Hairy Ball Theorem Updated

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

"Graunching" A Review Of The Literature

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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...

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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 »

Does wearing makeup increase waitress’ tips? Researchers at the Université de Bretagne Sud, and the Université du Maine, France, recently performed a field experiment (with two waitresses) to find out. Two hundred and seventy-four restaurant customers (186 males and 98 females) were randomly assigned into two groups. One group was attended by waitresses who were wearing makeup: “In the makeup condition, the beautician applied makeup to the eyes, cheeks and lips in a way that enhanced the attractiveness of each waitress.” The other group were also served by the same two waitresses – but this time they were makeup-free.

“In this study we found that men patrons gave tips more favorably to waitresses who wore makeup and, when they did so, they gave a large amount of money.”

What are the survival prospects for female characters in the James Bond movies? A new research project from Cleveland State University and Kent State University performed a quantitative content analysis for 195 female characters in 20 out of the 22 Bond films – uncovering in the process some clearcut predictors of their survivability.

“End-of-film mortality is predicted by sexual activity, ethical status (good vs. bad), and attempting to kill Bond.“

The research 'Shaken and Stirred: A Content Analysis of Women’s Portrayals in James Bond Films'

can be found here

The Polywater debacle has been called ‘one of the most famous mistaken scientific research programs of the past half-century’.

It was initially feared that the USSR’s discovery of highly viscous polywater, which froze at −40 °C  and boiled at 150 °C, might spell the end for all life on Earth. If it escaped from the lab, perhaps all water on the planet might spontaneously polymerise?

It took around six years and a swathe of experiments for the global science community to able to finally confirm that (thankfully) it didn’t exist – by which time it had been mentioned in numerous research papers.
A research team from the Department of Biology at the University of Victoria, Canada, have, for the first time, investigated the  behavioural responses of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) to the asymmetric tail-wag of a life-sized robotic-dog model – one which was configured to wag its tail, either to the right or to the left, at around 2.5Hz.
atomic giraffeThere are two ways to determine the height of the tallest possible running, breathing organism on planet Earth – one is to measure it – the other to calculate it from scratch.

The groundwork for the calculation was performed in the 1980’s by Professor W.H. Press and colleagues.

Mongolian Gerbil psychoacoustics have been under investigation for several years now - particularly by Dr. Joan Sinnott, Endowed Professor of Research at the  Psychology Department, University of South Alabama, US.

And now, for the first time (?) an experiment has quantified gerbils’ ability to recognise vowel sounds in human speech. The study finds that

“Gerbils easily learn to differentiate the spectrally-dissimilar vowels /u/ versus /i/ …“

And, with suitable training, gerbils can even differentiate between similar-sounding vowels such as /a/ versus /ae/.