How is Science Sculpting the Modern Athlete?

by Jackie Edwards

Sport is big business these days, with the market worth $60.5 million in North America and predicted to rise to $73.5 billion in 2019. Sports is not only a moneymaker for event promoters and the media; it is also increasingly being seen as a top career choice for those with the talent, drive, and commitment required to succeed. New developments in sport have shown that success is not all about the individual athlete. In popular sports like tennis, football, or golf, science & technology are playing an important role in helping competitors perform at their full potential. In this post, we look at just a few ways that science is changing the way we play and compete.

Swing Training Technology for Golf

You would need to be a master physicist to work out the exact angle at which to position your club when playing golf, but science and technology are making it a whole lot easier with swing training technology, which brings real-time body positioning analysis to everyday golfers with the help of a handy app. The app ‘tells’ golfers exactly how to position their body and gives them top information on how to do better next time. Of course, the app won’t fix deeper problems such as weak muscles in the shoulder and back. Top level athletes will also need to regularly carry out specific training programs for golf, which include strength training for key muscle groups. In essence, performing the right swing depends on issues like back strength, so you may need to address this first to perfect your game.

Head and Neck Support for Motor Sports

Dale Earnhardt’s death on the track at the Daytona 500 race revealed the extent to which the head and neck area are vulnerable in motor sports. HANS devices have been created by scientists to stop the head from whipping forwards and backwards in the event of an accident, and to lend more support to the neck. The device is U-shaped and is positioned behind the neck, with two ‘arms’ that extend over the pectorals. Over 140,000 devices have already been sold worldwide.

Wearable Computers and Hawk-Eye Camera Systems

Wearable computers are allowing both players and managers to assess a player’s level of fatigue, hydration levels, etc. This type of information is vital to avoid heart attacks and other major health events from taking place on the field. Smart fabrics will enable athletes to glean even more information, including heart function data and movement of the body’s center of mass. Scientists have stated that the future could take us beyond wearables. The Hawk-Eye camera system is currently used to obtain information on running biomechanics and other metrics during games of elite players. The NBA, meanwhile, relies on Second Spectrum’s computer vision technology to obtain information about player positioning and other 3D data such as ball and referee positioning.

We have presented just a few ways in which science and technology are enabling athletes to perform more optimally, but also to stay safe. Wearable devices and fabrics, aerial camera systems, and new safety gear are making sport a much more scientifically accurate and appealing pursuit. Information is power, and nowhere is this truer than on the field or track.

The Psychology Behind Scamming

by Jackie Edwards

From winning the lottery and PPI refunds to identity theft and online marriage proposals, we’re all potential targets for fraudsters. Globally, scammers conned unsuspecting victims out of $12.7 billion in 2013 — and that was just with 419 advance fee fraud scams. Scam victims typically lose out financially — often without reimbursement — and suffer significant emotional trauma, making them less likely to come forward due to embarrassment. While scams have become more complex and harder to detect in the modern age, the foundational influence techniques scammers use on their victims remain the same. Become aware of how scams exploit emotions and human nature, and you’re less likely to fall for these psychological techniques.

Exploitation of social norms

From birth, we’re conditioned to have unwavering respect for authority figures. Scammers take advantage of this social norm and therefore often pose as bank employees, government officials, or qualified professionals who appear trustworthy. In a similar vein, scammers try to exploit man’s inherent good nature. You may find it hard to say “no” to a charity asking for donations. Or you may be compelled to send money to help pay for emergency medical or travel expenses — which often plays out in online dating scams.

Scarcity-based incentives

Most of us have fallen prey to tempting “limited-time only” sales when shopping. Retailers and scammers alike rely on scarcity-based incentives: offers that expire soon, offers that are one-time only, or deals that will fall through if you don’t act RIGHT NOW! They conjure a sense of urgency in order to get you to take immediate action. The fear of missing out is primal and you’re more likely to forgo rationality and self-control in the face of it. Scammers want you acting now instead of taking time to asses the situation and likely realizing things don’t add up.

