A Liquid Nitrogen Incident

A couple of Tuesdays ago, Marissa Vara, an undergraduate researcher in our lab, and I were expecting our weekly liquid nitrogen delivery from Air Products. Before the delivery arrived, I remembered an errand I had to run in the other building. Before leaving, I told Marissa to text me when our delivery person showed up. Unfortunately, Marissa did not know that I had changed my phone number and I hadn't bothered to tell her either. So naturally she texted my old phone number, which, as we later figured out, now belongs to someone else. Comedy ensued (Marissa in blue; owner of my old ph. no. in silver):

Of course, with my penchant for eccentricity, Marissa thought this was weird but not outside the 2σ realm of possibilities. So she didn't mention the incident until yesterday when I told her that my phone number had changed. The eureka moment was, "Wait, then who was I texting about liquid nitrogen?!"

One of the more bizarre papers I have come across... written by Oleg McNoleg,published in the peer-reviewed journal, Computers & Geosciences. Oleg is affiliated with the prestigious Brigadoon University of Longitudinal Learning, School of Holistic Information Technology, situated in Noplace, Neverland. The title of the paper: The Integration Of GIS, Remote Sensing, Expert Systems And Adaptive Co-Kriging for Environmental Habitat Modeling of the Highland Haggis using Object-Oriented, Fuzzy-Logic and Neural-Network Techniques(phew).

So, what does Oleg McNoleg have to say about the habitat of the Highland Haggis? But firstly, what is a Haggis? A Haggis is a mythological Scottish creature that vaguely reminds me of the misconceptions associated with lemmings. McNoleg writes:

The Highland Haggis is unique amongst all mammals in that it has a pair of legs (either left or right) that are shorter (longer) than the other pair... It is a sad consequence that each year, many fledgling Haggis die whilst attempting to move upslope...

McNoleg then dives into the theoretical aspects of incorporating various geographical techniques to model the habitat of the Highland Haggis. This, of course, includes the insertion of data from a digital elevation model (DEM) that is hierarchically decomposed (?) into a Polymorphic Euclidean Adaptive Region tree (PEARtree - see figure) - of course. Then, McNoleg provides a mathematical framework for modeling Haggis habitats using geophysical data because "It has become customary for papers to contain copious quantities of gratuitous mathematics (Heckbert, 1987 Well and Du, 1993; Rull, 1993)" where Heckbert (1987) is titled 'Ray tracing in jello brand gelatin', Rull (1993) is titled, 'BARRY: An autonomous train-spotter', and there is no reference for Well and Du (1993).

After the theory has been established, what are the results of this study?

Honestly, this may be the most glorious Academia Bizarro entry thus far. Hats off to Oleg McNoleg for this wonderfully entertaining paper, chockfull of ridiculous and bizarre references/ideas. You must read it in its entirety to fully grasp the depth of this article. Also, hats off to the editor(s?) of Computers & Geosciences for okaying publication (full disclosure - I was rejected from this journal!) Funnily enough, the Haggis paper has been cited 29 times and I have a hunch to whom the nom de plume, Oleg McNoleg, belongs. Hat tip to Lars Beierlein for bringing this article to my attention!

Introducing: Academia Bizarro

At the Institute for Geophysics (my workplace), we have a series of weekly Brown Bag talks and I volunteered to host the seminar this year:

The UTIG Brown Bags are informal talks at noon each Wednesday at the Seminar Conference Room and they are a platform for faculty, scientists and students alike to update everyone on their current research and associated research activities (field work, workshops etc.) Though the talks convey scientific results and generate discussion amongst colleagues, they can (note: not must) be light-hearted and fun in nature. A few examples of past talk titles:

  • Has it Ever Rained Cats and Dogs in a Climate Model?
  • Will Work For Food, Fuel, and a Groomed Ski-way: ICECAP Season 1
  • Spring in Greenland: How I learned to stop worrying and love global warming
  • Scenery and Tectonics of Spain
  • Moonquakes: Who said the moon was dead?
  • Tales from the western tropical Pacific: Search for the "Golden" Samples
  • One Rock to Change the World: The Story of the Chicxulub Impact Crater

This year, in order to make the Brown Bags a little more fun, I decided to include a section (haphazardly named after this and especially this) entitled Academia Bizarro. So, what is it you ask? Well, I consider anything that falls under or in between the following brackets to qualify:

In essence, I propose to have a 1-2min segment before each Brown Bag talk presenting a paper/research which falls under the Academia Bizarro umbrella (preferably geoscience based and related to the talk, of course). I will archive the material as the talks go on and ultimately, I hope to write up a semester's worth of material into a blog post. Thus far, I have already had support and suggestions from many researchers/faculty. Since there were no takers for today's Brown Bag, I gave a small presentation on the whole idea. As I am pitching this as a collaborative effort, I welcome any/all suggestions for Academia Bizarro from the blogosphere too. If you have any ideas/comments/suggestions, please let me know in the comments (your contribution will merit due credit!)