We need more science

Monday, August 11, 2008

So I’ve been watching the Olympics, as I gather most people are doing. I’m not a huge fan, although it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. I mean, the swimmers are breaking a world record every few hours, and there’s apparently a ton of drama in the women’s gymnastics (because, I think, all the athletes are 12 years old, and you know how girls are at that age). But I was reading this article and thinking that, not only does the media ignore some pretty easy science in the relative radioactivity of granite countertops, as mentioned there, but also that a few numbers could really make the Olympics more interesting to me. First, swimming. We keep breaking records. It would be nice to know how long a record stood, how much it was broken by, and things like that. We even had a swimmer break the split record and they not only didn’t mention his time, but they didn’t mention the time he had beaten. How hard is it to flash a number on the screen? Maybe instead of 37 shots of Michael Phelps screaming, we could have gotten some background on the numbers. And then the gymnastics. They’ve changed the scoring system so that you get a score based on difficulty, which they seem to know before anything happens, and then a score based on performance/accuracy/whatever. Why in the world can’t I know what the difficulty score is going to be while it’s happening? If it’s going to be a really tough routine, that would make it more interesting. Or I could at least compare something that’s rated 6.5 with something that’s 5.5 and see how much harder one appears to be than the other. They don’t even tell you what the score range is. I assume the accuracy score is out of 10, because most people were between 8.5 and 9.5. But I don’t really know. Is there some reason they can’t show these numbers? The commentators frequently ramble on about absolutely nothing. Maybe instead they could talk about the science behind why the swimmers break records every race this year. Apparently wider, deeper pools, combined with better suit technology and new stroke rules are all combining to make the swimmers faster. But I haven’t heard anyone on tv talk about that. The American public is not afraid of science and numbers. And some of us actually find that they enhance the experience. So can we maybe get some? It’s not that hard. On a sort-of-related note, congratulations to the blogger linked above - his wife just had their first baby last week.

Posted in: complaint , education , statistics , the media