Hi, Steve Mirsky here with the previously promised part two of what is now last week’s Science Talk podcast, namely TOTALLY BOGUS. Here are four science stories, but only three are true. See if you know which story is TOTALLY BOGUS.
Story 1, clamshell packaging injuries. If you may remember last week’s podcast, we talked with Karen Hopkin about the clamshell packaging injury study that took place in Pennsylvania, but that only covered Pennsylvania. It turns out that clamshell packaging injuries are not limited to people from Pennsylvania, apparently. I kind of suspected that was the case. Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission indicate that emergency room visits due to injuries from hard to open plastic packaging number around 6,000 annually.
Story 2, when the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—that’s DARPA to you and me—hoisted 10 large red balloons from spots around the country earlier this month, the intent was to see how social networking could be used to quickly identify all the locations. But after more than three weeks, only six of the balloons have so far been definitively spotted.
Story 3, students attempting to solve math problems were faster and more accurate if they talked through the problem while working on it.
And story 4, a US premier this month for composer Philip Glass’s third opera about physicists. He’s written three operas about physicists.
[Steve mumbles through solving a math problem.]
Story 4 is true, Glass’s opera about Kepler had its US premier at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He has previously written operas about Einstein and Galileo. And for info about a non-Glass opera about Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, check out our December 31st podcast from 2008, that’s at http://bit.ly/sciamopera
Story 1 is true, the numbers fluctuate annually, but I’m seeing reports of about 5,700 emergency room visits for clamshell packaging injuries for last year, about 6,400 for 2004. So it looks like it’s around 6,000 for the number of people who actually visit emergency rooms every year because they bang themselves up, slice themselves up, cut themselves up, trying to get some item that they purchased or were given as a gift out of those clamshell packs.
And story 3 is true, students solving math problems were faster and more accurate if they verbalized their efforts to get the answer. For more info, see the December 28th episode of the daily Scientific American podcast, 60 Second Science.
All of which means that story 2, about some of the red balloons in the DARPA challenge being still out there to be found, is TOTALLY BOGUS. Because it took an M.I.T. team less than nine hours to find all 10 balloons, scattered around the country, using Twitter, Facebook and other social media formats to communicate. For more, check out the December 21st story Inflated Expectations: Crowd-Sourcing Comes of Age in the DARPA Network Challenge. That’s at our website www.scientificamerican.com
Well, that’s it for this special bogus add-on to our podcast with Karen Hopkin on Christmas season science. We plan to have a new podcast up before 2010, unless there’s eggnog interference. In the meantime, get your science news at www.scientificamerican.com, and follow us on Twitter as @sciam and @stevemirsky. Thanks for clicking on us.