sexta-feira, 25 de janeiro de 2008

Science of the bleedin' obvious

News headlines are usually dominated by science that makes us think about how we live, about our fragile world and our humble place in the universe.

But there are many projects that pass unnoticed, when they deserve a mention because they reassure us that science does not hold all the answers: we can work out plenty of things for ourselves without the help of mathematics, fancy experiments or expensive equipment.

Seatbelts help you survive crashes

A recent university study wowed readers when it concluded that failing to wear a seatbelt increases your chance of being killed in a car crash.

In many rural US communities, there is little or no enforcement of the law to wear a seat belt whilst driving. In more than half of the states, police officers can stop drivers for having a broken rear light or out of date tax disk, yet they can't say a word when it comes to wearing a seat belt.

Figures have shown that whilst around 20 per cent of Americans live in the countryside, they account for almost 60 percent of all roads deaths. What's more, those states with the highest rural fatalities also had the worst records for seat belt law enforcement.

But that's not the end of the story, some people argue. As well as being more likely to suffer a horrific injury because their not wearing a seatbelt, rural drivers have to wait longer for emergency services to arrive.

Couple this with quieter country roads making drivers more inclined to drive with a false sense of security, and you've got an accident, literally, waiting to happen.

People concerned about their health are more likely to take the stairs

When customers in a shopping centre were warned of the dangers of heart disease on posters at the foot of an escalator, the number of people using the staircase more than doubled.

A staggering 82,000 shoppers had their bi-pedal behaviour monitored by the University of Birmingham and sure enough, it seems the public could easily be manipulated into performing a minimal amount of exercise.

A senior lecturer in applied psychology, and co-author of the study, made the bold observation that certain members of the public responded to the signs.

He then took this a stage further by claiming that "if you can persuade people to take the stairs, then we might really have something in the war against obesity."

It's been claimed by some scientists that climbing stairs for seven minutes every day could reduce your risk of developing heart disease by about 60 per cent.

With most of us leading increasingly busy lives, public health officials in the UK appear to have taken the Birmingham study to their heart and if the rumours are to be believed, staircases could actually be the future.

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