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Can you reliably measure a leader’s charisma, and if you can, can you reliably say how much is too much? This study pokes at both those questions:

The double-edged sword of leader charisma: Understanding the curvilinear relationship between charismatic personality and leader effectiveness,” J. Vergauwe, B. Wille, J. Hofmans, R.B. Kaiser, and F. De Fruyt, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, epub 2019.

The authors, at Ghent University, Belgium. University of Antwerp, Belgium. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium., and Kaiser Leadership Solutions, USA, explain:

“This study advanced knowledge on charisma by (a) introducing a new personality-based model to conceptualize and assess charisma and by (b) investigating curvilinear relationships between charismatic personality and leader effectiveness. Moreover, we delved deeper into this curvilinear association by (c) examining moderation by the leader’s level of adjustment and by (d) testing a process model through which the effects of charismatic personality on effectiveness are explained with a consideration of specific leader behaviors…. In sum, this work provides insight into the dispositional nature of charisma and uncovers the processes through which and conditions under which leader charisma translates into (in)effectiveness.”

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The chip giant Intel Corporation of Santa Clara. California, has just been granted (June 25, 2019 ) a US patent for a “Magic Wand” with the function of “creating, discovering, and/or resolving spells.”

“Methods, apparatuses, systems, and storage media for creating, discovering, and/or resolving spells using a wand are provided. In embodiments, a computing device or a wand may detect one or more gestures and sensors in the wand may generate sensor data representative of the one or more gestures. The one or more gestures may be movements performed using the wand. The sensor data representative of the one or more gestures may be converted into a spell sequence. The wand may transmit the spell sequence to a computing device, and receive, from the computing device, a spell output based on the spell sequence, a wand position, and a quest. The quest may indicate an order in which one or more second devices are to be activated and one or more spells to activate each of the one or more second devices. Other embodiments may be described and/or claimed.”

See: Magic wand methods, apparatuses and systems for defining, initiating, and conducting quests.

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Here’s Nicole Sharp talking about a paddleboat ride she took when she was a child. That ride excited Nicole in a way that led to her eventual unusual career. Nicole created and runs FYFD, the most popular fluid dynamics web site in this part of the universe.

Dr. Nicole Sharp: Paddleboat - YouTube

ABOUT THIS LITTLE VIDEO SERIES—This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David Hu, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Frans de Waal, Nicole Sharp, Diego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

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Earthing mats (a.k.a. ElectroStatic Discharge – Safe Mats) are commonplace in the electronics industry, where sensitive components need to be protected against potentially damaging rogue electrostatic discharges (ESDs). Not so common, though, for protecting furry pets in the home. But this may now have changed. Inventors Thomas J. Gaskill (Haddonfield, NJ), and James S. Gatti (Delran, NJ) have just received a US patent for their Static electricity discharging pet bed.

“[…] loud noise and thunderstorm induced tumult take their toll on pets, it is the static electricity in the air during a storm which is a major, yet heretofore unaddressed problem. The highly electrically charged atmosphere during a thunder or lighting [sic] storm causes tingling and general discomfort through the fur of the animal. Moreover, electric shocks often accompany this discomfort during situations in which there is extreme lightening. [sic]”

Here’s how it might work :

“The outer cover is fabricated of an electrical conductive material designed to conduct static electricity from the pet bed through an electrical conductive conductor [sic], to an electrical conductive ground wire, and then to a ground only plug connected to a grounded electrical outlet. The result is that when a dog or like furry pet is positioned on the pet bed, static electricity affecting the animal is drained to electrical ground. In this same manner, an ‘Earthing’ effect provides a number of healthful benefits to the pet as well.”

Note: It’s not specifically mentioned in the patent, but it’s crucial that the earthing wire is connected to the correct pin on the plug. Alternatively, an earthing rod could be sunk in nearby ground, and the mat’s cable connected to that instead. Some guidance on such things can be found at Groundology Ltd. (UK) who are in a position to supply grounded yoga mats and grounding socks.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

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A straightforward attempt to use one habit—chewing gum—to undo the unwelcome effects of a different habit—drinking coffee:

Whitening Efficacy of Chewing Gum Containing Sodium Metaphosphate on Coffee Stain: Placebo-controlled, Double-blind In Situ Examination,” S. Makino, C. Kawamoto, T. Ikeda, T. Doi, A. Narise, T Tanaka, C. Almas, M. Hannig, R. Carvalho, and H. Sano, Operative Dentistry, in press 2019. The authors report:

This study aimed to evaluate the ability of chewing gum containing sodium metaphosphate (SMP) to remove coffee stains from enamel in situ. This was a double-blind (subjects, evaluators), parallel-group, crossover, randomized clinical trial with 30 healthy adult volunteers. Each participant held an appliance with a hydroxyapatite (HA) pellet on the lower lingual side of his or her mouth for two hours to allow pellicle formation. The appliances were subsequently immersed in coffee solution at 37°C for 48 hours. The color of the HA pellet before and after coffee immersion was measured using a spectrophotometer. The participant set the appliance and chewed two pieces of test gum, which contained 7.5 mg of SMP per piece, or control gum without SMP.

