May 23, 2013 5:01 pm
If you want to get your kid ahead in school, you might get him some tutoring lessons or flash cards. Or, if you’re tech savvy, you might think that having a computer in the home would help. But it turns out that kids with computers at home don’t do any better or worse than their peers without, according to a new paper out of the University of Southern California.
The study looked at 15 schools in California that had, in total, 1,123 students enrolled in grades 6 through 10. None of these students had computer at home at the beginning of the study. At the beginning of the school year, half of them were given computers for their homes. At the end of the school year, the researchers looked at all sorts of parameters, from the school administered tests to how often the students were absent or late, to see if those who won the computer lottery had done any better. None of it had changed. “Although computer ownership and use increased substantially,” they wrote, “we find no effects on any educational outcomes, including grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance and disciplinary actions.”
This result might surprise people in both directions. Some studies have suggested that computers at home distract kids by giving them access to games and Facebook. Other, earlier studies found that having a computer at home is associated with higher test scores, by giving them access to educational materials they might not otherwise have. But for the students in California, it simply didn’t seem to matter at all. That’s probably because students do both the educational and the distracting things with their computers. “The kids with the free computers used them for homework — and for videogames and Facebook,” researcher Robert Farlie explained to the Wall Street Journal.
Of course, computer can certainly be useful to students, Farlie says. “It’s not to say that computers are not useful,” he said. “It’s always hard when you’re trying to measure these impacts on grades and test scores. It’s hard to change grades and test scores but it still could be useful for kids. It’s not clear that this had a measurably large impact.”
But what they can say is that simply giving kids computers won’t suddenly make them do better in school.
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May 23, 2013 4:07 pm
As the weather gets warmer, and more and more people hop on their bikes, the complaints about helmets are about to start up. Why wear a helmet, really? If a car hits you, you’re toast, right? But a new study serves as a reminder to bikers everywhere: wearing a helmet really does work.
Over 12 years, researchers looked at bicycle-car collisions to see how effective mandatory helmet laws really were. Helmets accounted for an 88 percent lower risk of brain injury, and helmet laws led to a 20 percent decrease in injury and death in kids under 16 involved in car-bicycle collisions.
The researchers on the study say that parents, regardless of whether a law is in effect in their state, should force their kids to wear helmets. “For parents who feel like there is conflicting information related to child health, this evidence supports the fact that helmets save lives and that helmet laws play a role,” lead researcher William P. Meehan said. This, of course, isn’t the first study to suggest that bike helmets really do work. One review of 63 studies found that “the evidence is clear that bicycle helmets prevent serious injury and even death.” But that study also note that “despite this, the use of helmets is sub-optimal.”
Some of that gap can be attributed to laws. Only 22 states requires kids to wear helmets while riding their bicycles. But even in those states, many parents don’t heed those rules. An earlier study looked at how effective Canadian laws were at getting people to actually wear helmets, and found that helmet laws themselves don’t decrease the rates of head injuries, even though helmets themselves clearly do.
Every year, about 900 people die from being hit by cars while on their bicycle. Helmets certainly wouldn’t save all of them, but this research suggests that it could certainly help.
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May 23, 2013 2:11 pm
June 1938 saw the first appearance of Superman, the tights-wearing superhero invented by artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel in the first edition of an anthology—Action Comics #1. That comic, published by a company that went on to become DC Comics, is “the most important comic book in the history of comic books,” says Comic Connect, a website for comic book collectors.
Though the comic was a huge hit right from the get go, it’s clear that not everyone saw it that way. In Minnesota, says UPI, a man recently found a copy of the comic stuffed in the walls of his house. It was being used as insulation.
Superman’s appearance in Action Comics #1, says Comic Connect, “is the introduction of the archetype of all other heroes to come.”
The creation of two struggling sci-fi fans from the Rust Belt, the Man of Steel became an instant icon to depression-era readers, and easily transformed into an icon of American spirit and spunk during the brutal days of WWII. Since then, he has lasted as both a beloved character and a symbol of modern hope and vigor, making this first appearance not just a piece of comics’ history, but of American history as well.
David Gonzalez, the man who discovered the comic buried in his wall, has put the comic up for auction. So far, with 20 days left to go, bids have reached $127,000. Two years ago a copy of the same comic—though in far better condition—netted $2,161,000.
