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 14, 2013 10:45 am
One in three students in the UK wears lucky underwear, according to a new survey by Bic pens. And while you might laugh their habits off, there’s a reason that those rituals might actually work.
At Scientific American, researchers Francesca Gino and Michael Norton explain some of their research on rituals and behavior:
Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. While anthropologists have documented rituals across cultures, this earlier research has been primarily observational. Recently, a series of investigations by psychologists have revealed intriguing new results demonstrating that rituals can have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
And there are studies to support this. If you give someone a “lucky golf ball,” they golf better. If you tell someone you’ll “cross your fingers for them,” they’ll do the task better. If you help a tennis player mentally train, they’ll play better. People who use rituals to stop smoking or ward off bad luck truly believe they work. And just believing might be enough to at least take the pressure off and make people relax and succeed just a bit more.
There’s even an argument that rituals are what bond us together, what make us human and what keep culture and society intact. Nature reports:
Rituals are a human universal — “the glue that holds social groups together”, explains Harvey Whitehouse, who leads the team of anthropologists, psychologists, historians, economists and archaeologists from 12 universities in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Rituals can vary enormously, from the recitation of prayers in church, to the sometimes violent and humiliating initiations of US college fraternity pledges, to the bleeding of a young man’s penis with bamboo razors and pig incisors in purity rituals among the Ilahita Arapesh of New Guinea. But beneath that diversity, Whitehouse believes, rituals are always about building community — which arguably makes them central to understanding how civilization itself began.
Whitehouse is trying to catalogue the world’s rituals. Here he is talking on the Nature Podcast about the project:
Scientists are still trying to understand which rituals we cling to, why, and what they might be doing to us. But for now, be proud of your lucky underwear.
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May 9, 2013 12:30 pm
Every year, Sports Illustrated comes out with its famous swimsuit edition. But without the bikini, women aren’t as welcome on the magazine’s cover. A recent analysis of 11 years of SI covers shows that—if you take out the swimsuit issue—women appear just 4.9 percent of the time.
Even when they do appear on the cover, they’re rarely the focus. “Of the 35 covers including a female, only 18 (or 2.5 percent of all covers) featured a female as the primary or sole image,” the study explains. “Three covers included females, but only as insets (small boxed image), or as part of a collage background of both male and female athletes.”
In fact, women showed up on more covers of SI between 1954 and 1965 than they did between 2000 and 2011. A lot more. Those early years of the magazine had women on the cover 12.6 percent of the time.
Pacific Standard points out that just putting women on more covers doesn’t solve the problem either (as the SI swimsuit edition clearly shows):
Then again, if women athletes were on SI’s cover more often, they might have to sacrifice their dignity for the publicity. A recent survey of Rolling Stone covers found 83 percent of female musicians were portrayed in a sexualized fashion (often wearing minimal clothing), compared to just 17 percent of men.
This, of course, happens on Sports Illustrated‘s covers too. A few years ago, the Atlantic wrote a piece on how women can get on the cover of Sports Illustrated more often, including tips like “get famous before 1962″ and “be a cheerleader” and “put on a bathing suit.” Take the Anna Kournikova cover from June 5th, 2000. The authors of the new study describe how the tennis star is “lounging on a pillow in her street clothes, peering seductively into the camera, and clearly not prepared for any sanctioned sports activity. Even the author of the interior story suggested she was not on the cover for her athleticism: ‘She won’t win the French Open, but who cares? Anna Kournikova is living proof that even in this age of supposed enlightenment, a hot body can count just as much as a good backhand.’”
Women do, in fact, play sports: there’s no dearth of female athletes to feature on a sports magazine cover. But if any of those talented women hope to make the cover of SI, their best bet might be to go swimming.
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May 3, 2013 3:29 pm
This weekend, fans will gather for the 138th annual Kentucky Derby, North America’s favorite horse racing event. Fans will place bets for the likes of Black Onyx, Oxbow and Frac Daddy and cheer on the horses and their jockeys as they gallop around the track. But watching the races and enjoying the spring weather aren’t the Derby’s only draws. Traditional also calls for bountiful cups of icy mint juleps sipped alongside a hearty bowl of burgoo, a Kentucky favorite often served at the event.
In the mid-19th century, Kentucky’s Henry Clay was no stranger to the delights of the mint julep. The University of Kentucky provides a favorite recipe, straight out of Clay’s diary—the words of a true disciple of the drink:
The mint leaves, fresh and tender, should be pressed against a coin-silver goblet with the back of a silver spoon. Only bruise the leaves gently and then remove them from the goblet. Half fill with cracked ice. Mellow bourbon, aged in oaken barrels, is poured from the jigger and allowed to slide slowly through the cracked ice.
In another receptacle, granulated sugar is slowly mixed into chilled limestone water to make a silvery mixture as smooth as some rare Egyptian oil, then poured on top of the ice. While beads of moisture gather on the burnished exterior of the silver goblet, garnish the brim of the goblet with the choicest sprigs of mint.
As for burgoo, it’s a spicy stew made of beef, chicken, pork and veggies. Back in Clay’s days, however, burgoo could include a bit of whatever animal happened to be around, including venison, raccoon, squirrel, opossum or wild birds. That’s probably how it earned the appetizing nickname of “roadkill soup.”
While wild animals are probably lacking in most pots of burgoo today, each restaurant’s offerings do provide a unique culinary experience since no two places use the exact same blend of spices and ingredients. If you’d like to try and concoct your very own spin on burgoo, Epicurious has a recipe for Kentucky bourbon burgoo, or take your pick from the many other versions on offer.
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May 2, 2013 12:03 pm
It’s hard to say exactly how many climbers have attempted to summit Mount Everest. As of 2011, 3,100 had logged climbs to the top of the 29,028-foot mountain. But it’s not a game from everybody. On top of dealing with the physical challenges, climbers have to be loaded. The average trip to the top costs at least $30,000.
The biggest ticket item on the bill is the permit. The Nepalese government charges $70,000 for a party of seven, and $25,000 for anyone who’s going it alone. After that, you pay camp fees to use the camps, and you pay a local government official to stay in that camp and make sure you’re actually supposed to be there.
The gear is the next big purchase. Oxygen bottles cost $500 a pop. Most climbers bring six. There’s all the normal climbing equipment, like shoes and hiking poles and tents. But in this case, climbers need a yak to get that stuff to Base Camp, which costs another $150 a day. That’s all without paying a guide and sherpa to help you along.
Interestingly, while climbing equipment (and, as a result, the safety of the climb) has changed, the cost hasn’t really. Outside Magazine writes:
The median cost hasn’t changed much over the years, despite more technology and rescue options, additional guide services, and increased government regulation. Many operations that were charging $65,000 in the ‘90s are still selling trips at that same rate in 2013. Cheaper expeditions have increased their prices due to legislation from the Nepalese government that mandated how much Sherpas and porters have to be paid, and there are more “budget” Sherpa-guided operations available, but, for the most part, Everest might be one of the few places in the world that has escaped inflation.
The ticket price of Everest is a big deal for the local community, too. Nepal makes about $3 million each year off the permits alone. And the influx of visitors helps to support guides, local food, companies, hotels and restaurants in the region. Oh, and if you want WiFi, that could cost another $4,000. But at a certain point, that’s just one more line item—and at least you’ll be able to live-tweet your trip.
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