Posts tagged “epidemic”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Autom, a weight-loss robot coach – Autom's human qualities, if primitive, were an important factor in keeping 15 dieters motivated during a trial in the Boston area. Another 15 slimmers were given a computer with a touch screen running identical software to Autom's and 15 had a paper log. Each had to stick to a certain eating and exercise regime. The average time someone used the robot — almost 51 days — was nearly twice as long as with paper — almost 27 days — and 40 percent longer than with the computer. "Even if you have an animated character that looks exactly like Autom on the computer screen, you cannot have the same interaction as you can with an actual robot," Kidd says. Kidd says the fact that people were able to humanise Autom made the information it gave them seem more credible. Maya, Casper and Robbie were among the names users gave their robots. Some even dressed them in hats and scarves.
  • We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat [CBC News] – Companies working off Nova Scotia's coasts have been told to supersize their lifeboats to accommodate bigger workers. The current standard for lifeboats is based on a person weighing 165 pounds in a survival suit. The proposed standard is 220 pounds. "The reality is such that the workforce is considerably larger nowadays," said Dave Scratch, the regulator's chief safety officer. A lifeboat may be rated for 50 people, but that doesn't mean they all fit. "We've had a number of [exercises and drills] where they actually wouldn't. We found that most lifeboats had to be downsized just because people were larger and wouldn't fit in the allocated locations," said Scratch. The board is following the lead of the U.K., which adjusted safety regulations after a study found offshore workers are heavier now than 20 years ago.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Steven Johnson in TIME on Twitter and innovation – The speed with which users have extended Twitter's platform points to a larger truth about modern innovation. When we talk about innovation and global competitiveness, we tend to fall back on the easy metric of patents and Ph.D.s. It turns out the U.S. share of both has been in steady decline since peaking in the early '70s. (In 1970, more than 50% of the world's graduate degrees in science and engineering were issued by U.S. universities.)…

    But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. ..if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.

    How could the forecasts have been so wrong? The answer is that we've been tracking only part of the innovation story.

  • New Yorker on the significant power of storytelling in the unfolding of the Parrot Flu outbreak in 1929-1930 – Press plays role in raising awareness, hype ensues (kill all parrots!), backlash ensues (Americans are hypochondriacs and there's no such thing as Parrot Flu), small but significant number of sicknesses and deaths (pre-antibiotics) occur, scientists triumph, National Institute of Health is founded. Curious to read this right after watching 1950s plague thriller "Panic in the Streets."


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