Gonzalez, who works as a remodeler, bought the house for $10,100 with plans to fix it up. Bidding on the Superman artifact hasn’t even ended yet, and yet the lining in the wall has already proved to be ten times more valuable than the house itself.
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May 23, 2013 1:36 pm
There are a lot of reasons to think twice before getting something permanently drawn on your body. One is that people still treat those with tattoos differently than those without. One recent study, for instance, looked at how men treat women with tattoos. What they found was that men are more likely to approach a woman with a tattoo and more likely to expect a date or sex with that woman.
Here’s how the study worked. Researchers had women place temporary tattoos on their lower backs and sent them to a well-known beach. The women were instructed to lay on the beach reading a book, staying on their stomachs so that the tattoo was visible. There were two parts to this study. In the first one, once the woman was in place, researchers watched and counted how many men approached her. In the second, once the woman assumed her position, a male researcher walked around the beach and asked random men whether they would be willing to “respond to three questions about a girl somewhere on the beach.” Every single man they approached said yes.
Here’s how the researchers summarized their results:
Two experiments were conducted. The first experiment showed that more men (N = 220) approached the tattooed confederates and that the mean latency of their approach was quicker. A second experiment showed that men (N = 440) estimated to have more chances to have a date and to have sex on the first date with tattooed confederates.
Interestingly, the study did refute an earlier finding about women with tattoos. In 2007, researchers from the University of Liverpool showed that men rated women with tattoos as physically less attractive, but sexually more promiscuous than those without. In this study, researchers found that physical attractiveness—as rated by the men on the beach who agreed to answer questions about the woman—wasn’t impacted by the tattoo. Another study in 2005 also found that tattoos don’t change attractiveness, but do negatively impact a person’s credibility, regardless of their gender.
So tattoos might not be bad for picking up dudes at the beach, but they might impact what those dudes think of you in the long run.
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May 23, 2013 12:26 pm
Next month, China will begin its first carbon-trading pilot program in Shenzhen, a major Chinese city just north of Hong Kong, the Guardian reports. The program will begin modestly, targeting only certain Shenzhen companies, but will soon expand to other sectors and cities. Environmentalists hope these initial trials will help the country determine how to best go about setting caps on emissions, the Guardian writes.
China ranks as the world’s number one carbon dioxide emitter, thanks in part to the massive amounts of coal the country burns. China currently builds a new coal-fired power plant at a rate of about one every week to ten days. The country’s coal burning levels are nearly on par with the rest of the world combined.
Politicians around the world have focused on carbon trading as the market-based strategy of choice for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. HowStuffWorks explains the basic concept:
Cap-and-trade schemes are the most popular way to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) and other emissions. The scheme’s governing body begins by setting a cap on allowable emissions. It then distributes or auctions off emissions allowances that total the cap. Member firms that do not have enough allowances to cover their emissions must either make reductions or buy another firm’s spare credits. Members with extra allowances can sell them or bank them for future use. Cap-and-trade schemes can be either mandatory or voluntary.
But in the European Union, this system has not worked so well. The Royal Society of Chemistry explains the problem:
In theory, the cost of buying the allowances, either directly from other companies or on the open market, is supposed to provide financial incentives for companies to invest in carbon reducing technology or shift to less carbon intensive energy sources. But after reaching a peak of nearly €30 (£25) per tonne in the summer of 2008, prices have steadily fallen. By January they had crashed to under €5, providing little, if any, financial incentive for companies to reduce emissions.
This initial effort in China will extent to just 638 companies, the Guardian reports, though those businesses are responsible for 68 percent of Shenzhen’s total greenhouse gas emissions. While any efforts China undertakes to reduce its emissions will help ward off global climate change and reduce greenhouse gas build up in the planet’s atmosphere, China’s leaders say the decision primarily stems from it’s escalating in-country problems with air pollution, the Guardian reports.
If things go well, the scheme will further incorporate transportation, manufacturing and construction companies as well. China plans to enroll seven cities in the experiment by 2014. By 2020, China hopes to have implemented a nation-wide carbon control program—just in time for the country’s estimated emissions peak in 2025.
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