Supertaskers on the Road
Are laws prohibiting cell phone use for drivers justified? James Watson of the University of Utahcertainly thinks so. According to psychologists and members of Watson’s team, only 2.5% of the general population can safely juggle driving and talking on the cell phone. These “supertaskers,” as they are so named, are so rare that you would be better off taking chances on flipping heads five times in a row.
Watson’s team developed a study in which 200 subjects “drove” in a simulated freeway setting while juggling another activity which requires equal focus, such as a cell phone conversation involving “memorizing words and solving math problems.” Braking reaction time, following distance, memory, and accuracy on the math problems were assessed. To little surprise, the results showed that most of the participants were unable to successfully multitask on both calling and driving. The most apparent difference between multitasking and taking one task at a time was the adjustment to the flow of traffic, or rather an inability to better go with the flow. The next largest difference was an increase in braking time, never a good thing when on the road.
The second tier of experiments involved the same subjects talking, not using their cellular phones, while “driving” again with the simulation program. With this change came surprising results: braking times and adherence to traffic flow were at normal and safe levels, while memory was demonstrated to actually improve.
The big question is: what is the secret of the “supertaskers”? Watson and co-author David Strayer of the University of Utah have studied fighter pilots in order to examine potential relationships between different regions of the brain and increased success in multitasking. Their paper – to be published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review later this year – is purported to discuss a possible genetic basis for the superhuman ability to safely multitask.
Interest in STEM and the Internet
So, why did we run March Science Madness? One of our staff members was inspired by the paper Exploring New Web-Based Tools to Identify Public Interest in Science and wanted to show off the graphs for each STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field. Instead of boring the readers to death, we played a game with the charts. But, now, its time to put on the lab coats and do science.
First, lets go over what these graph aren’t. They do not mean that interest in STEM is going down necessarily. These graphs are the ratio of the entered term vs. all Google searches.
These does suggest, however, that the media will be less likely to report on science and technology. On both traditional and internet-based media, “the percentage of Americans who say they follow science and technology news closely has declined over the past 10 years, more than in other topics covered by the news media”. Based on this, this blog feels these two factors make it less and less likely for media to report on science. They have to sell ads and STEM terms don’t draw as many people.
However, it seems that huge science events still draw people. The paper noted increases in searches when noble prizes where awarded, when controversy was involved or when when a large experiment went online (like the LHC or Hubble). Thus, Google trends could be used to highlight experiments that are known the get the public excited.
This the last post in the epic struggle of the STEM fields. To review what has happened, check out round 1 and round 2
1: BIOLOGY VS. STATISTICS
There is a guaranteed chance of own, statistics wins!
2: COMPUTER SCIENCE VS. CHEMISTRY
Chemistry is the precipitate for that reaction!
3: NEUROSCIENCE VS. PHYSICS
Physics had critical mass and destroys neuro!
4: SOCIOLOGY VS. BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING
Sociology was the stronger of that dyad
1: CHEMISTRY VS. STATISTICS
Statistics’ distribution was skewed towards victory!
2: PHYSICS VS. SOCIOLOGY
You would think they found the Higgs particle with that stunning performance. Physics wins!
FINAL: PHYSICS VS. STATISTICS FIGHT!
Statistics wins! Statistics wins! Statistics wins!
Come back tomorrow to see the point of this gimmicky blog series. It was only written as a fun way to show these graphs, but these graphs contain a horrible fact that we will explore tomorrow.
When the London Millennium Bridge opened on June 10, 2000, the small sway of the bridge caused the pedestrians to synchronize their steps in hope of off-setting the swaying. Instead of achieving such intension, the synchronized steps of the people caused such heavy oscillations that the bridge had to close down until dampers were put in 2 years later. After the incident, Steve Strogatz, a mechanics professor at Cornell University, attributed the wobbling to the synchronization of the people. Strogatz believed that because the bridge was designed to be flexible, any unintended synchronization of a small group of people could have triggered the wobbling. Then the oscillations were intensified when people started syncing their steps intensionally to accommodate the swaying, setting off a cataclysmic accident.