Eliciting of emotion

People who lack control over their emotions are more likely to be persuaded by scammers, a report by the UK Office of Fair Trading reveals. Sometimes these will be positive emotions like the excitement of winning money or online relationships. Alternatively, negative feelings like fear and panic are often elicited via supposed fraudulent bank activity. It’s natural to want to alleviate strong, unpleasant emotions as soon as possible. People will therefore act out of fear and desperation — rather than reason — and respond to the scam in order to feel better in the short run.

So, how do you know who to trust? Never give out personal information or money to anybody — especially on first contact. Delete emails from people you don’t know. Do your own research to verify something — but don’t call numbers or click links you’ve been given. Give yourself time to carefully think about the situation. Does it elicit strong emotions urging you to act? If in doubt, always go with your gut. Finally, if you find yourself the target of a scam, report it and let others know, so they can avoid falling prey to the same or similar scam in the future.

Evolution of Ergonomics: From Early Man to Modern Human

by Jackie Edwards

The word ergonomics was first used in 1857 in a philosophical narrative by Polish scientist Prof. Wojciech Jastrzebowski. The term derives its name from two Greek words – Ergon, which means ‘work’ and Nomos, which translates to ‘natural law,’ literally translating into ‘how to work according to nature.’ So, ergonomics is a scientific discipline involved in the design and creation of safe and comfortable workspaces so as to best utilize a person’s abilities and boost productivity.

For example, viewing cute pictures to increase workplace productivity is also an important discovery in the field of ergonomics which increases work efficiency by enhancing the mood of workers. In layman language, ergonomics refers to designing products, environments, and systems where people are involved so as to minimize risks of harms or injuries and also, related mental or emotional stress. Interestingly, this principle has been in existence for a long time even though the term itself may have just been coined in recent history.

Where it all began

Ergonomics has been in the very cradle of human evolution, ever since early man began making tools from bones and pebbles to make tasks easier. Archaeological findings have revealed sophisticated ergonomic devices, tools, and equipment from ancient Egyptian dynasties and 5th Century BCE Greece. Several centuries later, we still use axes, plows, hammers and several such tools only in their more improvised and sophisticated designs to fit into our advanced living environment. However, it was not until the 16th century that ergonomics began to be understood and studied. It all started with Bernardino Ramazinni’s medical journal ‘De Morbis Artificum (Diseases of Workers)’ which brought to light the various injuries incurred by his patients, resulting from unfavorable conditions in their occupations and workspaces.

Industrial Revolution

During the historical Industrial Revolution of 19th century, ergonomics was at the pinnacle of attention, being studied like never before. Spinning Jennies and rolling mills were invented to speed up work. Frederick W. Taylor pioneered the process of ergonomics by evaluating the best and easier ways of accomplishing a task and eventually succeeded in improving worker productivity and wages in a shoveling job. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, on the other hand, standardized materials, work processes and tools and began time motion analysis to make workflow efficient and less tiring.

World War II

With World War II, ergonomics reached a newer height, prompting research in man and machine interaction. This began to prominently reveal itself especially in the design of military systems like naval ships, aircraft and weaponry. The complex devices from radar to aircraft that were manufactured for the war began to demand a better grip of ergonomics without which there was a continuous risk of loss of personnel or equipment. In 1943, a U.S Army lieutenant, Alphonse Chapanis brought to light how so-called “pilot errors” could be greatly reduced. That is when logical and easier to understand control buttons were born in the cockpits of aircraft.

Ergonomics today

Work or ergonomic-related musculoskeletal injuries contributed to a third of day-offs from workplaces as per data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013. And, most of these were reported from sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, healthcare and entertainment/recreation. These injuries have not only sparked concern but with it, have also spiked renewed interest in the subject of ‘ergonomics’ to inspire futuristic designs for new age tools tailored to modern technological advances and lifestyle of humans.

Ergonomics may be a relatively new term and newer field of study. However, it has been a part of our life since the very moment of Stone Age. Today, Ergonomics is studied in-depth with specializations in cognitive, organizational and physical sciences.