Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Follow-up to "Driving While on Your Cell Phone Saves Lives!", Part 2

"Common sense says that talking on a cellphone while driving is not a particularly safe thing to do. But recent studies have found banning cellphone use while behind the wheel is not leading to a decrease in accidents."

Common sense tells you that if A doesn't cause B, then banning A won't affect B. As we know, cell phones don't, speaking broadly, cause car accidents (link to previous post on this topic).

"The most recent study, published this summer in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, analyzed California's cellphone ban for drivers in 2008. Researchers found the number of accidents only dropped from 66.7 per day to 65.2 per day statewide, a statistically minor decline. The results were mirrored in many of the state's major cities, including San Francisco, though Los Angeles did experience a slight decrease in accidents. Researchers looked at the six-month periods before and after the ban went into place on July 1, 2008.

"We went in there expecting to see something," Daniel Kaffine, one of the study's authors, told Autoblog. "[But] it was pretty clear to us that there was no compelling evidence of a decrease in accidents."

Hardly surprising.

"Though offsetting for safety advocates, Kaffine's research is in line with other findings. The Highway Loss Data Institute, the research arm of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studied insurance claims rates in 2009 and 2010 studies, and found no link that bans helped decrease crashes.

They're not "safety advocates"...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Daniel Lieberman: Humans Evolved Big, Costly Brains

How and why the human brain evolved is the key question in human evolution, and a fascinating topic for folks interested in the topics this blog covers.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is Science Broken? Part 10: Observational Studies About Nutrition

I should just farm this series out to Derek Lowe, who is after all a practicing scientist.

But here we go, from his blog:

"If you go back and look at the instances where observational effects in nutritional studies have been tested by randomized, controlled trials, the track record is not good. In fact, it's so horrendous that the authors state baldly that 'There is now enough evidence to say what many have long thought: that any claim coming from an observational study is most likely to be wrong.'"

Science has spoken: we can now stop paying attention to these nonsensical studies.

But do read the whole thing, as there is also a recommendation on how to fix it. I think it's unlikely to ever be fixed, however, as the real "product" of this process is employment for academics, not actionable science.

If they employed real process control and measurement, someone might figure out that the whole thing is a waste of time and money. And then those academics would be out of work.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Criminal Behavior and Evolution

Glenn Reynolds posts the following:

"EVOLUTION IN ACTION, “Convicted criminal offenders had more children than individuals never convicted of a criminal offense. Criminal offenders also had more reproductive partners, were less often married, more likely to get remarried if ever married, and had more often contracted a sexually transmitted disease than non-offenders. Importantly, the increased reproductive success of criminals was explained by a fertility increase from having children with several different partners. We conclude that criminality appears to be adaptive in a contemporary industrialized country, and that this association can be explained by antisocial behavior being part of an adaptive alternative reproductive strategy.”"

This is hardly new, however. As Napoleon Changnon notes in his book Noble Savages, about a primitive Amazonian tribe:

"The more interesting finding has to do with the comparative reproductive success of unokais and non-unokais. It should be intuitively clear that if unokais are more successful at acquiring wives, they are likely to have more children as well....

...Unokais have three times as many offspring as non-unokais."

Unokais are "killers of men". Chagnon observes:

My article also raised the possibility that human violence had something to do with the evolved nature of Homo sapiens."

Indeed.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Science Reveals Why Calorie Counts Are All Wrong"

"Digestion is far too messy a process to accurately convey in neat numbers. The counts on food labels can differ wildly from the calories you actually extract, for many reasons."
The errors on the input and output measurements mean that, in practice, attempting to balance your weight by using the Calories-In/Calories-Out formula is impossible.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Why Aren't Shoes Preventing Running Injuries?"

Good question.
"Barefoot running shoes and shoes with extra cushioning seek to protect runners—but despite all the new technology, running injuries are no less common than they were 30 years ago."
Most runners are still running in the same sort of shoes that they've been wearing for the last 30 years. It shouldn't be surprising that we're seeing the same outcome, if we assume that running shoes can affect injury rates.
"In the past 30 years running has changed from something done by trained runners who competed for sport, to an activity that is enjoyed by the masses."
This is silly. I'm pretty sure that "the masses" have been running for a long, long time. As this account makes clear, foot racing has long been a regular part of recreation:
"The Clary Grove boys, the Island Grove boys, the Sangamon River boys and the Sand Ridge boys, each designated by the part of the country from which they came, would gather there to indulge in horse racing, foot racing, wrestling, jumping, ball playing and shooting at a mark."
So it's a typically weak article on the topic, but he at least gets points for quoting Jay Dicharry and Dan Lieberman, and mentioning Born to Run.
"Confronted with the baffling array of running shoes, the prevailing wisdom seems to be to pick a shoe that fits your running style, not to hope a shoe will change you."
Of course the high-heeled cushioned sneakers that most all wear today were created to do exactly that:
"...Over the next 40 years, we have seen the height as well as the cushion gradually increase. These developments inadvertently made runners adopt a “heel to toe” gait or “heel strike” when running. Bowerman and W.E. Harris authored a primer entitled Jogging: A [Medically Approved] Physical Fitness Program for All Ages in 1967. In this very popular book, they noted the most efficient way to run should be landing or striking on the heel first. The authors specifically stated that forefoot striking is incorrect and not the proper way to land.

"Bowerman and Harris had no scientific basis for this explanation. Several years later, they went on to create a running shoe that contained a cushioned heel...."

That shoe was Nike.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Killian Jornet Autobiography Published.

First we had Born to Run, then Eat & Run, now we have Run or Die. Killian is not only a famed runner, but a famed skier. This review is a by another famed skier, but the book is all about running. Sounds interesting.