Robot Apocalypse Comic

[via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal]

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January 21, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . Comics. Leave a comment.

Thars Gold in them Watches

Bill Hammack is one of my favorite explainers.  Keep it up, Engineer Guy.

[via Make Magazine]

January 12, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Smarts. Leave a comment.

Busy Day at the Airport

[via Fogonazos]

January 11, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Jim Fallows on Throwing Like a Girl

Two things:

1. Natural movements aren’t always innate.

2. We need to stop with the ‘throwing like a girl’ talk.

Jim Fallows:

A surprising number of people think that there is a structural difference between male and female arms or shoulders—in the famous “rotator cuff,” perhaps—that dictates different throwing motions. “It’s in the shoulder joint,” a well-educated woman told me recently. “They’re hinged differently.” Someday researchers may find evidence to support a biological theory of throwing actions. For now, what you’ll hear if you ask an orthopedist, an anatomist, or (especially) the coach of a women’s softball team is that there is no structural reason why men and women should throw in different ways. This point will be obvious to any male who grew up around girls who liked to play baseball and became good at it. It should be obvious on a larger scale this summer, in broadcasts of the Olympic Games. This year, for the first time, women’s fast-pitch softball teams will compete in the Olympics. Although the pitchers in these games will deliver the ball underhand, viewers will see female shortstops, center fielders, catchers, and so on pegging the ball to one another at speeds few male viewers could match.

Even women’s tennis is a constant if indirect reminder that men’s and women’s shoulders are “hinged” the same way. The serving motion in tennis is like a throw—but more difficult, because it must be coordinated with the toss of the tennis ball. The men in professional tennis serve harder than the women, because they are bigger and stronger. But women pros serve harder than most male amateurs have ever done, and the service motion for good players is the same for men and women alike. There is no expectation in college or pro tennis that because of their anatomy female players must “serve like a girl.” “I know many women who can throw a lot harder and better than the normal male,” says Linda Wells, the coach of the highly successful women’s softball team at Arizona State University. “It’s not gender that makes the difference in how they throw.”

Unfortunately, as Linda Wells later describes, young girls are often frozen out of the oral tradition of learning how to throw and there aren’t any good technical manuals to pick up the slack.

The challenge, I suppose, is like that of writing a manual on how to ride a bike, or how to kiss. Indeed, the most useful description I’ve found of the mechanics of throwing comes from a man whose specialty is another sport: Vic Braden made his name as a tennis coach, but he has attempted to analyze the physics of a wide variety of sports so that they all will be easier to teach.Braden says that an effective throw involves connecting a series of links in a “kinetic chain.” The kinetic chain, which is Braden’s tool for analyzing most sporting activity, operates on a principle like that of crack-the-whip. Momentum builds up in one part of the body. When that part is suddenly stopped, as the end of the “whip” is stopped in crack-the-whip, the momentum is transferred to and concentrated in the next link in the chain. A good throw uses six links of chain, Braden says. The first two links involve the lower body, from feet to waist. The first motion of a throw (after the body has been rotated away from the target) is to rotate the legs and hips back in the direction of the throw, building up momentum as large muscles move body mass. Then those links stop—a pitcher stops turning his hips once they face the plate—and the momentum is transferred to the next link. This is the torso, from waist to shoulders, and since its mass is less than that of the legs, momentum makes it rotate faster than the hips and legs did. The torso stops when it is facing the plate, and the momentum is transferred to the next link—the upper arm. As the upper arm comes past the head, it stops moving forward, and the momentum goes into the final links—the forearm and wrist, which snap forward at tremendous speed.

So why don’t girls learn how to do this?

The crucial factor is not that males and females are put together differently but that they typically spend their early years in different ways. Little boys often learn to throw without noticing that they are throwing. Little girls are more rarely in environments that encourage them in the same way. A boy who wonders why a girl throws the way she does is like a Frenchman who wonders why so many Americans speak French “with an accent.””For young boys it is culturally acceptable and politically correct to develop these skills,” says Linda Wells, of the Arizona State softball team. “They are mentored and networked. Usually girls are not coached at all, or are coached by Mom—or if it’s by Dad, he may not be much of an athlete. Girls are often stuck with the bottom of the male talent pool as examples. I would argue that rather than learning to ‘throw like a girl,’ they learn to throw like poor male athletes. I say that a bad throw is ‘throwing like an old man.’ This is not gender, it’s acculturation.”

