Thursday, June 9, 2016

Plants, Animals, and Dolomite: Natural Investigations


Dolomite involved in archaeological prank. A site originally thought to be a lost city near the Greek island of Zakynthos turned out to be a weird quirk of geology. Julian Andrews from University of East Anglia has found that the paved floors, courtyards, and colonnades observed underwater were naturally occurring formations and not evidence of a vanished civilization.

"Golden Rice" sucks, but don't blame environmental activists. This genetically modified food was supposed to be a big deal back in the year 2000, and has been described as a "promising idea backed by good intentions." Glenn Stone, of Washington University in St. Louis, has published an article discussing the current state of Golden Rice efforts, and it doesn't seem as promising in its current state — but the shortcomings are not the fault of anti-GMO activists.

Do shy moms make better moms? If those moms are wild boars, and there is plenty of food available, then the answer is yes. Finally, a team from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine has answered the boar-related questions that we've all been asking about motherhood, food availability, and porcine aggression. Detailed, multi-year work involving personality indices and variable feeding regimes has definitively concluded that the answer is: "It depends."

The wonders of nature, explained by slap-wrap bracelets. The exploding seed pods of popping cress, a common garden weed, are able to function because of unique cell wall geometry that is present in its seed pods. Derek Moulton, of the University of Oxford, explains that it's the same geometric forces that are at work in toy slap bracelets. Previously, scientists thought that the explosive shatter of popping cress was due to the differential contraction of the inner and outer layers of the seed pod as it dried; they were wrong.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Big Business, Small Business, and Not-For-Profit Business Research

Exciting developments from the business world. Here's some of the latest research:

Protip for banks: Don’t over-invest in mortgages. Dr. Natacha Postel-Vinay at University of Warwick has done some research into Chicago during the great depression; the city had the highest urban bank failure rate at the time. Chicago’s real-estate boom led to a banking sector bust, although I’m sure that couldn’t possibly happen again.

Please don’t wait for the next available register. Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management has found that cashiers take longer to ring up customers when they’re all queued up in the same giant line, while they work faster when each cashier is responsible for their own line of customers. Note the part where they admit that “faster” does not equal “better service.”

“Affordability” is in the eye of the beholder (or voucher holder). Researchers from researchers from Florida Atlantic University, the University of Texas, Arlington, and the University of Utah have found that “affordable housing” is not very affordable when you add in the cost of getting to your job.

You don’t have to be crazy to be an executive at a nonprofit organization, but it helps. NC State University research has found that nowhere near as many of them retire “voluntarily” as had been previously assumed. Be sure to read the quote from the guy saying that the only people who take executive roles are the ones who are too na├»ve to understand what a disaster it’s going to be.

Natural disaster? Entrepreneurs to the rescue! Trenton Williams of Syracuse University has found that entrepreneurship “serves as a vehicle for generating positive social outcomes.” In some situations, survivors of natural disasters can alleviate suffering and generate transformational change for residences experiencing chronic poverty by creating their own businesses.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
 
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