Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
While baseball fans still rank "The Catch" by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series as one of the greatest baseball moments of all times, scientists see the feat as more of a puzzle: How does an outfielder get to the right place at the right time to catch a fly ball?
Thousands of fans (and hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers) saw Mays turn his back on a fly ball, race to the center field fence and catch the ball over his shoulder, seemingly a precise prediction of a fly ball's path that led his team to victory. According to a recent article in the Journal of Vision ("Catching Flyballs in Virtual Reality: A Critical Test of the Outfielder Problem"), the "outfielder problem" represents the definitive question of visual-motor control. How does the brain use visual information to guide action?
To test three theories that might explain an outfielder's ability to catch a fly ball, researcher Philip Fink, PhD, from Massey University in New Zealand and Patrick Foo, PhD, from the University of North Carolina at Ashville programmed Brown University's virtual reality lab, the VENLab, to produce realistic balls and simulate catches. The team then lobbed virtual fly balls to a dozen experienced ball players (see also Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology).
"The three existing theories all predict the same thing: successful catches with very similar behavior," said Brown researcher William Warren, PhD. "We realized that we could pull them apart by using virtual reality to create physically impossible fly ball trajectories."
Warren said their results support the idea that the ball players do not necessarily predict a ball's landing point based on the first part of its flight, a theory described as trajectory prediction. "Rather than predicting the landing point, the fielder might continuously track the visual motion of the ball, letting it lead him to the right place at the right time," Warren said.
Because the researchers were able to use the virtual reality lab to perturb the balls' vertical motion in ways that would not happen in reality, they were able to isolate different characteristics of each theory. The subjects tended to adjust their forward-backward movements depending on the perceived elevation angle of the incoming ball, and separately move from side to side to keep the ball at a constant bearing, consistent with the theory of optical acceleration cancellation (OAC). The third theory, linear optical trajectory (LOT), predicted that the outfielder will run in a direction that makes the visual image of the ball appear to travel in a straight line, adjusting both forward-backward and side-to-side movements together.
Fink said these results focus on the visual information a ball player receives, and that future studies could bring in other variables, such as the effect of the batter's movements or sound.
"As a first step we chose to concentrate on what seemed likely to be the most important factor," Fink said. "Fielders might also use information such as the batter's swing or the sound of the bat hitting the ball to help guide their movements."
From Biotech Week editors.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Home to one of the most environmentally conscious places in the world, Vancouver has also gone to great lengths to make a "green" village, with low-flow toilets, compostable dinnerware and ubiquitous recycling.
Green, however, does not mean that 2010 Winter Games athletes will be deprived of luxury. Quite the contrary.
Sheets are 240-thread count, beds are plush and bathroom fixtures are worthy of a boutique hotel. The buildings are sleek metal and glass construction, in keeping with contemporary architecture popular in the Pacific Northwest.
Ah, and then there are the great views of Vancouver and its snow-capped Canadian mountains in the distance.
"It's awesome," chimed simultaneously Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, 20-year-old twin sisters on the U.S. Women's hockey team, blessed with views from their bright, seventh-floor apartment.
"There are two girls on our team who are in their fourth Olympics and they say this is the best set-up, by far," said Monique. "So, we are in for a treat."
The treat, however, comes at a cost to Vancouverites.
The village, which will mostly be sold as high-end housing, was one of the biggest controversies in the preparations for the Games.
The city was forced take over financing of the C$1 billion project in 2008 when lenders froze funding to the private developer in the economic downturn.
A second athletes village up in the high-mountain Whistler resort, which will be turned into mostly affordable housing, suffered no financial setbacks.
Monday, February 8, 2010
The blue plastic clickers with oval buttons that sit on the edge of students' desks at Gililland Middle School look like remote controls or older cellphones, but their purpose is education, not entertainment.
Students use the
Thursday, February 4, 2010
In an effort to streamline the Department of Education (USDE)'s programs and increase effectiveness, the President's FY 2011 budget contains major changes to the PEP grant program. According to the USDE Website, the President's budget proposes to eliminate six programs and consolidate 38 others into 11 new authorities. The PEP program, along with five other programs, would be consolidated into a new authority called "Successful, Safe and Healthy Students."
This new authority comes with a budget request of $410 million, more than all six of the individual program budgets combined in FY 2010. The Department plans to direct funding "to proven or promising practices while providing greater support and technical assistance to grantees."
Congressional Approval Required: Ultimately, Congress will determine the framework and funding levels for all USDE programs. The President's proposal is, in essence, a first draft of the USDE budget. Furthermore, the Administration has not yet provided detailed language as to how the new "Successful, Safe and Healthy Students" authority will function.
NASPE will work tirelessly to ensure that the PEP grant program receives funding as a vital component of the Successful, Safe and Healthy Students authority. During the coming weeks and months, we will communicate with you about how you can advocate to your federal legislators. It will take all of our voices to keep the PEP program going strong.
Q. Is PEP being eliminated?
A. No. The program is being consolidated, along with five other national programs, into a new USDE authority, called "Successful, Safe and Healthy Students."
Q. Will there be money for PEP in FY 2011?
A. The President has proposed funding the new Successful, Safe and Healthy Students authority at an amount greater than all its components were funded in FY 2010.
Q. How does this affect the spring 2010 PEP grant application process?
A. It does not. The funding for new grants to be awarded in 2010 ($30 million) was already appropriated by Congress in the FY 2010 budget. USDE will open the requests for proposals for 2010 grants sometime this spring.
Q. What can I do to support the PEP program?
A. Contact your federal legislators asking for their support for the PEP program as part of the new Successful, Safe and Healthy Students authority within USDE. NASPE and its PEP advocacy partners are asking Congress to fund PEP at $100 million for FY 2011.
Join NASPE in supporting physical education and physical activity K-12 on Capitol Hill on April 14-15, 2010. Register here
Paula Keyes Kun
Director of Communications
National Association for Sport and Physical Education
1900 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191
Phone: 703-476-3461 Fax: 703-476-8316