Pocket-Sized #1038: “Ice Cream & Sluggo”



In this special Pocked-Sized episode #1038, Marc Abrahams extracts some some flash-frozen bits of history from techno-sociologist Gus Rancatore, proprietor of Toscanini’s Ice Cream.

Today, Gus shares with us the tale of Sluggo and the ice cream flavor that manifested thereafter.

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

Seth Gliksman, Production Assistant

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

‘RoastMe’ [study]



The RoastMe practice emerged in 2015 on the online platform Reddit. Devotees of RoastMe post pictures of themselves (i.e. the Roastee’) whilst holding a placard (of some kind) with the phrase ‘Roast Me’ written on it – with the idea of attracting amusing insults (as comments)

The first academic review of the practice appeared in the Journal of Pragmatics, Volume 139, Pages 1-21.

In this paper, we aim to give a socio-pragmatic account of RoastMe against the backdrop of scholarship on humour and impoliteness. Having discovered the phenomenon, we set out to investigate its workings and general characteristics, which could be done only by poring over copious amounts of data (both Roasts and their underlying rules) on the original website, namely the RoastMe subreddit; as well as on other social media, notably Imgur, that repost select specimens of RoastMe. These are also the sources of the examples given in the course of this article. This bottom-up analysis of RoastMe, based on inductive reasoning, yielded the hallmarks of RoastMe.

The full open access paper, replete with roastee photo examples, can be perused here : Risum teneatis, amici?☆: The socio-pragmatics of RoastMe humour

( ☆ Latin: “Can you help laughing, friends?” )

Research research Martin Gardiner

Food for Thoughtful Energy: Sandwich as a Triboelectric Nanogenerator



People eat sandwiches to give themselves energy. A new study explains how to get electricity from those sandwiches without going to the bother of eating them.

The study is: “Sandwich as a Triboelectric Nanogenerator,” Jingyi Jiao, Qixin Lu, Zhonglin Wang, Yong Qin, and Xia Cao, Nano Energy, vol. 79, no. 105411, September 2020. The authors, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Georgia Tech, and other institutions, report:

“For the past few years, triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) have been demonstrated as an unprecedented method as self-powered, power generation and blue energy. The materials and electrodes used to fabricate TENGs are usually polymer materials and metals. The article demonstrates a new TENG that use entirely bio- and environmental degradable materials. The basic ingredients of the TENG are wheat bread and vegetable leaves for fabricating a sandwich structured TENG (S-TENG). The maximum voltage and current of this S-TENG can reach about 15 V and 3 μA, respectively, when it works in the single electrode mode under the optimal conditions.”

The opera “Dream, Little Cockroach” [the whole video]



The opera “Dream, Little Cockroach” premiered as part of the 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, on September 17, 2020. Here’s video of the opera, by itself.

Plot summary: A man dreams that, although he was always a cockroach, he has been transformed into a human being. His family, and scientists, and the whole population, argue about how to respond. They decide to make him their leader.

Here’s the cast and crew of this premiere performance:

Musical Director: Maria Ferrante
Video director and editor: Bruce Petschek
Additional videography and audio editing: Alexey Eliseev

NARRATORS: Karen Hopkin and Christopher Hopkin

Piano: Yulia Yun
Accordion: Dr. Thomas Michel
Cello: Dr. Julie Reimann
Bass: Dr. Bruce Koplan

Maria Ferrante
Dr. Fred Tsai
Bobbie Hill
Jan Hadland
Ted Sharpe
Lizhou Sha

The man who might be a cockroach: Alexey Eliseev

Rich Roberts, Frances Arnold, Marty Chalfie, Eric Maskin, Andre Geim, Jerome Friedman, Alessandro Pluchino & spouse, Andrea Rapisarda, Michael Smith & spouse, May Berenbaum, Sabine Begall, Richard Vetter, Kiyoshi Furusawa, Melissa Franklin, Jean Berko Gleason.

