Thursday, January 10, 2008

Varied science tidbits

First: an Informed Reader (B6, third item, subscription required) blurb comparing earthquakes and epilepsy. From the Jan 12 New Scientist comes this interesting bit of data (emphasis mine):

...The research, led by neurologist Ivan Osorio of the University of Kansas, found patterns of "waiting times" between epileptic fits that are similar to those of earthquake occurrences. Also, just as earthquakes are preceded by tiny tremors imperceptible to humans, epileptic fits are preceded by neural spikes detectable only on brain scans. The analysis, not yet peer reviewed, compared the brain activity of more than 16,000 epileptic seizures with seismological data from 300,000 earthquakes...

Hmm. There is that bit about "not yet peer reviewed." But it's interesting research, yes?

Next, on A13 (link; subscription required) come two letters responding to an editorial concerning an aspect of behavioral psychology familiar to parents everywhere: the phenomenon of "zomboiding." (And I thought my parents, way back in the days of early video games, made the word up!) Emphasis mine.

Writes Ben L. in Mission Viejo, CA:

...Too many parents view videogames as high-tech pacifiers -- put the kid in front of the game, and he'll be quiet. Again it's not the games that are at fault when children spend too much time in front of the screen, it's the parents who leave them alone in the digital jungle. Modern videogames often feature engrossing storylines and deep characters. If children would spend the same amount of time reading a book, would parents be as worried? My guess is they wouldn't, because they know what a book is. The same can't be said about videogames.

Instead of blaming videogames for his family's problems, Mr. Moore should ask himself whether he's really made an effort to understand why his sons play as much as they do. If a child talked on a cellphone at church, would he blame the cellphone companies? No? Then why blame games for the Gameboy at church? Why not blame the parents who let their kid bring his videogame?...

Truer words were never spoken. Next: Blake H. in Alma Center, WI, offers some excellent tips.

...Videogame addiction isn't caused by videogames. It's caused by lack of alternatives. If parents make the effort to keep their kids busy with productive things to do, kids won't develop an interest in videogames. There are exactly two secrets to successful child rearing. One: spend 90% of your disposable free time with your kids. Two: put them to work as soon as they can walk. Yes, even a toddler can be taught to pick up his/her toys. My wife and I have raised four kids using this model and despite the fact that they all have computers in their bedrooms, none has ever expressed an interest in videogames. They're just too tired.

Your kids might not appreciate it right away, but wait till they cash that first paycheck. It won't be long till they're making fun of their childish friends who play videogames.

Very well put. Finally: a possible genetic link to autism (D4, subscription required). Reports David Armstrong:

  • "[Separate researchers] in Boston and Chicago...identified a genetic variation -- in a region of the DNA called chromosome 16 -- that is associated with about 1% of all autism cases. The abnormality is often not inherited...About 15% of autism cases have a known genetic cause, says David Miller, a researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston and a co-author of one of the studies."
  • However, as is typical with much new research, "the findings regarding chromosome 16 are only "one step in a very complicated puzzle we have to piece together"," says Yale autism expert Fred Volkmar.
  • This was all done with computers, simplifying complex analysis, as usual. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether there'll be any hands-on work left to do when I dive into research in the field.

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