Bernard Feldman, a writer for Physics Today, however, believes Strogatz is wrong. Feldman argues that the frequency of the lateral oscillation of bridges tend to be around 0.5 Hz whereas the average frequency of walking is 1.0 Hz. Therefore it is unlikely that synchronized footsteps could not have intensified the wobbling of the London Millennium Bridge. Although Feldman cannot provide an explanation for the wobble, he hopes that future research will debunk the misconception concerning the swaying of the bridge.
March science madness (round 2)
If you have no idea what’s going on, check out the last post.
Welcome to round two of the madness. There has been some tears, but not really sweat and blood, thus we are far from done with the STEM popularity contest.
But, first, we need a special match to eliminate one player to have an even amount of competitors. Random.org will find two random numbers between 1 and 17, the winners of those two matches will go head to head.
Random.org reported 2 and 6, so biology and mathematics will dual to stay in the game.
SPECIAL ROUND: MATHEMATICS VS. BIOLOGY
Biology is the winner!
ROUND TWO! FIGHT!
1: ASTRONOMY VS. BIOLOGY
Biology is on a 3 game winning streak!
2: EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY VS. STATISTICS
The statistics team predicted the had a 100% chance of winning this game, they were right.
3: ASTROPHYSICS VS. COMPUTER SCIENCE
Computer science turns out to be to l33t for the competition!
4: CHEMISTRY VS. ANTHROPOLOGY
I think we have a chemical fire out there!
5: Mechanical Engineering vs. Neuroscience
Neuroscience destroys mechanical engineering.
6: BIOCHEMISTRY VS. PHYSICS
Physics brought mass and acceleration to that game!
7: SOCIOLOGY VS. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Sociology won! I don’t have a clever pun!
8: BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING VS. BIOPHYSICS
The math behind the madness
The weeks of speculation are over. The brackets have been filled, and all we can do now is watch. March Madness is officially under way. For the next few weeks, millions of basketball fans will be glued to their televisions, watching the best 64 college basketball teams in the nation play in a single-elimination tournament until only one is left standing. For the fans, this equates to 48 games from now until Sunday. And then twelve more games next weekend. And then three more the weekend after. With so many games played in such a short period of time and with the high value that is placed on statistics in sports, one would imagine that such a tournament would be of great interest to mathematicians and computer scientists. They could use their expertise to better predict the winner.
Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has done just that. Sort of. Professor Jacobson studied the value of a team’s seeding in relation to how far they make it in the “Big Dance.” In the NCAA tournament, the 64 teams are broken into four groups of sixteen, so that each team is ranked between one and sixteen. The highest seed (one) is the best team and the lowest seed (sixteen) is the worst. From there, the one-seed plays the sixteen-seed; the two-seed plays the fifteen-seed; etc. Jacobson’s statistical analysis determined that generally speaking the higher seed will win. The team’s seed was a dominant indicator of which team would win. However, this trend abruptly stops once the tournament is down to four teams per group, or sixteen total teams left – the so-called “Sweet 16.” From this point on, it is just as likely for the lower-seed team to win as it is for the higher-seed team. So Professor Jacobson can tell you who are statistically most likely to be the final sixteen teams, but the final sixteen serves as a curious limit as to what the probabilities can determine. From this point on, a team’s seed no longer works as a probabilistic indicator of its success. It has no relation whatsoever to the outcome of the game. So go double-check your bracket and enjoy the probabilistic madness.
march science madness (Round 1)
We have gone mad here at CSR. The whole staff is filling out brackets for this year’s festivities. We have chips and dip plus we are hogging the student lounge. What do we think about Ohio this year?… ummm…we are not talking about basketball…
we are talking about science.
Yes, you see, CSR is a mix of many different STEM majors and everyone thinks they are the most popular…major. (Of course, everyone knows engineers are the best). So, we are going to settle this once on for all. Every STEM major will battle in an epic struggle on Google Trends.
Google Trends gives the number of searches over the years on each term. The numbers next to each term on each graph gives the search ratios. The winner will be the one with the highest search ratio. The 34 majors are…
The first round matches are
1: ASTRONOMY VS. INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING
2: BIOLOGY VS. APPLIED MATHEMATICS
3: ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY VS. EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY
In a close match, evolutionary biology pulls ahead at the last minute.
