Increasingly, babies are born on a schedule, not randomly as was the case
Q. There are 7.3 of them every minute, on average, peaking around 8am and rising again around noon. They are currently concentrated on weekdays during daylight hours, though two generations ago they were more dispersed. What’s the event in question? A. A baby’s birth, manifested as a “baby spike,” say Mark Fischetti and Zan Armstrong in “Scientific American” magazine. Two generations ago babies were born pretty much spontaneously around the clock, but “today in the U.S., about half of all births are cesarean sections prescheduled by mom, or deliveries induced by doctors concerned about the mother’s or baby’s health.” More than 98% of infants are born in a hospital.
So, far more babies arrive on weekdays than on weekends, most between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., with a strong peak around 8 a.m. and another around noon. “These medical procedures have skewed the days of the week, and hours of the day, during which those little bundles of joy arrive,” the authors say. Understandably, fewer babies are born on weekends or at night, when fewer staffers are on duty. “Despite folklore, a full moon has no effect.”
Technology aside, the human equation still comes into play as moms don’t schedule C-sections around Thanksgiving; rather babies seem to arrive nine months after Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Q. What’s one of the more “striking” truths (literally) to come out of veterinary forensic medicine? A. That the pursuit of animal cruelty cases is becoming more frequent because individuals who abuse animals often abuse people, say Jason Byrd and Natasha Whitling in “Scientific American” magazine. One night in 2015 in Brooklyn, New York, Asha Stringfield fought for her life against her former boyfriend, who had previously been ordered to stay away from her. He beat her in the head and face with his fists and tried to strangle her, then pulled her from the bed by the hair and pointed a firearm at her head. At this point, Asha’s pit bull Honey wedged herself between Asha and her assailant, who turned the gun on the dog and pulled the trigger. The shot woke tenants and the attacker fled.
According to the “Journal of Emotional Abuse,” (1998), “71% of women in domestic violence shelters reported their batterer abused or killed their animals or threatened to do so.” Later research in the “Journal of Interpersonal Violence” showed that “batterers who also abuse their pets are both more controlling and use more dangerous forms of violence than batterers who do not.”
Says Randall Lockwood, forensic scientist at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “I know there are animals, women, children and elders that are alive today that likely would not have been” if prosecutors had not brought violent individuals to justice. Veterinary forensic science “gives the victims a voice.” Q. How is a new wearable robotic device helping people at risk of falling find their balance? A. “The exoskeleton packs motors on a user’s hips and can sense blips in balance” and based on a small trial, it seems to perform well in sensing and averting falls, says Helen Thompson in “Science News” magazine. While most exoskeletons guide a wearer’s movements, forcing the person to walk in a particular way, the new device reacts only when needed. “A computer algorithm measures changes in a wearer’s hip joint angles to detect the altered posture that goes along with slipping. The robot uses its motors to push the hips back into position to prevent a fall.”
In another trial involving eight elderly people and two amputees who wore the device while walking on a treadmill, the robot detected slips within 0.35 seconds of a change of balance.
But the exoskeleton is bulky so a major challenge is to devise a sleeker, less imposing model for elderly users. Swiss engineer Silvestro Micera and his team are working to achieve just that. Stay tuned.