Friday, December 09, 2005

A Titanic struggle on the telephone while debating evolution

No, Muscatine is not a bad Italian wineThe next town you hear from in the great debate over “intelligent design” could be Muscatine, Iowa. According to the Muscatine Journal, the school board of the small, 22.000 population city on the banks of the Mississippi, thinks that students should be aware of ID and plan on taking the matter up at a meeting within the next two years. Ann Hart, vice president of the school board said there was no thought to removing evolution from the curriculum—it is, after all, science—but that “intelligent design should be brought up because a lot of people believe in it, and otherwise, kids aren’t going to understand it as well as they should.” The first point, that a lot of people believe in it, is debatable. The second isn’t. If taught properly—that it is anti-evolution dressed up as a scientific theory—would be a good thing, and last about 10 minutes. “I would hope,” she said, “it wouldn’t become a big issue.” Good luck.

It was said when the great ship went down. Husbands and wives—little children lost their lives—oh it was sad when the great ship went downIn most books as well as the movie, the R.M.S. Titanic hit an iceberg, broke apart and sank. In the movie it looks like everyone had time for high drama, and the designer says it will sink in about an hour. The bottom section of the hull broke free, the bow and stern split, with the bow sinking first and the stern 20 minutes later. Apparently, that isn't so. The stern, as depicted in the film, is where all the survivors fled for temporary safety before it too filled with water and plunged into the frigid water. In the original exploration of the wreck, Robert Ballard never found the bottom section. Now others have and it gives a new picture of what happened that night in 1912— a more merciful death. The stern sank after only five minutes. The bottom part of the hull was found a third of a mile from the stern in two pieces and the researchers were able to use that to create a new scenario. Ballard was unimpressed with the discovery. “They found a fragment. Big deal.” [The thing that bothered me most about the movie is that the water was lethally cold and people who jumped or fell into it would have been dead in a few minutes. In the film, they had time for all kinds of histrionics and adventures, all quite impossible in the wintery North Atlantic. On the other hand, the movie had Kate Winslett and the ship didn’t.] By the way, Canadian researchers report that the wreck will disintegrate by 2028.

Well, your honor, I was multitasking and just didn't see the truck—In the category of what else is new, researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that talking on the telephone is distracting if you are driving. Duh. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology [not on the website yet], came to an obvious conclusion, but the reason why phones and driving are a bad combination is kind of interesting. Research at NASA has shown that there just are limits to multitasking like this, and the reason is an “information bottleneck.” Our tiny brains simply can’t handle all the input. With practice, we can get better, but only just so. We aren't bright enough. Some people are better than others. Young people who play video games are best at it. This fits in with other research that shows that most people on the telephone while driving, drive like old people. They drive and react more slowly. And oh yes, the most common accident is a rear-end collision.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Given limits on multitasking, I'd expect talking to a passenger while driving to be equally distracting. And indeed, that has been my experience. But people have been talking to passengers for a century or so, which means nobody's doing research on it.

Bill Thomasson