The tweets of Dr. Kwak (Twitter Investigator)

November 28th, 2015

Dr-KwakThe tweets of Dr. Kwak, who is an expert on Twitter [being the lead author of ‘What is Twitter, a social network or a news media?’ (cited 3,000+ times)] may be found here.

From tumbling toast to falling phones

November 27th, 2015

The physicist who won an Ig Nobel Prize for analyzing whether buttered toast usually falls on the buttered side has now examined the similar question: what happens when you drop a mobile phone?

The Digit web site reports:

Why do phones always seem fall with their screen facing down? While most people would be satisfied with blaming their luck or Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) when they drop their phone and crack the screen, Motorola has taken the problem very seriously. So seriously that they have asked physicist Robert Matthews to study the phenomenon. Matthews is best known for his paper called Tumbling toast, Murphy’s Law and the fundamental constants, which studied why toast always seems to land on the buttered side. For this paper, Matthews won an Ig Nobel prize in 1996.


Here’s a minimovie documentary about the tumbling toast research:

Ig Nobel day-after-Thanksgiving broadcast on Science Friday

November 27th, 2015

Spread the word, please! Today, Friday, November 27, the Science Friday radio program will broadcast its specially edited highlights from the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. It’s SciFri’s 24th annual broadcast (SciFri began this day-after-Thanksgiving tradition in 1992, the Ig Nobel ceremony’s second year).

Listen to it on a public radio station, if you’re near one, or on the Internet. (Science Friday is broadcast as two separate, hour-long programs. The Ig Nobel broadcast comprises the entire SECOND HOUR of Science Friday. HOWEVER — Boston is going to be an exception; in Boston, WBUR (90.0 FM) broadcasts only one hour of the two-hour-long Science Friday program, and by special arrangement, today WBUR plans to broadcast the Ig Nobel ceremony special at 2:00 pm.)

This photo shows a moment at the ceremony: Justin Schmidt and Michael Smith, co-winners of the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for physiology and entomology, finish their acceptance speech at the urging of eight-year-old Miss Sweetie Poo (who is assisted by many of the former Miss Sweetie Poos, who were on hand for a reunion at this, the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. Alexey Eliseev took the photo:


BONUS: Download your own copies of IgBill, the printed program for the 2014 ceremony, and the 2014 ceremony poster.

BONUS: From SciFri archives, here’s last year (2014)’s Ig Nobel broadcast.

BONUS: Subscribe to the magazine — the Annals of Improbable Research, and you will receive the special Ig Nobel issue, as well as five other improbable issues!

Cereal Killer

November 26th, 2015

Murder aforethought be described in this study, which focuses on a particular kind of cereal killer—one that strikes from within:

AFGoodin-72dpiProgrammed cell death in cereal aleurone,” Angelika Fath [pictured here], Paul Bethke, Jennifer Lonsdale, Roberto Meza-Romero and Russel Jones, Plant Molecular Biology, 2000 Oct;44(3):255-66. The authors, at the University of California, Berkeley, report:

“Progress in understanding programmed cell death (PCD) in the cereal aleurone is described. Cereal aleurone cells are specialized endosperm cells that function to synthesize and secrete hydrolytic enzymes that break down reserves in the starchy endosperm. Unlike the cells of the starchy endosperm, aleurone cells are viable in mature grain but undergo PCD when germination is triggered or when isolated aleurone layers or protoplasts are incubated in gibberellic acid (GA). aleuroneAbscisic acid (ABA) slows down the process of aleurone cell death and isolated aleurone protoplasts can be kept alive in media containing ABA for up to 6 months. Cell death in barley aleurone occurs only after cells become highly vacuolated and is manifested in an abrupt loss of plasma membrane integrity. Aleurone cell death does not follow the apoptotic pathway found in many animal cells. The hallmarks of apoptosis, including internucleosomal DNA cleavage, plasma membrane and nuclear blebbing and formation of apoptotic bodies, are not observed in dying aleurone cells. PCD in barley aleurone cells is accompanied by the accumulation of a spectrum of nuclease and protease activities and the loss of organelles as a result of cellular autolysis.”

Podcast #39: A beef boom, and who can touch whom

November 25th, 2015

A beef boom, the question of who can touch whom, and human-milk-smell perfume, for the benefit of babies — all of these turn up in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

LISTEN TO IT! …or click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).