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Ways to use the special FORENSICS issue

May 14th, 2021

Ways to Use This Issue” is a featured article in the special Forensics issue (volume 27, number 2) of the Annals of Improbable Research. This article is free to download:

Here’s a shorthand version of what’s in that article:

  • Write a limerick about one of the cited studies….
  • Write a long-single-sentence short story that includes the titles of every study mentioned in one of the review articles….
  • Do dramatic readings, in person, or in live or recorded video, of little chunks from the magazine….
  • Watch an Ig Nobel Prize winner…
  • Go down a rabbit hole. For some item that catches your fancy…
  • Go down a maybe-important rabbit hole…
  • If you are a journalist, some of those rabbit holes house bunnies that can make news editors hop to attention…
  • Start an argument about whether some particular study is good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless.

Improbable Research: Special Forensics issue

May 13th, 2021

The special FORENSICS issue (volume 27, number 2) of the magazine, Annals of Improbable Research is now out and about. It sports a special filmy noir cover design:

Shakespeare and the whole-mouse homogenizer

May 13th, 2021

Seeing that Shakespeare introduced many words to his audiences, the makers of modern homogenizers are using Shakespeare to introduce the introduction of their product’s name to their audience.

The nature of the product may already have been familiar to many people because of a charming old ad, reproduced here (thanks to Scott Langill for bringing it to our attention). The ad features the comforting headline: “Only the Polytron reduces an entire mouse to a soup-like homogenate in 30 seconds”:

Shakespeare entered the picture later, when Deb Shechter of the BEE International company (makers of “next generation homogenizers”) wrote, in her company’s blog:

What is a Polytron Homogenizer?

In the world of homogenizers, it’s a lot like Shakespeare’s Juliet said: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Depending on where you are and who you are, you might call a homogenizer a sonicator, a lysor, a bead mill, a high shear mixer, a disperser or a tissue tearor. You might even call a standard blender or whisk a homogenizer. Sometimes, people refer to all homogenizers by the brand name Polytron® (much like many call all tissues “Kleenex®”), and sometimes they specify the kind of homogenizer according to the type of force it supplies, like a mechanical, high-pressure or ultrasonic homogenizer. In the end, however, all these names refer to the same basic piece of equipment that is used by laboratories and in industrial processes to disrupt and blend the components of a product.

On Light from Pickles, and Pickle on Light

May 11th, 2021

Two papers for your consideration, with the opportunity to find relationships between them:

Light from Pickles (and Other Sources)

Characterization of Organic Illumination Systems,” Bill Hamburgen, Jeff Mogul, Brian Reid, Alan Eustace, Richard Swan, Mary Jo Doherty, and Joel Bartlett, Western Digital Laboratory Technical Note TN-13, April 1, 1989. (Thanks to Richard Holstein for bringing this to our attention.). The authors begin:

“There has been a great deal of interest of late in triboluminescence and electroluminescence in organic materials. Triboluminescence in wintergreen Life Savers has been investigated by many over the years, while electroluminescence in organic thin films is an active area of current research both here and abroad. In early December 1988, our attention was called to work by Bill Bidermann on electroluminescence in pickles. It was reported that inserting iron electrodes into a dill pickle and energizing with modest alternating currents caused the pickle to glow. Subsequent reports reached us in January 1989 regarding corroborating experiments. We decided to investigate the phenomenon with the aim of improving our understanding of the underlying mechanisms and examining the potential for commercial applications.”

Pickle (and Others) on Light

ABC’s of DEW (ADI) Software“, John Pickle, Jacqueline Kirtley, and Alan Gould, STEM Digital, vol. 20, 2009. The authors begin:

“Many of us were taught at a young age that the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Our early experiences with color mixing were blending together paints where yellow and blue make green and the three colors stirred together make colors ranging from brown, gray, or black. From this we have two errors in our understanding of color. First, primary colors can be mixed together to create all other colors. Second, that red, yellow, and blue are the primary colors. When we talk about primary colors, we generally think about three colors which can be mixed together to create all of the colors of the rainbow. Have you ever tried to make black out of your red, yellow, and blue? Even more difficult—try to make fluorescent pink, silver, or gold. Primary colors cannot make all other colors, but they can make the most colors from the fewest starting resources.”


Podcast Episode #1067: “Using Voodoo Dolls to Measure Aggression in Married Couples”

May 10th, 2021

In Podcast Episode #1067, Marc Abrahams shows an unfamiliar research study to developmental biologist Dany Adams. Dramatic readings and reactions ensue.

Remember, our Patreon donors, on most levels, get access to each podcast episode before it is made public.

Dany Adams encounters:

Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples,” by Brad J. Bushman, C. Nathan DeWall, Richard S. Pond, Jr., and Michael Hanus, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. 17, 2014, pp. 6254-6257. 

Seth GliksmanProduction Assistant

Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Google Podcasts, AntennaPod, BeyondPod and elsewhere!

Improbable Research