Not quite Artificial Intelligence: the mating of junk + mail

February 27th, 2015

The Huffington Post reports another misstep on the road to Artificial Intelligence: “Man Who Tried To Have Sex With Mailbox Found Dead“.

(TECHNICAL NOTE: This male-on-mail sex where one participant is alive and the other is not, does not qualify as homosexual necrophilia.)

Here’s a medical journal report about a similar, perhaps simpler attempt, 28 years earlier, by a different investigator:

A case of incarceration of the penis” [article in Japanese], M. Kamizuru, T. Nakatani, M. Maekawa, M. Asakawa, R. Yasumoto, and Kiyo Hinyokika, Acta Urologica Japonica, vol. 34, no. 3, March 1988, pp. 514–6.

The author, at the Department of Urology, Osaka City University Medical School, reports: “A 38-year-old male patient had been suffering from incarceration of penis with a milk-bottle for about seventeen hours. It was successfully removed by means of a glass cutter and hammer without any complication. Fifty-seven Japanese cases of this entity including our case were reviewed and discussed.”

Czech managers have trouble with shoes, reports Gullová

February 27th, 2015

Czech-managersThe Central European Business Review (CEBR) is a scholarly peer-reviewed journal focused on strategic business issues with a Central European perspective. For an example of a paper reflecting this remit, see an article which the CEBR published in the inaugural issue – Flaws in the Social Manners of Czech Managers.

It’s authored by professor Ing. Soňa Gullová, Ph.D. who is a Lecturer in the Faculty of International Relations, at the University of Economics, Prague, Czech Republic. Her paper points out that “[…] many Czech managers are ignorant of the rules of their own etiquette.“

Improvements can be made though. Some tips from the paper :

“A suit also doesn’t look its best with stuffed pockets or if the trousers are too short or too long. Czechs have trouble with shoes. Shoes to go with a suit must be made of leather, have a thin sole and always be of a darker shade than the suit itself.”

“Nowadays, we do not have to finish our meal anywhere in the world; in some countries this is actually never the case as we would be signaling to the host that we have not had enough. In Europe we consider loud eructation after a meal rude; however, in many Asian countries, it is considered a tribute to the host.”

“Some of the most frequent ‘faux pas’ in the area of attire committed by Czech manages are, for example, wearing of slippers at the workplace, wearing of men’s sandals without socks with a suit, unbuttoned top buttons of a shirt together with a loosened tie etc. The hands are not to be placed in the pockets. Chewing gum is inadmissible during meetings. The most criticized issue is the blowing of one’s nose, in which case it is necessary to leave the room.”

How to prepare a mousetrap fission demonstration

February 26th, 2015

The Harvard Natural Sciences Lecture Demonstrations and Snow Removal Team is seen, in this video, preparing a classic mousetrap-as-analog demonstration of how nuclear fission proceeds.

Their written explanation includes these comments:

We’ve got the set-up time down to 15 minutes, and like all nuclear devices, you only get one shot at this one.

The mouse trap chain reaction originated (we think) from Walt Disney’s 1950s film “Our Friend the Atom.”

J. Higbie (see Reference) has described a “better” mousetrap nuclear chain reaction but we prefer the old fashioned way. Setting up the last few traps while the students await the lecture to begin, dripping brow and shaking hands, certainly adds some drama. We think Enrico Fermi would agree.

Reference: J. Higbie: Am. J. Phys. 48 (1), 62 (1980)

1 Mouse traps are 10cm × 5cm in size, manufactured by Woodstream Corp., Lititz, PA or d-Con Corp., Montvale, NJ. Both are available in hardware stores.

Here is “Our Friend the Atom”:

(Thanks to Bob Kirshner for alerting us to this.)

NOTE: The idea may have originated ten years before the Disney film (which was released, on television, in 1957). See this paper, if you can get a copy of it:

Richard M. Sutton, A Mousetrap Atomic Bomb, AJP 15, 427-428, (1947)

Demonstration of the physics of sheep through a bottleneck

February 26th, 2015

A physics experiment of sheep passing through a bottleneck, which we featured some months ago, has now been formally published, and the researchers have released a video of the experiment. The study is:

Flow and clogging of a sheep herd passing through a bottleneck,” A. Garcimartín, J. M. Pastor, L. M. Ferrer, J. J. Ramos, C. Martín-Gómez, and I. Zuriguel, Physical Review E, vol. 91, no. 022808, 2015. (Thanks to Mason Porter and Ho-Kei Chan for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at la Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, report:

We present an experimental study of a flock passing through a narrow door. Video monitoring of daily routines in a farm has enabled us to collect a sizable amount of data. By measuring the time lapse between the passage of consecutive animals, some features of the flow regime can be assessed. A quantitative definition of clogging is demonstrated based on the passage time statistics. These display broad tails, which can be fitted by power laws with a relatively large exponent. On the other hand, the distribution of burst sizes robustly evidences exponential behavior. Finally, borrowing concepts from granular physics and statistical mechanics, we evaluate the effect of increasing the door size and the performance of an obstacle placed in front of it. The success of these techniques opens new possibilities regarding their eventual extension to the management of human crowds.

Here’s the video:

Magazine: The special TEETH issue is out

February 26th, 2015

The special Teeth issue (vol. 21, no. 1) of the magazine (the Annals of Improbable Research) is now out!

Articles include:

…and more, more, more, including new helpings of “Improbable Medical Review”, “Boys Will Be Boys”, “Soft Is Hard”, and other outstandingly improbable research snippets from many fields and countries.

We encourage you to subscribe.

Mel (right) says it’s swell.