Light Friday: How to Read While Jogging
Credit: Mark Simons/Purdue University
Credit: Mark Simons/Purdue University

Grandmas Got STEM
Scanning Brains to Prevent Crime
The Value of Environmental Education

Exercising can seem tedious, especially when you’re on a treadmill without anything to distract your mind. Luckily, engineers have a developed new technology that allows people to read while they run, eliminating yet another excuse to avoid the gym.

Researchers at Purdue University recently unveiled ReadingMate, a system that adjusts text on a monitor to counteract the effects of a runner’s bobbing head, allowing a treadmill user to read normal-size text on a small display mounted in front of the treadmill.

“Not many people can run and read at the same time. This is because the relative location of the eyes to the text is vigorously changing, and our eyes try to constantly adjust to such changes, which is burdensome,” Ji Soo Yi, assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue, explained. “You could increase the font size and have a large-screen monitor on the wall, but that’s impractical because you cannot have numerous big screen displays in an exercise room.”

The team’s system works by having users wear infrared LED glasses. An infrared camera captures the LEDs and tracks the runner’s bobbing head, beaming information to the display that allows it to move text in unison with the head movements.

“[B]ut it’s not as simple as shifting text in time with head movement – your eyes are performing corrections of their own, so the words dance slightly out of sync with your noggin to take this into account,” Endgadget notes. “It’s performed well in testing, and could have applications beyond the gym, such as in heavy machinery and aircraft, where vibration can hamper reading ability in important situations.”

Grandmas Got STEM

Not every grandmother falls into the hopelessly tech-challenged stereotype, as evidenced by real-life stories featured on Grandma Got STEM, a blog created to dispel the misconception that older women don’t understand science, tech, engineering, and mathematics.

Many grandmas are actually trailblazers in STEM fields, as highlighted in daily “STEM-Ma” profiles. These include stories of PhDs, nuclear scientists, and one woman who won the Nobel Prize for her research in neurology. Some of the women featured from around the globe grew up in a time when the male-to-female ratio in science class was far greater than it is today. The blog features profiles of pioneering women in more than 20 categories of STEM-related fields, ranging from biochemistry to engineering.

The founder of the project, Rachel Levy, an associate professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, explains that she was inspired to collect stories after becoming tired of hearing phrases like “That’s so easy, my grandmother could understand it.” “I would like to counter the implication that grannies (gender + maternity + age) might not easily pick up on technical/theoretical ideas,” she writes. “As a start, I’m planning public awareness [and] art projects using grandmothers’ pictures, names [and] connections to STEM. This blog is where I’ll collect the info.”

Users are free to send in submissions and share their stories of grandmas who could teach us all a thing or two about science.

Scanning Brains to Prevent Crime

Scanning people’s brains to determine if they will commit crimes in the future sounds like a science fiction conceit, but the technology to determine recidivism via MRI is making rapid gains. Unlike the movie Minority Report, however, these brain scanning techniques don’t see into the future.

“I wouldn’t draw the parallel at all with our work,” Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist at Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, N.M., told Txchnologist. “We’re not saying anything is predetermined. This is just a slightly different way of judging risks.”

Kiehl and his team have been using MRI scanners to take pictures of soon-to-be-released convicts to identify trends. The team noticed that prisoners who display low activity in their anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a brain region associated with decision-making and impulsivity, are prone to further transgressions. Men who ranked as possessing low ACC activity were 2.6 times more likely to be rearrested and 4.3 times more likely to commit nonviolent crimes than those who rated in the top half of ACC function.

However, the testing method is still in its infancy and only acts as a possible method of identifying repeat offenders. As Kiehl told Nature, this brain scan technique “isn’t ready for prime time.”

The Value of Environmental Education

With Earth Day coming up on Monday, many Americans’ thoughts are turning toward the environment and the best ways for humans to be responsible to the ecosystem. But environmental knowledge is also becoming a crucial tool for business and educating the next generation of skilled workers.

An infographic from the National Environmental Education Foundation highlights the many areas in which STEM (science, technology, math, and engineering) intersects with environmental projects, and how ecology can serve as a valuable context for teaching real-world technical skills.


Credit: National Environmental Education Foundation

Have a great weekend, folks.



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  • Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry
    April 19, 2013

    I think my own ‘program’ of ALMS–


    is more comprehensive and more far-reaching, ergo more interesting….

  • Regula
    April 20, 2013

    The time when grannies didn’t have an education is pretty thoroughly past. If it is “so easy, my grandmother could do this” the younger generation gives itself too much credit and their grandparents not enough – i.e. it is prejudice, usually based on a bit of fear because inside they of course know that the grandparents may have done quite well in their lives and the young haven’t lived long enough yet to prove that they will do equally well. As with everything, given a decent explanation, most grandparents will understand as well as the greenhorns who deride them.

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