Anew craze, ‘ fidget spinners’ have been marketed as helping with ADHD, but evidence for this is scarce
f you don’t have kids, you’ve probably never heard of the fidget spinner. But for those who do, you’ve probably been dragged around a mall looking for this latest must- have gadget.
A small colourful, propeller shaped device, the fidget spinner has three weighted prongs made from plastic and metal which centre around a ball bearing pad.
The joy of the fidget spinner is how fast the prongs can be spun between the finger smoothly and effortlessly while it releases a satisfying whirring sound.
If there is one positive thing about these new toys, it’s that they are actually a beautiful example of science and engineering in action.
Underneath the central pad of a spinner is a bearing which consist of large and small flat sided circular rings.
Sandwiched between the rings are several ball bearings which lie within a groove at regularly spaced intervals. The ball bearings disperse the load and reduce friction which allows the spinner to rotate freely and smoothly. Originally the same bearing system was used for the wheels of skateboards and rollerblades.
The secret to the fidget spinner is in the additional weights on the ends of the prongs which add kinetic force on to the bearing, helping the spinner to spin for longer periods of time.
Although they have been marketed by some as helpful for people with anxiety, autism or attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD) the scientific evidence supporting fidget spinners is scarce.
The few studies that have looked at how fidgeting could potentially help improve children’s attention span have been focused on young people diagnosed with ADHD.
In those studies, the students with ADHD did show some improvements in their accuracy when assessed on computer- based tasks when they fidgeted compared to when they didn’t.
However, these studies looked at natural fidgeting by measuring movements such as foot tapping rather than using a handheld fidget device.
The study also showed that similar- aged children who had not been diagnosed with ADHD did not perform any differently when fidgeting compared to when they were sitting still, meaning the fidget spinner is unlikely to provide any attention- span benefits to most children.
Spinning a plastic toy is very different to tapping your feet, so it should be noted that any marketing pitch using a correlation between improved attention span and fidget spinners are not backed up by solid scientific evidence.
Science aside, the bigger controversy surrounding fidget spinners today is around how to cope with so many in schools.
What is a quiet whirring sound for one spinning device can transform into a cacophonous classroom chorus when many are spun at once and schools are starting to ban the toys. declassified data on high- altitude nuclear tests have provided a new look at the mechanisms that set off upsets in that system. Scientists say such information can help support Nasa’s efforts to protect satellites and astronauts from natural radiation in space.
From 1958 to 1962, the US and USSR ran high- altitude tests, detonating explosives up to 400km above the Earth, which mimicked space weather effects frequently caused by the sun.
A first blast wave expelled an expanding fireball of plasma, a hot gas of electrically charged particles. This created a geomagnetic disturbance. Some tests even created artificial radiation belts, charged particles held in place by Earth’s magnetic fields. The artificially trapped charged particles remained in significant numbers for weeks, and in one case, years.
These particles, natural and artificial, can affect electronics on high- flying satellites — some failed as a result of the tests.
“If we understand what happened in the somewhat controlled and extreme event that was caused by one of these human-
When the constant whirring is added to the intermittent noise of spinners being dropped and ballbearings rolling across the floor by students practising their spinning tricks under the table, fidget spinners are fast becoming classroom learning distraction creators.
Banning fidget spinners in made events,” said Dr Phil Erickson, of MIT’s Haystack Observatory, “we can more easily understand the natural variation in the nearspace environment”. Here’s something to consider the next time you’re in the supermarket: what you touch can affect what you buy. Italian and Austrian scientists conducted experiments to show blindfolded people induced to grasp familiar products, like a bottle of Coke, under the guise of another task were later found to recognise it faster than other brands. The researchers say grasping an object can enable the “visual processing” and choice of classrooms won’t stop the craze and the digital world has already come up with virtual solutions by creating fidget spinner apps which provide non- tactile but silent versions of the toy.
As with hula hoops and Rubik’s cubes, fad toys really take off when a sense of competition is added. With thousands of new fidget spinner videos online, showcasing stylish ways to throw and catch the spinning devices it looks like the online skills challenge has already started.
For those of us who are still old school and not spinning devices under the table, don’t fret — the original solutions for diverting bored energy such as doodling or penclicking are still freely available to us all. other seen products of the same shape and size. “When you’re holding your mobile phone in your hand, you may be more likely to choose a KitKat than a Snickers, because the KitKat is shaped more like your phone,” said study co- author Associate Professor Zachary Estes, of Milan’s Bocconi University. Artificial intelligence doesn’t have to be super- sophisticated to make a difference in your life. Yale University researchers carried out experiments using an online problemsolving game that required groups of people to co- ordinate their actions. When robotic players with built- in defects were added into the mix, this boosted the performance of both human groups ( by as much as 56 per cent) and individual human players. Further, people whose performance improved when working with the bots subsequently influenced other human players to raise their game. The study authors say their findings could have big implications for a range of situations in which people interact with AI, from battlefields to motorways shared with autonomous vehicles. We treat “inferred” visual objects generated by the brain as more reliable than external images from the real world, scientists say.
To know when to cross the street, we usually rely more on what we see than what we hear: but this can change on a foggy day.
In such situations with a “blind spot”, the brain fills in the missing information from its surroundings, resulting in no apparent difference in what we see.
But while this fill- in is normally accurate enough, it’s mostly unreliable because no actual information from the real world ever reaches the brain.
After a series of experiments using shutter glasses, Scientists at Germany’s University of Osnabruck found that when choosing between an object we generate from information based on a blind spot and one from the real world, we show a surprisingly bias toward the former.
They concluded that understanding how we combine information from different sources gets us closer to discovering the exact mechanisms used by the brain to make decisions based on our perceptions.
Belmont Intermediate School students Zephyr Lovelock ( left), 11 and Toby Cotter, 12, have started importing fidget spinners to sell to classmates.
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