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venerdì 25 dicembre 2015


Oooooh-oh dear... Well, maybe this time “Oh-Oh-Oh!” is more appropriate, so, oh-oh-oh dear English speaking-thinking-reading visitor, welcome back to sciencemug, the blog that sings Xmas songs backwards and in Eng?ish [a language that is to proper English what  “human beings lived among the dinosaurs” is to something coming from a functional brain (well, or, simpler, from a brain tout-court)] while swimming, like a drunk dolphin which fights a Jaws-Grinch-Tibetan goat (those goats, they are mean ungulates!) mixed giant outcome of a genetic experiment spiraled out of control of a lunatic owner of a strange hot-dogs factory -breath now- in a pool filled with eggnog expired in the spring of 1963 and nonetheless still very appreciated by Bernard and the jellies for its fresh mango and hot-Mexican-chili aftertaste.

Welcome to the Xmas post of this year, a post about Santa Claus and a bunch of physicians from Switzerland who publish a research paper on the science journal Gait  &  Postureto say how Mr Claus’ old age("[r]eferring to his white beard and deep voice, it seems widely accepted that SC is a more or less old grandpa  above the age of 65" Donath et al, 2015; P)&fatness&heavy carrying the bag full of presents (and, probably, of dozens of some kind of “candy” the bearded grandpa takes to enhance his delivery performance SM’Note)&multi-tasking Xmas eve’s activity make him a perfect candidate to fall and smash his hip/leg/name-a-bone-of-the-icon’s-body and therefore ruin the X day to each and every child (and probably some adult, and for sure Bernard and his/her/its jellies too) of the world (and the universe*).

Soooo, dear dear reader, let’s examine in depth the research of Doctor Donath (whom I’ll call DD from now on, ‘cause, well, c’mon, DD, it’s just a colon away from a super-enthusiastic emoticon and I’m experiencing a shortage of ideas to stretch this part of the post) and five other fellas scientists of the University of Basel who do an experiment to test Santa Claus’ risk factor to fall during his busy Xmas eve of work. 
The researchers -probably after their brains suffered an overload of energy when they broke the European-non-UE-members all time record of dark chocolate group’s intake during a single session of  “Bite-and-Design an Experiment” table game** for people with no family history of acne and gastrointestinal stormy behaviour- select 17 people.

These chosen ones [well, it’s almost an holy mission afterall, like that of the Blues Brothers, AKA BB (so now we just have to find two other almost-holy missions led by somone that can be nicknamed AA and CC and we are done for this post)] are all males with these characteristic: “age:  30+/-10  years;  height: 179 +/-6 centimeters [oooh man up, stop whining and learn to use the SI like the rest of the world for Santa’s sake! SM’sN];  weight:  76+/-7  kilograms [see previous spiteful advise]; […] physical  activity:  12+/-4  h/week(P). Besides, they all "still believe in Santa Claus" (P). 
So, in short, DD and colleagues use healty fit young (gullible?) guys for their very peculiar experiment (which will be referred to, from now on, the “Save Santa’s Neck experiment” or “SSNe”).

The aim of SSNe is to determine wheter and how much a person’s capability to walk or simply stand normally is compromised when that person has precisely to walk or stand but at the same time he has also to carry a bag full of heavy stuff, wear a costume designed for a plump-to-obese magic character, and he also has to do all of that while his mind is involved in same kind of mental exercise.

Merry Xmas by @sciencemug
Merry Xmas by @sciencemug

So, first the 17 Santa’s Dudes (17SDs) are randomly divided in two groups. One, the Santa’s Group (SG), wears the official Santa’s garb, that is “robe,  beard,  hair(P) and carry a  sack which our nice scientists fill with 20 kg of stuff (Dr Donath and colleagues don’t mention the exact nature of the content of the sack, although, well, rumor has it that kittens were involved and that the ethical committee of the university closed one eye in exchange of three of the nine existing infamous Swiss cuckoo clock of the legendary 1887 limited edition, with the chromed birds and even the cuckoo's sound done by the most famous and gifted contralto of that time whose name, unfortunately, can’t be disclosed here ‘cause she was also the most talented Swiss chocolate industry’s spy of the world of the XIX century and her anonymity's still protected as a state secret). 
The other group of volunteers, the non-SC  group, wears  normal  clothing instead.
Moreover, the members of both groups have to take physical tests, and they have to take them either while doing also a mental exercise, and while focusing just on the assigned task instead.

Now, I know you reader are wondering how the DD’s research band manage to  lure 17 young lucid men into such an odd experiment. Have they bribed them with chocolate? Naa, too obvious. Have they blackmailed them with the threat to post on PronounTube compromising videos of each "volunteer" while he tries to open a Swiss knife for more than three hours in a row without success and then hysterically bursts into tears and desperately calls for mommy and eventually finds comfort in a tasty piece of cheese and the tale of some cliché about his own homeland? Naa, too complicated. “Then how?” you are now screaming to the screen of your –eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh big breath now too- laptop/iSomethingveryexpensievemaybeevennotfullyusefulsinceyoualreadyownthepreviousmodelbut”Imusthaveit’causeithasafruitasalogosoitistheholygrailofcoolnessplusitiszeropointhalfahairprobablyfullofdandruffthehairnottheelectroniciDevicethinnerwiderlightersmallerbiggerbrighterthenever/pc?
Well, dear reader, it’s simple: DD and colleagues lie to the 17SDs.

The researchers… Oh well, I think it’s worthy you read their own words: “[w]hilst  the  investigator  constantly  giggled  about  the genuine  study  purpose,  the  included  volunteers  were  unaware of  the  study  aim.  By  incorporating  a  dummy  camera  system,  we claimed  to  be  conducting  a  ‘‘shame  study’’  in  order  to  measure neuromuscular  performance  when  dressed  in  a  humiliating  SC outfit  so  as  to  maintain  unbiased  participant  testing.(P) Ah, those canny evil scientists…

Soo, to recap, DD and his lab accomplices want to understand how big is Santa Claus’ actual risk to fall and possibly injury himself while doing it’s job on Xmas eve.
To do that, the researchers plan a very peculiar experiment and trick 17 dudes (the 17SDs) into taking part to it.
The sly scientists randomly divide the 17 volunteers into two groups: some of the guys wear a Santa's suite, heavy sack included (SC group); the other guys, instead, are dressed normally and have no sack (non-SC group).
DD and colleagues then make the volunteers of both groups take physical tests while they do also a mental exercise and while they don’t

Sooo, dear reader, what are, in detail, the tests and the mental exercises? Well, let’s start with the mental task and let the DD’s wild bunch explain it to you: “the names  of  two reindeer [***] were  briefly  displayed  to  the  participant  on  a sheet  of  paper  which  the  participant  was  asked  to  memorize.  Then, the  participant  was  asked  to  spell  backwards  every  3rd  letter  of  the reindeer  names  in  a  loop  until  completing  the  trial.  The  number  of successful  completion  of  the  names  and  mistakes  were  counted.(P) [Well, I am a brainless cheap blog, ok, but I think it’s cruelty to force someone’s brain to try something like that SM’sN].

As for the physical tests, well, they are three. The 17SCd, indeed, walk on a walkway sprinkled of sensors (the “[s]patiotemporal  gait  analysis”  (P)); they walk on a treadmill full of sensors (the “[t]readmill  gait  analysis(P)) ; they stand on a plate loaded with sensors (the “[s]tatic  standing  balance  testing”, (P)). 

With these three tests DD&co, besides satisfying their obvious fetish for sensors, can measure the 117SDs’ “[s]patiotemporal  gait  parameters  (walking velocity,  gait  variability  and  stride  time,  length  and  width),  ground  reaction  forces  (GRF)  (left-  and  right-sided heel  strike  and  push  off)  and  postural  sway(P).

Sooo, let’s understand better the three tests, ok? Ok.

But not now. Naaa. Next time. Now there’s a url about the pasticcio di lasagne, the ganasetta, the Refosco and the panettone waiting for me. Till next time, then, dear English reading-thinking-speaking visitor!

The paper this post is about (P)
- Donath, L., Roth, R., Lichtenstein, E., Elliot, C., Zahner, L., and Faude, O. (2015). Jeopardizing Christmas: Why spoiled kids and a tight schedule could make Santa Claus fall? Gait Posture 41, 745-749.

Bernard’s whereabouts are not known, so, to say “and the galaxy” might have been a colossal mistake. So, to let the sleeping William Will Whatever lie, the extent of the hypothetical disappointment has been classified as universal (although it could be even overstrecthed to “multiversal”… You never know, right?)

The table game is available in every toy-store with a symbol of a limping unicorn with a Betty Boop disguised as Darth Vader that has to pee badly tattooed on its hind left leg (just above the nail) drawn with an ink which is visible only on the 13th hour of the winter solstice of an odd year when flashed with the light of a candle made of wax mixed with lemon juice and cashews powder on the top right angle of the wall of the store that faces the south east corner of the second to biggest building of the nearest town with a population of exactly one million seventy three people.

The researchers, on their paper, write the names of all the reindeers, and I know, dear reader, that you are already trying to remember all of ‘em… But I am not posting the names. Buahahahahaha… Not now at least… Buhahahahahahahaha… You have to wait for the second and final part of this post to know them. And you’ll have to read all of it, because I am randomly dropping the names in the post, and not listing them all together... Buhahahahah… Or, well, you just can google them… Right. Right… Damn! My marketing strategy is weaker than I thought...

giovedì 17 dicembre 2015


First flight of the Flyer piloted by Orville Wright, 1903 (by @sciencemug)
Orville pilots, Wilbur watches (this time), the Flyer flights (by @sciencemug)
[The image above is a Public Domain pic adapted by @sciencemug (source:] 

17 Dec 1903
Meet Orville and Wilbur, AKA the Wright brothers,
 the day