[Jim Fallows @ the Atlantic via Angela Vasquez-Giroux @ the Idler]

January 10, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

Two Square Meters of Sunlight = Death Ray

Maybe not a death ray actually, but definitely a death spot.

[BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory via Sean Michael Ragan @ Make Magazine]

November 26, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

New Hazard Discovered Involving Moving Walkways

[via Nedroid]

November 12, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Comics. Leave a comment.

Take Your Medicine with a Grain of Salt

[via Savage Chickens]

The subject of this article, Dr. John Ioannidis, is the medical establishment’s equivalent of an internal affairs investigative unit.  According to his meta-studies, the findings from approximately half of the top 50 cited papers of the past decade are, at best, highly dubious.

Medical research is not especially plagued with wrongness. Other meta-research experts have confirmed that similar issues distort research in all fields of science, from physics to economics (where the highly regarded economists J. Bradford DeLong and Kevin Lang once showed how a remarkably consistent paucity of strong evidence in published economics studies made it unlikely that any of them were right). And needless to say, things only get worse when it comes to the pop expertise that endlessly spews at us from diet, relationship, investment, and parenting gurus and pundits. But we expect more of scientists, and especially of medical scientists, given that we believe we are staking our lives on their results. The public hardly recognizes how bad a bet this is. The medical community itself might still be largely oblivious to the scope of the problem, if Ioannidis hadn’t forced a confrontation when he published his studies in 2005.

Ioannidis initially thought the community might come out fighting. Instead, it seemed relieved, as if it had been guiltily waiting for someone to blow the whistle, and eager to hear more. David Gorski, a surgeon and researcher at Detroit’s Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, noted in his prominent medical blog that when he presented Ioannidis’s paper on highly cited research at a professional meeting, “not a single one of my surgical colleagues was the least bit surprised or disturbed by its findings.” Ioannidis offers a theory for the relatively calm reception. “I think that people didn’t feel I was only trying to provoke them, because I showed that it was a community problem, instead of pointing fingers at individual examples of bad research,” he says. In a sense, he gave scientists an opportunity to cluck about the wrongness without having to acknowledge that they themselves succumb to it—it was something everyone else did.

To say that Ioannidis’s work has been embraced would be an understatement. His PLoS Medicine paper is the most downloaded in the journal’s history, and it’s not even Ioannidis’s most-cited work—that would be a paper he published in Nature Genetics on the problems with gene-link studies. Other researchers are eager to work with him: he has published papers with 1,328 different co-authors at 538 institutions in 43 countries, he says. Last year he received, by his estimate, invitations to speak at 1,000 conferences and institutions around the world, and he was accepting an average of about five invitations a month until a case last year of excessive-travel-induced vertigo led him to cut back. Even so, in the weeks before I visited him he had addressed an AIDS conference in San Francisco, the European Society for Clinical Investigation, Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the medical schools at Stanford and Tufts.

It comes down to terrible incentives that motivate researchers to overstate their findings coupled with unrealistic expectations from the public.

“If the drugs don’t work and we’re not sure how to treat something, why should we claim differently? Some fear that there may be less funding because we stop claiming we can prove we have miraculous treatments. But if we can’t really provide those miracles, how long will we be able to fool the public anyway? The scientific enterprise is probably the most fantastic achievement in human history, but that doesn’t mean we have a right to overstate what we’re accomplishing.”

We could solve much of the wrongness problem, Ioannidis says, if the world simply stopped expecting scientists to be right. That’s because being wrong in science is fine, and even necessary—as long as scientists recognize that they blew it, report their mistake openly instead of disguising it as a success, and then move on to the next thing, until they come up with the very occasional genuine breakthrough. But as long as careers remain contingent on producing a stream of research that’s dressed up to seem more right than it is, scientists will keep delivering exactly that.

“Science is a noble endeavor, but it’s also a low-yield endeavor,” he says. “I’m not sure that more than a very small percentage of medical research is ever likely to lead to major improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life. We should be very comfortable with that fact.”

[David H. Freedman @ the Atlantic via the Browser]

November 10, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

What’s the Difference between Regular and Decaf Coffee?

[via Fake Science]

November 10, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Comics. Leave a comment.

Meet the Intersection of the Future

The Diverging Diamond Interchange:

[via Core77]

[image via GOOD]

November 4, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Smarts. Leave a comment.

Sorcery or Science: You Decide

Don’t understand what laminar flow has to do with this.

[via Sean Michael Ragan @ Make Magazine]

November 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

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