Don’t Stand So Close To Me: Review

Posted by on Dec 8, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

The study of psychology has been questioned to be an authentic study of science. However, the deciding factor of psychology being called “science” is not simply whether it matches a certain definition, but how the psychology is analyzed. Members of Georgetown University’s psychology department Joana B. Vieira and Abigail A. Marsh conducted a scientific experiment that addressed psychopathy and the regulation of interpersonal distance. They tested preferred interpersonal distance as it relates to psychopathic traits, specifically that of callousness, or cold-heartedness. Their thesis revolves around the amygdala function, and how lesions in the amygdala can cause an organism to react differently to interpersonal distance. Cited in the article are studies of amygdala on both humans and monkeys. This research aligns with amygdala dysfunction in psychopathic patients, and a new research question was contrived to add to this prior knowledge.

The experimenters make a clear connection to the amygdala dysfunction to interpersonal distance but decide to take it a step further by measuring psychopathic traits as well. They used a system called the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R) to measure the psychopathic trait of cold-heartedness in the participants. Since prior research supports cold-heartedness to amygdala activity, they hypothesized that PPI-R Cold-heartedness scores would predict one’s preference of interpersonal distance. The experiment was a combination of administering this test, and a task allowing subjects to choose their preference of distance.

Forty-six participants were tested, each one receiving 32 trials that were divided into two blocks, Experimenter-walking and Participant-walking. For each block, there were four variables: eye contact/no eye contact, approach/withdrawal (approach trials were started at a distance and withdrawal trials were started up close). When the participant felt satisfied with the distance he would stop and the distance between his and the experimenter’s chin would be measured. It is important to note that the experimenter kept a neutral face and showed no signs of uneasiness to the experimenter, like previous experiments measuring psychopathy. When analyzing their data, they found that PPI-R scores for Cold-heartedness were significantly associated with interpersonal distance preferences (higher scores preferred lower distance).

This article was not only in line with previous scientific knowledge, but it added to that knowledge. No previous article has explored the relationship between psychopathic traits and interpersonal distance. However, the scientists used many prior research studies that helped them make claims in order to conduct their experiment smoothly. They referenced a previous experiment led by Daniel P. Kennedy that addressed personal space and the amygdala function, but took it a step further in adding a new variable: cold-heartedness PPI-R scores, a trait of psychopathy. In their data analysis, they were careful with certain interfering biases, like sex and cultural background. In their conclusion, they suggested ways to take the study further, therefore encouraging other scientists to develop their experiment the way they did with previous studies.

In short, this article explored the relationship between preferred interpersonal distances between cold-heartedness, a common trait in psychopathic individuals. The experiment was well thought out and implicated, and accounted for cultural and gender biases. This form of psychological study and data analysis is in fact a science, with many doors opening to more concentrated experiments.


Literature Cited

Vieira JB and Marsh AA (2014) Don’t stand so close to me: psychopathy and the regulation of interpersonal distance. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:907. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00907

The Left-Handed Advantage in Tennis

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

About 10 percent of the population holds an advantage when it comes to fighting situations and competitive sports: lefties. Left-handed individuals are rare in both the animal kingdom and the human population, so physical and strategic advantages allow lefties to benefit in one-on-one fighting situations. In a recent study published by Florian Loffing et al. in PLoS ONE journal, left-handed individuals, predominantly men, have the upper hand in tennis matches, although the advantage diminishes with higher performance levels. Although the article was an interesting read, the conclusions were rather obvious and were repeated several times throughout the article, as if the reiteration revealed new information.

Loffing and friends held two studies: left-handed professional and amateur tennis players. The study of professional tennis players was based on data published publicly online from 1973 to 2011. Analysis of data revealed an excess of left-handed professionals in 15 of the 39 years, with an inverse U-shaped curve peaking around the 1990s. Women were overrepresented only in 1981. Data for both studies were obtained from free online resources, searches on the web, or material voluntarily provided by tennis clubs in the WTV, in which 184 of the 597 tennis clubs responded. The online sources may be skeptical and loaded with misinformation. Additionally, the tennis clubs voluntarily responded, which introduces bias since the clubs with left-handed players would most likely respond.

