Grant Rant

Click “Grant Rant” in order to see a missive from the Register’s Department of the Bleedin Obvious. Since I started following some science blogs, I swear I see a story at least twice a week about brand new research which discovered something we already knew. I know how the scientific method works, and I know a finding has to be retested over and over again to gain weight as a theory, but is each retesting really a news item? Some highlights from the world of proving what we already knew:

  • Web users are more interested in things they search for than things they surf to
  • Rainwater is safe to drink
  • iPhone users are bad relationship risks, being more in love with their phones than their partners
  • Left handed people use their right hands more than right handed people use their left hands
  • TV targets children with advertising for fatty and sugary foods
  • Religious patients are a little better at maintaining positive attitudes than nonreligious ones
  • People who go to work and school sick make other people sick
  • Motion blur isn’t really a problem in mid to high end LCD displays
  • People who pirate music are also the biggest legitimate buyers of music
  • People who sleep better are better at golf (totally not making these up, someone got funding for this)
  • The Tsavo lions actually killed about 30 people, like the natives claimed all along, not 130 like the guy who shot them claimed
  • Overweight patients experience more side effects of radiation therapy (obvious to radiographers)
  • The last one is part of a subgenre of “Being fat is bad for you” research that surprises no one
  • Poorly cleaned cruise ship bathrooms spread disease among cruise ship passengers
  • Using your phone while driving makes you drive badly
  • Americans are aware that using your phone while driving makes you drive badly (separate study)
  • Better osteoporosis treatment would reduce the number of hip fractures
  • Classroom teachers suffer from voice strain
  • Attending community college results in higher earnings than a high school diploma alone
  • Doctors have less respect for obese patients

¬†Don’t get me wrong; incredible things are being discovered and invented all the time. For example, apparently Vicks VapoRub can cure toenail fungus. I think it’s safe to say fairly few people could have come up with that on their own. Plus there’s this, which holds the current prize for the thing I’m most amazed by:

But it does seem like some graduate students are just phoning in their theses.
Comment or email to set me straight or support my annoyance.

About TED

As it says in my header, unless I change it, I am a frequent viewer and a big fan of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) Conference website. Their motto is “Ideas worth spreading” and I tend to agree with their judgement on that point.

The basic idea is that interesting people from various fields are invited to speak for…well, I used to think it was 19 minutes, but I’ve seen some variation. So they are all fairly short-format talks, which is easy to forget when they are BLOWING YOUR MIND with a new concept that is about to change the world.

Disregard the opening music on their clips; it has always been obnoxiously loud but has mellowed recently.

Some topics covered at TED that spring to my mind:

  • Industrial design that seeks to replicate clever ideas in nature, like gecko feet
  • A large format computer display which allows two-handed manipulation of objects without an input device in the way (yes, this is Microsoft’s Surface, and yes, it’s obsolete now…see the new talks)
  • A discussion about the intellectual concepts that may be represented by juggling
  • Why muscle tissue doesn’t develop malignant cancer and how to exploit that property
  • How the economy in third-world nations can be influenced by microloans from individuals

¬†Watching TED presentations regularly tends to change your perceptions of regular news; a year after someone presents an idea at TED I often hear reports about this “interesting new development” which is the result of investment and expansion of that person’s idea.

Check them out and enjoy. Let me know what your favorite talk is.