4: ENVIRONMENTAL BIOLOGY VS. STATISTICS
Statistics wipes the floor in the first round.
5: MATERIALS SCIENCE VS. ASTROPHYSICS
That was an exciting game, but astrophysics is able to grab a victory!
6: ARCHAEOLOGY VS. MATHEMATICS
Focus on the fundamentals brings math glory.
7: ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING VS. COMPUTER SCIENCE
Software beats hardware in this epic struggle.
8: MINING ENGINEERING VS. CHEMISTRY
We might have to make a new word to explain how amazing chemistry did in this match.
9: CHEMICAL PHYSICS VS. ANTHROPOLOGY
Anthropology had no resistance there.
10: CIVIL ENGINEERING VS. NEUROSCIENCE
Civil engineering puts up a great fight, but it seems neuroscience was just using them for target practice. Neuro wins!
11: MECHANICAL ENGINEERING VS. ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING
Mechanical engineering teaches environmental a thing or two.
12: BIOCHEMISTRY VS. CHEMICAL ENGINEERING
The combined nature of biochem proves too much for chemical engineering to take.
13: ECONOMICS VS. PHYSICS
In a stunning upset, physics beats economics.
14: EARTH SCIENCE VS. SOCIOLOGY
Sociology runs over earth science.
15: APPLIED PHYSICS VS. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
It seems that applied physics didn’t apply itself enough. Environmental science gets to party tonight.
16: BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING VS. COMPUTER ENGINEERING
Biomedical engineering wins by a hair!
17: BIOPHYSICS VS. FINANCIAL ENGINEERING
Biophysics seemed to be lagging in that game, but they are able to get a victory.
Come back tomorrow to see round 2. You don’t want to miss it, 3 people already are in tears because they have declared losing majors. You don’t want to miss this.
Hello and welcome to guess the department, where we give you small sections of text and you have to Guess the Department! Today we are looking at the active research page of the featured department.
Text Sample #1
“Active areas of research…include theoretical and experimental analysis of articular cartilage mechanics; theoretical and experimental analysis of cartilage lubrication, cartilage tissue engineering and bioreactor design…”
Text Sample #2
“The Hone group is involved in a number of projects that employ the tools of micro- and nano-fabrication toward the study of biological systems.”
Text Sample #3
“Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are being exploited to enable and facilitate the characterization and manipulation of biomolecules.”
Text Sample #4
“The Advanced Robotics & Mechanism application lab A.R.M.A. …is focused on surgical intervention using novel robotic architectures. “
Text Sample #5
“Mass radiological triage is critical after a large-scale radiological event because of the need to identify those individuals who will benefit from medical intervention as soon as possible.”
No, this is not the Biology Department, its the Mechanical Engineering Department. It turns out that the same calculations that ensure the supporting connecting rod in a car’s engine will support the forces of internal combustion are useful in studying the human leg. Hydraulics and Mechatronics can be applied to make better prosthetics. Fluid mechanics can be used to understand the flow of blood. Failure analysis can be applied to find out why tendons are torn and how to prevent those types of injuries in the future.
Thus, don’t be surprised when your mechanical engineering professor is not working with an engine but a petri dish.
today in science
Due to popular request, Spread Science will be blogging regularly on the topic “Today in Science.”
Today in Science:
-In 1854, Paul Erlich was born. He became a pioneer in hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy, eventually receiving the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1908. Erlich is also noted for his discovery of a treatment for syphilis.
-In 1879, Albert Einstein was born. His work in theories of relativity is especially noted for progressing scientific knowledge beyond that of Newtonian physics, although he won the Nobel Prize for Physics for discussion of the photoelectric effect in 1921.
-In 1899, the zeppelin was patented in the U.S. by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. The patented design was of a cylindrical airship with a structure of aluminum struts, wire braces, two separate engines, and hydrogen balloons. Count von Zeppelin had previously patented this design in Germany (1895).
-In 1927, Elsie Eaves became the first American female elected as an associate member to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
-In 1994, Columbia astronauts used a magnetic grappling system containing a 50-foot robotic arm outside of Earth for the first time.