Left-handed players were previously the highest ranked and best players in year-end rankings, but that advantage has decreased over time, which is obvious since professional players are accustomed to playing with left-handed players and spend an adequate amount of time to practice, prepare, and watch videos and read game statistics on their left-handed opponents.

Left-handed advantage in professional tennis is moderate in men’s competition and almost non-existent in females. The study exposes new information regarding left-handedness and sex, although it is revealed that this information was previously known, where “work on laterality effects in male and female sporting professionals found handedness to be performance-relevant in male rather than female competition” (Loffing 2). However, the data does not provide reasons or an explanation for this occurrence. Although it may be biological, it is not supported by the data obtained from this specific experiment.

Loffing et al. used information from a large survey administered to people ages 18-30, a range near the age range of professionals, and asked for handedness in both writing and throwing. This information was compared to left-handedness in tennis to determine the probability of finding more or an equal number of left-handed professionals by chance. The use of a survey introduces bias into the study, since it is only voluntary, and would most likely attract sports-oriented people. Secondly, throwing left-handed cannot be compared to playing left-handed in tennis. The motions differ significantly because the tennis swing requires technique and precise movement, and there is also the element of cross-dominance in handedness.

Despite the flaws in the study, it revealed new information on left-handed tennis players, a topic in which there is little research. The scientists were detailed with the source of their information, the calculations, and the significance of data and results obtained. The study was not an experiment per se, but more of a compilation of data already provided to the world. However, data was missing from certain years and from women’s tennis in general. The study provides a correlation between left-handed players and success in tennis, but only before the player reaches a professional level and becomes accustomed to left-handed players.



Loffing F, Hagemann N, Strauss B (2012) Left-Handedness in Professional and Amateur Tennis. PLos ONE 7(11): e49325. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049325

Comparing Experiments to Models: Vibrating Guitar Strings

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

“An experimental analysis of a vibrating guitar string using high-speed photography,” by Scott B. Whitfield and Kurt B. Flesch of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire seeks to compare the waveform of a plucked string with a standard wave model of this vibration at various initial amplitudes and locations along the string. Whitfield and Flesch conclude that the experimental vibration matches well with the model when the string is plucked at small amplitudes. This detailed but relatively clear article contributes to physics due to its novelty and solid experimental design.

The method that Whitfield and Flesch used in order to make these comparisons is fairly simple, but is quite effective. First, they constructed a quasi-guitar using only one string and wooden boards (in order to enhance the visibility of the string). Next, they set up the remainder of the experiment, and then plucked the string at three separate locations: the middle of the string, 1/3 of the way from the string’s end, and 1/5 of the way from the string’s end. At each location, they made three plucks, each one at separate heights. When the string was plucked, they captured the string vibration using high-speed cameras and a computer program. Once they had captured the data, they compared the vibrating string to the model using both equations and the recorded images as an overlay on the model.

From this experiment, they were able to determine that the experimental pluck aligns most the model at smaller amplitudes, regardless of the location of the pluck. They also determined that at larger initial amplitudes, the experimental vibration strayed more from the modeled vibration. They argue that the string’s construction, including its material and tightness, had a greater effect on the larger plucks, which is why there is more variance from the model.

While this article could have explained its use of the equations slightly more, it was wholly clear and comprehensible. It also contributes heavily to the field, breaking new ground. No studies that compare a vibrating string to a standard wave model had been published prior to this one. This study is solid because it is consistent with previous knowledge (it cites Arthur Benade’s use of equations). But, while the data supports the conclusions drawn, Whitfield and Flesch made several assumptions regarding the decay of the strings and the string’s curve at the initial amplitude. They acknowledge these assumptions in their writing, but the effects that they assumed were negligible perhaps could have had an effect on the experimental vibration.

