Tag Archives: science

The visual linguistics of a comic book page

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Inside Science recently wrote about the study by UCSD’s Neil Cohn, Navigating Comics, which looks at the underlying structure of the comics language:

People who read the English written word scan text from left to right. Once our eyes hit the end of the page, we stop. Then ding!, like an old-time typewriter, our eyes shift downward and snap back to the left to start reading the next line. This is known as a “Z-path,” as our eyes whip about like the end of Zorro’s sword.

But that linear track gets derailed in comics with complex layouts and Cohn wanted to know if experienced readers had strategies to follow along.

Cohn rustled up 145 participants at the 2004 Comic-Con International, a comic book convention held in San Diego. Participants had varying experience with reading comics, ranging from “never” to “often.”

Each participant was given a booklet containing 12 pages of blank panels. Each page was independent of the rest and used different design techniques.

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The science of piano playing cats…?

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An Animal Planet segment ponders how and why this cat seems to be playing the piano.  Animal behaviorist and UC Davis alumna Dr. Sophia Lin says that cats can hear and understand different tones played on instruments such as the piano.  Additionally these animals are born imitators and so this cat could very well be trying to communicate to her piano teacher owner.

Sophia researches animal behavior as a way for humans to better understand their pets:

“Pets don’t understand spoken language, they rely on body language plus desired or undesired consequences in order to learn. This means that humans must be aware of their movement and actions because every move they make while interacting with the pet influences the animal’s behavior and perception of them.”

Read more on her blog

The “Pope of Foam” and the science behind beer


UC Davis brewing science professor Charles Bamforth is known as the “pope of foam.” His lab delves into the science behind creating the perfect beer foam, which is essential to a great tasting brew. That’s because most of the flavor of beer is detected by smell, which is why Bamforth says you must drink beer from a glass and not straight from a bottle or can. He explains beer-making and reveals how to pick the freshest pint when you’re at a pub.

The Science of Music and Algorithms

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“I can understand why it’s an issue if you’ve got an extremely romanticized view of what art is,” he says. “But Bach peed, and he shat, and he had a lot of kids. We’re all just people.”

– David Cope, UC Santa Cruz, emeritus professor

“To some extent, this match is a defense of the whole human race. Computers play such a huge role in society. They are everywhere. But there is a frontier they must not cross. They must not cross into the area of human creativity. It would threaten the existence of human control in such areas as arts, literature, and music.”

So said Gary Kasparov, chess grandmaster, one year before he lost to Deep Blue, IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer. Meanwhile, a relatively anonymous professor of music in California had created a computer program capable of composing pieces of music in the style of great composers that most people could not differentiate from authentic compositions. The professor, David Cope, named this program Experiments in Musical Intelligence, or “Emmy”. Since then, Cope and his successive programs have been the objects of both celebration and scorn, challenging the world’s perception of what musical creativity entails.

Cope’s argument, and the basis for his software, is that creativity is essentially recombinant: consciously or not, all composers plagiarize their progenitors and contemporaries. What makes his (or Emmy’s) work superior to the stilted and awkward compositions of earlier programs are two fundamental insights into the syntax of music. Rather than rely on the traditional divisions of musical notation, Cope developed an analytic musical syntax that goes into what Douglas Hofstadter (of Gödel, Escher, Bach) terms the “tension-resolution status” of a piece, the two forces that underlie all music. Secondly, though the program composes according to formal rules, it also uses heuristics that allow it to sometimes ‘break’ its own rules in innovative ways.

Alex Tesar (Source Art & Science Journal)

More stories can be found here.

Avoiding Olive Oil Fraud

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UC Davis Olive Center’s Dan Flynn talks to Dr. Oz about what to look for when buying olive oil at the grocery store.

  • Make sure you’re looking at the “harvest” not the “best by” date
  • Buy olive oil in dark bottles since the dark glass protects the oil

We interviewed Dan last summer and he talked a little bit about how they conducted their study on extra virgin olive oil and what is being done to maintain its standards in the industry.

Watch the video here

Is that really red snapper on your plate?

tumblr_mil8vjJulj1rjatglo2_250A recent survey done by Oceana says that fish found at the market are not always correctly labeled.  So, scientists are working on a genetic sequence technique called fish barcoding that can positively identify fish species.

Marine biologist Ron Burton of UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography says it’s important for the public to make sure they’re getting what they think they’re getting:

“In a market like red snapper, we can be seeing red snapper at many fish markets and that would lead somebody to believe that the fish is very common, when in fact what’s being sold is a diversity of species – some of which are common, some of which aren’t. And so it can lead to a false impression about the abundance of species to the public.”

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