In­creas­ingly, ba­bies are born on a sched­ule, not ran­domly as was the case

The Woolwich Observer - - LIVING HERE - WEIRD NOTES

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.

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