Insiders’ Tell-All About the Dicty World Races

June 25th, 2016

Scientists are not above, nor are they below, indulging in the sport of racing. This new study tells how a bunch of scientists arranged for a bunch of cells to race.

A Worldwide Competition to Compare the Speed and Chemotactic Accuracy of Neutrophil-Like Cells,” Monica Skoge, Elisabeth Wong, Bashar Hamza, Albert Bae, Joseph Martel, Rama Kataria, Ineke Keizer-Gunnink, Arjan Kortholt, Peter J. M. Van Haastert, Guillaume Charras, Christopher Janetopoulos, Daniel Irimia, PLoS ONE 11(6), 2016: e0154491.  The authors report:


“Chemotaxis is the ability to migrate towards the source of chemical gradients…. Because of the complexity of human genetics, Dictyostelium [whose ability to solve puzzles has led to two Ig Nobel Prizes, so far]] and HL60 cells have long served as models system for studying chemotaxis. Since many of our current insights into chemotaxis have been gained from these two model systems, we decided to compare them side by side in a set of winner-take-all races, the Dicty World Races. These worldwide competitions challenge researchers to genetically engineer and pharmacologically enhance the model systems to compete in microfluidic racecourses. These races bring together technological innovations in genetic engineering and precision measurement of cell motility. Fourteen teams participated in the inaugural Dicty World Race 2014 and contributed cell lines, which they tuned for enhanced speed and chemotactic accuracy. The race enabled large-scale analyses of chemotaxis in complex environments and revealed an intriguing balance of speed and accuracy of the model cell lines.”

David Schulzs, writing in Science magazine, profiles the competition. Here’s a promotional video, released two years ago, touting the race:

And here’s video of one of the winners:

(Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.)

Evidence from Mozart’s fly swatter, maybe

June 25th, 2016

The Bibliolore blog presents discusses the meaning and import of what may be the remains of a small animal murdered by a famous musical composer:

Franz Niemetschek’s legendary report that La clemenza di Tito was composed in 18 days was not seriously challenged until 1960, when Tomislav Volek published important archival materials relating to the chronology of the opera’s composition. Physical evidence from the autograph manuscript, including the remains of a fly squashed on the paper (probably by the composer in the heat of August), contributes to discrediting the hypothesis that Mozart’s work had begun before he signed his July 1791 contract for the opera.

This according to “The chronology of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito reconsidered”by Sergio Durante (Music & letters, 80, no. 4 (Nov 1999): 560–594)…

Hey Maths! (Beatles studies)

June 24th, 2016

Improbable recently drew attention to ‘Why the Beatles Succeeded but Broke Up: the Math(s)’, now we turn instead to mathematical considerations of the band’s music (rather than of the band itself). In particular, a paper in a Special Beatles Studies issue of the journal Volume !, 2016/1 (12:2) entitled ‘Hey Maths! Modèles formels et computationnels au service des Beatles‪’

“[…] proposes some thoughts on formal and computational models in and for popular music by focusing on Beatles songs.”

The article can be read in full (for 5€) by clicking the link above. Alternatively, another publication also entitled ‘Hey Maths ! Modèles formels et computationnels au service des Beatles’ (by the lead author Dr. Moreno Andreatta ) may be read free of charge:

Beatles-MathsNote: The diagram above shows part of a spacial calculus representation depicting ‘Transformations stylistiques sur les Beatles’.

Question [optional]: Explain the significance of the topographically re-mapped fish.
Also don’t miss: ‘Les chansons des Beatles dans l’horloge moléculaire’

The facial of technology: If it’s super-complicated, it’s impressive!

June 23rd, 2016

[WARNING: What you are about to read is super-complicated.]

The most complicated technology is the most impressive technology! That idea fuels some of technology’s most impressive investment and marketing campaigns. You can see it in action, and judge its worth, when you look at Faceception.

What is Faception? Faception is a company. Faception is a technology. Faception is an exciting investment opportunity. Faception says its machine can detect a person’s personality by looking at that person’s face. The Faception web site explains:

We reveal personality from facial images at scale to revolutionize how companies, organizations and even robots understand people and dramatically improve public safety, communications, decision-making, and experiences.

Faception has an impressive “Theory Behind the Technology”. That theory is based on complicated logic that’s based on complicated interpretations of complicated research observations.

You may find that Faception’s complicated logic that’s based on complicated interpretations of complicated research observations is the very most impressive thing about Faception. Here’s Faception’s explanation of The Theory Behind the Technology:

FaceptionFaceThe face can be used to predict a person’s personality and behavior. This claim relies on a combination of two known research observations:

1. According to Social and Life Science research personalities are affected by genes.

2. Our face is a reflection of our DNA

While these type of affirmations are quite recent, in Chinese history, there have been people that have studied the “mapping of the face” for thousands of years

If all this does not impress you, there is something wrong.

BONUS: Here’s video of the company’s founder making a “pitch” for investors. Prepare to be impressed:


(Thanks to Andy Aaron for bringing this to our attention.)

The most attractive navel position – where is it exactly?

June 23rd, 2016

“The aim of this study is to analyze the navel position and shape of the worldwide top model/celebrities recognized as top 2013 bikini models to determine references for ideal navel shape and positioning and to find potential clinical translation.”

– explain authors Giuseppe Visconti, Emiliano Visconti, Lorenzo Bonomo and Marzia Salgarello regarding their 2015 navel-based research paper for the journal Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.


Their study comprised three parts,

○ A quantitative study of the navel surface anatomy in 81 top 2013 bikini models by analyzing four proportions:

○ An analysis of navel shapes in 81 top 2013 bikini models was recorded and classified based on previous study of Craig SB et al.

○ An on-line survey via made of seven multiple-choice questions, involving 1,682 invited people unaware of our concepts in navel aesthetic. [see photo]


The most attractive navel position is located at the xiphoid–umbilicus : umbilicus-abdominal crease golden ratio. Bony landmarks seem to be not reliable as references for proper navel positioning. The use of the Fibonacci (golden mean) caliper intraoperatively might aid in proper positioning of the navel in abdominoplasty.” [our hyperlinks]

As mentioned above, the team not only examined the ‘most attractive position’ but also the general morphology of the navel :

“The vertical oval shape, the presence of superior hooding, and the absence of protrusion are the main features that make a navel attractive for human eyes, confirming conclusions from other navel shape studies.”

See: Concepts in Navel Aesthetic: A Comprehensive Surface Anatomy Analysis, Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, February 2015, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 43-50

Also see: In search of the “beautiful” umbilicus and Divine Proportions in male nipple re-positioning.