BONUS FACT (not necessarily related): The theme of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will be HABITS.

BONUS (not necessarily worth even reading): At least one web site claims that chewing chewing gum “can help you lose facial weight.”

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Here’s Diego Golombek talking about reading and wondering about time travel—an experience that, when he was a child, excited Diego in a way that led to his eventual unusual career. Diego now studies—and experiments with—biology to try to understand some of the seemingly simply, scientifically mystifying things that happen in nature every day.

Dr. Diego Golombek: Sleep and Time (Story Time) - YouTube

This is part of a series of sessions we (David Hu and I, and a film crew) recorded at Georgia Tech. We assembled a little group of scientists (including David) who are renowned for looking at questions others might overlook, and doing research in inventive, clever ways.

The question we asked them: “What happened when you were a kid that somehow led—much later—to your doing unusual science?

The scientists: David HuSuzana Herculano-HouzelFrans de WaalNicole SharpDiego Golombek, and Olga Shishkov. Follow the links on their names to begin exploring some of their work!

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On a broad, bright, moonlit* night would you expect outdoor crime rates to be higher or lower than on an overcast night with little or no moonlight?

Numerous investigations have shown that, as a general rule, increasing environmental light levels can lead to a decrease in outdoor crime rates. By extension then, one might think that bright moonlit nights would feature less crime than when it’s overcast. But one might be wrong. A new study by Jacob Kaplan at the University of Pennsylvania – Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, and published via the Social Science Research Network comes to a conclusion that some might find counterintuitive.

“The findings indicate that a small amount of light can increase crime.

[e.g. from the Moon]

The mechanisms for why this is so are unclear.”

See : The Effect of Moonlight on Outdoor Nighttime Crime

Also see : Associations : Ultra Violet Radiation and the number of days it takes to get a misaddressed letter back.

*Note : Strictly speaking, moonlight is actually sunlight (that’s been reflected by the Moon)

Image credit : Tomruen via Wikipedia

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The spacer GIF gets some love, appreciation, and disdain in this new study:

The invention and dissemination of the spacer gif: implications for the future of access and use of web archives,” Trevor Owens and Grace Helen Thomas, International Journal of Digital Humanities, vol. 1, no. 1, 2019, pp. 71–84. (Thanks to Sarah Rambacher for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the U.S. Library of Congress, report:

“Widely referred to as ‘spacer’ GIFs, these single-pixel, transparent GIFs were used first and foremost as a way of controlling the placement and presentation of content on a website. They were invisible, or rather transparent, i.e. whatever was behind them showed through. However, they still took up space. So a designer could encode into their HTML document any number of spacer GIFs to appear in a row in order to control the placement of any given element on a page. This provided a means of controlling exactly where visual elements would appear on a given web page. As is evident in Fig. 1, they only become visible when broken, when the link to the image file no longer resolves. These tiny files, the presence of which is only conspicuous when they are no longer present, are invaluable aids… enabling scholarly research on the history of the web.”

A Web Site of Its Own, Sort Of

Devotees of the spacer GIF are welcome to visit a web site devoted to the spacer GIF: spacergif.org

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“Humans tend to swing their arms when they walk, a curious behaviour since the arms play no obvious role in bipedal gait. It might be costly to use muscles to swing the arms, and it is unclear whether potential benefits elsewhere in the body would justify such costs.”

If you’re a living thing, energy is a very precious resource. Not the sort of thing to be wasted. So it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that actively swinging your arms while walking could be squandering precious energy. But two experimental studies : Umberger, B. R. (2008). Effects of suppressing arm swing on kinematics, kinetics, and energetics of human walking  J. Biomech. 41, 2575–2580, and Collins, S. H., Adamczyk, P. G. and Kuo, A. D. (2009a). Dynamic arm swinging in human walking. Proc. Biol. Sci. 276, 3679–88. showed that people who walk with their arms purposely held at their sides actually consume more energy rather than less, Nevertheless, excessive arm swinging could well be wasteful – leading to the question ; What is the optimum amount to swing one’s arms?

A new paper in the journal Biology Open addresses such a question – for the first time.

“ […] increasing arm swing amplitude leads to a reduction in vertical angular moment and ground reaction moments, but it does not lead to a reduction in cost of transport for the most excessive arm swing amplitudes. Normal or slightly increased arm swing amplitude appears to be optimal in terms of cost of transport in young and healthy individuals.“

The best energy efficiency was found to be an arm swing amplitude of between 0.3 and 0.6 m. Any swing above or below that (or walking with folded arms, or with arms swinging in-phase with the legs rather than the normal out-of-phase) increased energy consumption above normal levels.

The authors also note that :

“Independent of how arm swing is executed, it appears to play an important part during human locomotion. However, what this role is exactly, is still unknown”

See: Influence of arm swing on cost of transport during walking

Image credit: Eadweard_Muybridge c. 1884.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

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Tickets for the 29th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony go on sale today—Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at NOON (US eastern time)—exclusively from the Harvard Box Office.

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