Portaborse: Michele Liguori


Surveilance Reports About Self-Touching



Surveilance Reports About Self-Touching

Most Self-Touches Are with the Nondominant Hand,” Nan Zhang, Wei Jia, Peihua Wang, Marco-Felipe King, Pak-To Chan, and Yuguo Li, Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-13. (Thanks to Adrian Smith for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at The University of Hong Kong and The University of Leeds, report:

“Self-touch may promote the transfer of microorganisms between body parts or surfaces to mucosa. In overt videography of a post-graduate ofce, students spent 9% of their time touching their own hair, face, neck, and shoulders (HFNS). These data were collected from 274,000 s of surveillance video in a Chinese graduate student office. The non-dominant hand contributed to 66.1% of HFNStouches. Most importantly, mucous membranes were touched, on average, 34.3 times per hour, which the non-dominant hand contributed to 240% more than the dominant hand. Gender had no signifcant efect on touch frequency, but a signifcant efect on duration per touch.”

Person Authentication Using Finger Snapping [study]



When it comes to biometric authorization systems, there are many to choose from – candidates include face recognition, fingerprint recognition, ear recognition, voice recognition, tongue recognition and body odour recognition etc etc. But none is 100% perfect, so there’s always a demand for improvement and innovation.

In 2016, a team from the Department of Computer Science and Technology, Ocean University of China, and the School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia proposed (and tested) a new one : finger-snapping recognition :

“The security of smart devices has been a major concern for people nowadays. For example, a range of methods have been applied for user authentication on smartphones and smart watches, such as password, PIN and fingerprint. They can be either easily stolen by attackers or need extra sensors for input. In this paper, a new biometric trait, finger snapping, is applied for person authentication. The sound of finger snapping is easy to capture with the microphone embedded in the smart devices. Besides, it is easy to perform and do not require explicit remembrance for the reason that finger snapping only depends on muscle memory.”

“Finger snapping is an act of making an impulsive sound with one’s fingers and palm. It is often done by connecting the thumb with another (middle, index or ring) finger, and then moving the other finger immediately downward to hit the palm. Such act of finger snapping involves physiological characteristics which refer to inherited traits that are related to human body, as the sound of finger snapping is differentiated by the size of palm and skin texture. In addition, it also involves behavioral characteristics which refer to learned pattern of a person, as it is the movement of the finger creates the sound.”

“A survey is carried out on 74 people about whether they can snap their fingers and accept the finger snapping authentication. Results show that 86.5 % of the respondents can snap fingers, of which 89.2 % would like to authenticate themselves using a simple finger snap. Besides, through our finger snapping collecting phase, we come to find out that people who could not snap their fingers can learn to do it after understanding the method of finger snapping.”

See: Yang Y., Hong F., Zhang Y., Guo Z. (2016) Person Authentication Using Finger Snapping — A New Biometric Trait. In: You Z. et al. (eds) Biometric Recognition. CCBR 2016. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 9967. Springer, Cham. (a full copy may be found here)

BONUS Assignment [optional] : Can you snap your fingers? If so, can you do it (exactly) the same twice?
Research research by Martin Gardiner

Pocket-Sized #1037: “Chernoff Faces”



In this Pocket-Sized episode #1037, Marc Abrahams shows an unfamiliar research study to Mason Porter. Dramatic readings and reactions ensue.

The research mentioned in this episode is featured in the special Mathematics issue (Vol. 16, #4) of the Annals of Improbable Research Magazine. 

Mason Porter encounters:

Chernoff and the Face Value of Numbers,” Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 16, no. 1, July-August 2010.

The Use of Faces to Represent Points in K-Dimensional Space Graphically,” Herman Chernoff, Journal of the American Statistical Association, vol. 68, no. 342, 1973, pp. 361–8.

Graphical Representation of Multivariate Data by Means of Asymmetrical Faces,” Bernhard Flury and Hans Riedwyl, Journal of the American Statistical Association, vol. 76, no. 376, December 1981, pp. 757-65. 

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

Seth Gliksman, Production Assistant

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

Effects of Cashew Gum and Nanoparticles on Cooled Stallion Semen



The number of published research studies about the effects of cashew gum and nanoparticles on cooled stallion semen has increased by one, with the arrival of this new study:

Effects of Cashew Gum and Nanoparticles on Cooled Stallion Semen,” Kahynna Cavalcante Loureiro, Isabel Bezerra Lima-Verde, Anders Johannisson, Theodoros Ntallaris, Alessandro Jager, Petr Štěpánek, Marcelo da Costa Mendonça, Patrícia Severino & Jane M. Morrell, Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, vol. 62, no. 31, 2020.

The authors are at the Institute of Technology and Research (ITP), Brazil, Tiradentes University (UNIT), Brazil, the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Czech Republic, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

(Thanks to Silvan Urfer for bringing this to our attention.)