Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Another Statistical Study on Right and Left

In an earlier story of this collection of essays, I introduced a psychologist's statistical study on the side of a pair's turning of their head in kissing. Amar Klar of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, USA, made another statistical study on right and left.

According to an article in Nature Science Update [1], Klar secretly inspected people's top of the head by spying on them in airports and shopping malls, ignoring the longhaired and the bald. He found the followings [2]: More than 95% of right-handers' hair whorled clockwise on the scalp and that the locks of lefties and the ambidextrous are equally likely to coil either way.

I write with the right hand, use a driver and some other tools with the left hand, and have a pair of whorls curing clockwise and anticlockwise. This is quite consistent with Klar's reuslt.

Klar is reported to have said, "A single gene with either 'right' or 'random' forms might underlie the trend. People with one or two copies of the right version would be right-handed, with clockwise hair; those with two random versions would split 50/50 for handedness and hair whorls." He is now seeking such a gene.

The article also says: Left-handed or ambidextrous people are more likely to store language in the right side of the brain, are more prone to schizophrenia and, anecdotally, are more often creative or even geniuses. -- Oh, I'm prone to schizophrenia or may be a genius! --
  1. "Handedness equals hairstyle: One gene might control both - and explain the divided brain," Nature Science Update, Sep. 4 2003.
  2. A. J. S. Klar, "Human handedness and scalp hair whorl direction develop from a common genetic mechanism," Genetics, in press (2003).

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Typo or True Value?

In the evening edition of the Asahi dated February 27, 2003, an article about the Akutagawa Prize appeared. This prize is the most prestigious literature award in Japan. The article read:
The presentation ceremony of the 128th Akutagawa Prize (sponsored by Japan Association for Literature Promotion) was held in Tokyo on February 21, and Ms. Tamaki Daido received the main reward of a watch and the prize money of 100 yens. ...
Imagining the scene of Ms. Daido getting a 100-yen coin (about 80 cents) respectfully, I laughed and laughed. The next evening’s Asahi carried a correction to rectify the amount to 1 million yens. It is 100-man yens in Japanese expression; man (ten thousands) is denoted by a single Chinese character. So the dropping of that one character causes a large difference.

The article in the Asahi also told about the following words of Senji Kuroi, a member of the Nomination Committee of the Akutagawa Prize, to praise the Prize-winning work "Shoppai Doraibu" (Salty Driving):
The method of composing this work is stable, and the work has a firm structure. It well conveys the feeling of the heroine I, who is attracted by both a middle-aged man and the star actor of a local theatrical troupe. ...
The work was later published in book form, and the review of it appeared in the Asahi of March 23, 2003. The reviewer Atsushi Onoya wrote:
[This work] has no climax, no surprise ending, nor any meaning. ... Readers should not wrongly think that such is one of the top works of literature. ...
This is one of the most scathing book reviews I have ever read. If this were a right appraisal of the work, the prize money of 100 yens would have been appropriate. The evaluation of literary works seems to be a difficult thing.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Asymmetry in Kissing

I found an interesting research report in Nature. It includes a photo of Auguste Rodin's masterpiece The Kiss, in which a couple is kissing by turning their heads to the right. The author of the report is Onur Güntürkün, a psychologist at the University of Ruhr. What do you think is the theme of this report?

The title of the report [1] is "Adult persistence of head-turning asymmetry." Other authors found earlier that humans preferred to turn the head to the right for the final weeks of the fetus and for the first six months after birth. Güntürkün has found that this head motor bias persists into adulthood.

Güntürkün observed 124 kissing couples in public places in the United States, Germany and Turkey. The result shows that 80 pairs (64.6%) turned their head to the right and that 44 (35.5%) turned to the left. This indicates the significant head-turning bias towards the right side, just like fetuses and newborns.

Which side do you turn your heads in kissing, to the right or to the left? Do you want to check it right now?
  1. O. Güntürkün, Nature, Vol. 421, 711 (2003); addendum, ibid., Vol. 421, 711 (2003); See also S. Graham, “Kissing the right way,” Sci. Amer. News 13 Feb (2003)

Monday, January 27, 2003

Relay Composition

In my childhood I played a word play, "Someone did something with some other one . . ." It needs a plural number of participants. Each participant writes "Someone," "did something," "with some other one," "at some place," and "at some time" on separate sheets of paper by putting concrete expressions for "some . . ." as he or she likes.

Then all the sheets of "Someone" are mixed, all the sheets of "did something" are mixed, and so on. Each participant randomly choose a sheet of "Someone," a sheet of "did something," and so on, and reads them aloud. A set of sheets thus chosen often gives a wild story.

An extended version of the above play is "relay composition." I also played it in student days. In this play, each of several participants reads only one paragraph written just before and adds one paragraph. The story completed can be quite funny.

When I played relay composition during a New Year vacation, a friend of mine with the nickname of Sam wrote a good final paragraph. I still remember its plot after more than 40 years. I do not remember earlier five paragraphs written by participants other than Sam (including my own), but in essence those must have been something like this:

Jack and Betty lived in K City and were good friends. After graduating from a university, Jack got a job at another city. It was far from K City, and Jack had to move there. Betty was going to be lonely.
What do you write after this, if you are requested to conclude the above story? Sam's final paragraph was as follows:

On the day of his removal, Jack got a card from Betty. It read, "I'm going to move, too. My new address is 1-2 S Street, T City." Jack wanted to take a walk to relax from the work of removal. Outside the gate of his new house, he looked back to see the nameplate. It read, "1-2 S Street . . ."
This is so witty a plot just made for a game, isn't it? Regrettably Sam died several years ago.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

The Logic of Love

Assume that the statement

A is B.

is true. Then the statement

"Not A" is "not B."

is called the obverse of the original statement. The obverse is not always true. Interchanging the subject and the predicate of the obverse, we get another statement

"Not B" is "not A."

This statement is called the contraposition of the original statement. The contraposition is always true.

I learned the above logic from a young lady teacher of mathematics in the first year of senior high school. So I remember it well. However, you can understand it easily by drawing a small circle enclosed in a large circle and supposing that the inside of the small circle is A and that the inside of the large circle is B.

In the previous story A Mathematician's Desire, I mentioned about a comical essay written by the mathematician Masahiko Fujiwara. I found another short essay [1] of his that treated the obverse to be quite funny. The essay is entitled: Is ' "Not A" is "not B" ' true?

Without using jargons, Professor Fujiwara teaches the reader that the obverse is false in many cases, but can be true in some cases. He does this by the use of interesting examples. Examples of the false obverse are given by the original statements of daily observation, “The tulip is beautiful," "Snow is white," and "What bothers others is what you must not do." An example of the true obverse is given by the mathematical original statement, "If the polygon is the triangle, then the sum of its inner angles is equal to 180 degrees."

Finally the mathematician gives an example of the obverse that can be decided neither true nor false. The original statement of this example is "If the woman is your wife, then you may love her." He writes:
As for the statement, "If the woman is not your wife, then you must not love her," my wife's opinion and mine are different.
I guess that Professor Fujiwara is actually a good husband as well as a good teacher.
  1. M. Fujiwara, Asahi-Shimbun, Evening Edition (17 Dec. 2002).