SinervoPNAS, 2000 97 (26) 14427-14432.

Here’s a photo of rock-paper-scissors/lizards researcher Kelly Zamudio, of Cornell University, sitting on a pile of sand with a colleague:


Exit strangely, mathematician

January 29th, 2015

Peruse, if you will, the Rutgers catalog of mathematicians who had strange and/or colorful deaths. Kellen Myers is the keeper of same.

(Thanks to investigator Ginny Lewis for bringing this to our attention.)

How many drinks does it take you to feel drunk?

January 28th, 2015

The answer, it seems, depends on many factors. Gender for example, and also when you ask(ed) the drinkers. A report in the journal Addiction, (Volume 101, Issue 10, pages 1428–1437, October 2006) examined the 1979, 1995 and 2000 US National Alcohol Surveys, and found that :

Bottle-JackThe mean reported number of drinks to feel drunk declined significantly between each survey and was significantly lower for women. Considerable variation was also found within surveys and was explained partially by available variables. Volume of alcohol and heavy drinking occasions were associated positively with the number of drinks to feel drunk.”

In the latest survey (2000) the number of drinks to feel drunk was roughly 6.5 for men and around 4.5 for women. Sadly, the abstract of the paper doesn’t specify another important factor; viz. what, exactly, were the drinks?

See: ‘How many drinks does it take you to feel drunk? Trends and predictors for subjective drunkenness’

Further info on the study here, courtesy Prof. David J. Hanson, Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York at Potsdam.

[Image taken from page 158 of ‘Hood’s Own: or, Laughter from Year to Year’, 1855, courtesy The British Library]

Judging who, or what, judges people best

January 27th, 2015

This week’s Gestalt Which-of-These-Alternatives-Do-You-See? Question asks you to look at a newly published study.

The question is: What, exactly, is this study judging?

kosinskiThe study is “Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans“, Wu Youyou, Michal Kosinski [pictured here], and David Stillwell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, epub January 12, 2015. The authors are at the University of Cambridge, UK, and Stanford University in California.

What is being judged? The choices are:

  1. The good judgment of certain computer programs
  2. The bad judgment of many human beings
  3. Something else

BONUS: Video of Monty Python‘s Argument Sketch performed with two vintage speech synthesizers:

BONUS: Video of Monty Python’s Argument Sketch performed with Monty Pythons: