Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cub Fans Low Testosterone Get Them Lower Auto Insurance!

Extra testosterone in the drivers blood after the ball game may
have lead to this crash. 
If we go to a ball game, and our team wins, we are more likely to die in the car going home, than if our team loses. Such is that evidence from Prof Melayne McInnes at U of North Carolina.

She looked at accident statistics when the home team won compared to when the home team lost. She looked at 271 games. Alcohol is a factor in post game accidents, but this effect was not due to drinking.

This is pretty quick and easy study. Just look up some sports scores, look up some traffic statistics, and then a little multiple regression.  What an easy way to get a thesis done!

The theory goes that winning increases testosterone in fans which increases aggressiveness when driving which leads to accidents.  Losing teams fans decrease in testosterone and that leads to submissiveness and safer driving. The study supports the theory.
The insurance industry owes
a refund to Cub fans.

On the other hand, real data with solid serum testosterone levels are far less clear. The idea that testosterone increases aggression is mostly anecdotal. There is one real study showing the opposite effect -- athletes with LOW testosterone get  MORE injuries -- probably because testosterone builds up bulkier muscles that are more resistant to injury. There is one study using blood testosterone levels that observed only weak insignificant effects on aggression.

High testosterone levels would be expected to increase sexual interest in men, but the data are conflicted showing both yes and no.

The bright side is that the Cubs are probably keeping my auto insurance down.  Also the  Lions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is There Any Point to Gatorade?

There are eight kinds of Gatorade  -- several of which are
in test marketing. 
About two months ago, I got sick while exercising, and the doctor said I should pay attention to my electrolytes. Prior to this, I just tried to stay hydrated, but never paid attention to electrolytes.  I thought that would wash out the excess sodium from all the over-salted food I eat.  Of course all that water also washes out other minerals like potassium and calcium which are important to muscle function.

I bought myself some salty Gatorade -- it was G Series PRO 2 Perform.  Isn't that a ridiculously complicated name for salty Kool-Aid?  There are eight kinds of Gatorade now, but most are not available in the Detroit metro -- looks like test marketing or perhaps Southern US specific marketing.

Yesterday, I made point of drinking about 20 ounces for about 130 calories and an unknown amount of electrolytes over my two hour workout today. I thought I felt better. So was that real or imagined?

Turns out this is a thoroughly studied question, and not only at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute or whatever. Jason Winnick et al gave twenty athletes either 6% sugar water or placebo. The ones with the sugar water ran faster, jumped higher and had a better mood than the placebo of flavored water.  This study says sports drinks work.

My question is whether six Jolly Rancher candy would have the same effect as the Gatorade.  Is it the sugar or is it the salt?

The National Trainers Association and NIH are more concerned with preventing dehydration that getting peak performance. 1-2% weight loss due to dehydration will cause loss of performance, and 3% will cause muscle cramps. So for me, 2% weight loss is about 3 pounds -- which is a lot, but it probably happens on humid summer days.  The trainers recommend drinking about one liter every hour, and measuring dehydration by the color of the urine -- they have a color scale prepared, or better by measuring urine density if you have a densitometer handy.

In 1992, a study recommended sugar water before and during exercise at about 50% of the volume that one sweated out. In 1998 a Gatoraid sponsored study showed that 12 year boys drank more fluid if it had sugar in it, but there was not performance advantage.

In summary, salty sugar water helps performance and mood, so it seems to be worthwhile. I suppose I'll try it again.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Renewable Energy Geography

Here in suburban Detroit, especially Downriver, we have an inferiority complex. We sometimes believe life is better in other places, and sometimes friends/relatives tell us so.

One thing that is better other places  are natural resources, for example Texas and Alaska have oil, but not here.

Florida and California have tropical fruit plantations, but not here.

The coasts have winds to turn turbines, but not here. Or is it.

It turns out that there are some decent winds in side the Great Lakes, and the mountain passes of the West are great too.

Wind seems to be the most practical in terms of land usage since it produces considerable power, and the land can generally be used for something in addition.

Link to source
Solar power depends on the average cloudiness as well as the brightness of the sun. It helps to live in the desert. The plains states do OK though.

This map is at odds with the Energy Department calculation of energy yield from semiconductor photovoltaics shown below, where cloudiness seems far more important than the brightness of the sun.

In this table Boulder Colorado is the best.

How much energy will a grid-connected photovoltaic system produce?*
System Size
Seattle, WA
Sacramento, CA
Boulder, CO
Minneapolis, MN
Des Moines, IA
Houston, TX
Pittsburgh, PA
Jacksonville, FL
*Estimated annual output in kWh/year (source: PV WATTS). A typical home uses an average of 9,400 kWh per year.   National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
Michigan does better with biomass, which in this context means wood for fuel. Wood and burnable grasses have a lot to do with rainfall.

This map shows where petroleum is produced today -- obviously Texas and Alaska stand out.   Coal and natural gas are on this site. 

Having said all this, alternative energy develop is not going to happen until petroleum and natural gas prices climb enough to make these energy sources relatively cheap. Sometimes governments give subsidies, but experience shows that subsidies only last until the party of government changes.


Monday, April 11, 2011


I read this comic about a girl with anorexia, and then I found this unforgettable image.

I don't know the source of the image; I hope whoever it was got better.

The World Biggest Burger Again >>> From Southgate Michigan

Here you see the World's Biggest Burger at 184 pounds of beef and 319 lb of edibleness. This is the third world-record burger made at Southgate's own Mallie's bar, which is just up the road from my humble abode.

You probably don't recall my post on their last burger from 2009.

Here is the video. It captures the excitement, but its hard to see.

Just $2000 to get your own.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Playdoh Car, Why Not?

This Playdoh car took eight model makers two weeks to make. It was a publicity stunt for Chevy in Britain.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Synthetic Photosynthesis

Very much like my undergrad research days, light shining on a
semiconductor drives reactions -- in this case electrolysis of water.
When I was a senior in college I worked on semiconductor photocells that could be used for solar cells. These were solar cells immersed in water not the dry kind.

Now I see there was an announcement of an apparent  breakthrough in that field, Prof Nocera of MIT, made a catalyst/silicon composite that splits H2O water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is valuable as a fuel; of course oxygen is just floating around in the air.

Nocera's company Sun Catalytix calls this an "Artificial Leaf," which it isn't. A leaf makes sugar not hydrogen. Interestingly Indian conglomerate Tata is a big investor in Sun Catalytix.

The technology the "leaf" uses is vague probably because they have not had any patents issued -- I could not find any.  Nickel and cobalt are used rather than platinum as a catalyst, and an electric current must be applied to keep the device at the right potential for electrolysis of water.  Others have used quantum dots to absorb energy, and then simple mineral catalysts like iron sulfide to reduce hydrogen ions.

David Wendel at the University of Cincinnati uses enzymes and foam to make sugars via artificial photosynthesis. This is reportedly 18 times more efficient than a natural cell, because all the synthetic "cell" does is make sugar. It does not grow or feed other cells. See also.

I have often thought that an engineered synthetic "cell" could be more efficient than a natural cell. If people could not make a cell better then that would be an argument for intelligent design.

The Department of Energy has a research center on artificial photosynthesis in California which opened in 2010. They have some plans, but not much in terms of actual results so far. They will do research in the different components of a synthetic photosynthesis system: light collection, energy conduction, catalysis and membranes.
Schematic of artificial photosynthesis. Link.