Hairy Ball Theorem Updated

The Hairy Ball Theorem  (HBT) was first postulated (and then proved) by Luitzen Egbertus...

"Graunching" A Review Of The Literature

One of the first technical papers to reference ‘Graunching’ was ‘Railway Noise: Curve Squeal...

Head Bobbing In Birds - The Science

The question : ‘Why do some*(see note below) birds bob their heads when walking?’ has perplexed...

'Groucho Running' The Science

Please observe the following unusual locomotive behavior which begins at around 55 seconds into...

User picture.
Martin GardinerRSS Feed of this column.

I specialise in beachcombing the scholarly journals and university websites for uncommonly intriguing academic articles by uncommonly intriguing people. Articles such as moustache transplants, the... Read More »


“Photography has been around for many years. A problem associated with photography is oftentimes many people do not want to have their picture taken. For example, many celebrities do not want their picture taken or pictures of their companion’s [sic?] or relative’s [sic?] taken because they feel it is an invasion of their privacy.”

What to do? A new solution is described in this April 2012 US patent – Inhibiting unwanted photography and video recording

• What is ‘Answering Machine Talk’?

“Answering machine talk represents a form of mediated conversation in which messages are recorded to facilitate communication between participants.“

• What of the resources?

“The talk which occurs in such messages draws upon the pool of available resources for telephone-based communication…”

• What of the constraints?

“[telephone-based communication] … modifies these resources as the result of constraints imposed by the communicative environment.”

Many may have asked the questions ‘Why are boomerangs crescent-shaped?’ and ‘Why do boomerangs come back?’ – but few, however, are in a position to provide scientific explanations – aside, that is, from Prof. Yutaka Nishiyama of the Osaka University of Economics, Japan. In his article ‘Why Do Boomerangs Come Back?’ (Bulletin of Science, Technology&Society, Vol.22, No.1, 13-20,Feb 2002.) he answers both, with references to Bernoulli’s Principle, gyroscopes, inertial moments, the ‘right-hand-rule’, and more. Noting, for example :

Everyone (who can count) will instantly recognise the numbers 1 2&3 in the picture below:
Or will they? Well, no they won’t.

All is explained in an article for Osaka Keidai Ronshu, Vol. 60 number 5, where Professor Yutaka Nishiyama (Osaka University of Economics, Japan) lists many crucial variations in finger-counting across the world.

Bearing in mind that the word ‘ovoid’ means ‘egg-shaped’, the question : ‘Why are eggs ovoid?’ has much in common with questions like or ‘Why are hearts heart-shaped?’ or ‘Why are sausages sausage-shaped?’ And the Zen-like qualities of the egg-shape question have not escaped professor Yutaka Nishiyama, (Osaka University of Economics, Japan) who decided to approach this enigmatic problem from a mathematical viewpoint in his paper ‘The mathematics of egg shape’ (Osaka Keidai Ronshu, Vol. 58, Sept. 2007). In which the professor not only developed a formula to describe egg-shapes -

#2 ‘Implementing a Jabberwocky Gibberish Generator’.

In contrast to some computer-programme developers who create gibberish by jumbling word-orders (see Progress In Gibberish Computing #1 ) others take a different approach, and scramble the letters of English words (somewhat) to generate pronounceable nonsense words known as pseudowords or logatomes, similar to those found in ‘ Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.