Thus, Whitfield and Flesch’s study concludes that, after comparing an experimental string’s vibration to a standard wave model, the vibrations most match at smaller initial amplitudes. This study is clear and definitely breaks new ground, which is what makes it good for physicists studying vibrating strings.

Whitfield, Scott B., Flesch, Kurt B. (2014). .An experimental analysis of a vibrating guitar string using high-speed photography. American Journal of Physics, 82; doi: 10.1119/1.4832195

A Deeper Understanding of Deforestation

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

This peer-reviewed article is the “Annual Carbon Emission from Deforestation” published in the journal PLoS ONE on May 2015. The article states that the current methods of assessing the carbon emissions from deforestation are inconsistent and are not done frequently enough to be valuable. The authors argue that deforestation has high variability, and that its rate can be estimated better by understanding the different annual trends and that neighboring areas can have vastly differing trends. Finding this trend is key into understanding and quantifying the deforestation rates and these trends can help deforestation mitigation programs target locations more accurately. Through its data collection method and its analysis, this article provides deeper insight into deforestation and carbon emissions. It also demonstrates the use of the annual trends and how this work can be improved in the future.

The article is based on research done to compare the deforestation rate to the carbon emission rate in the Amazon Basin. This data was collected using time-series satellite data from Landsat satellites and the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Vegetation Continuous Fields (MODIS VCF) over the span of 10 years. The datasets were separated into yearly intervals. The study found that carbon emission rates from deforestation differ not only from region to region, but also from year to year. The author argues that this is more accurate than past studies that were done by the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) every 5 or 10 years and it relied on each country’s reporting of forest cover change. Deforestation has also invaded into forests of high carbon density, meaning that there will be more carbon emission per deforested area. Since low carbon density forests have been cut down during the study period, the author closes stating that the remaining forest cover and its carbon density has to continue to be monitored in order to accurately estimate carbon changes in the future.

As the article stated, deforestation has become a major source of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Due to this we should keep a better record of this and analyze the effects of deforestation more deeply. Now that deforestation has hit areas of high biomass, the emission rate will increase if left unattended. Since 2008, the forests cleared in Brazil, Peru, and Colombia has had a higher carbon density that the forests cleared prior to that year, meaning that the annual trend of emissions will increase. This trend is also important because it is a quantitative value that can be used by deforestation mitigation programs, such as UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). This study can be useful to those that are looking to perform a similar study in their area. Programs like REDD+ can use this data to chose which locations are in need of their ecosystem services the most.

With the MODIS VCF technology improving, datasets can be reduced into monthly intervals to produce more accurate trends. Now that emission rates are known to vary from one region to another, there can be more precise studies can be made, not only of the Amazons, but also of other areas of the world. This gives more insight into pinpointing forests that are in dire need of protection.





Song, X., Huang, C., Saatchi, S. S., Hansen, M. C., & Townshend, J. R. (2015). Annual Carbon Emissions from Deforestation in the Amazon Basin between 2000 and 2010. Plos ONE, 10(5), 1-21. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0126754

Coffee Genotypes and Improper Scientific Experimental Design

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Blog, Science Times | No Comments

The article “Low Temperature Impact on Photosynthetic Parameters of Coffee Genotypes”, written by Fábio Luiz Partelli provides data regarding an experiment that tests the effect of temperature on the efficiency of photosynthetic processes. Partelli believed that the exposure of coffee genotypes to lower temperatures should slow down photosynthesis within the plant structures. Although the results justify a negative correlation between temperature and photosynthetic efficiency there aren’t many reasons to believe that the information gained from this experiment will make great contributions to this field of science.

Partelli’s goal was to analyze the response of coffee genotypes to lower temperatures with the hope to understand how these plants would acclimate to changing temperature. This is evident through Partelli’s emphasis on the “recovery period” of the plant throughout the experiment. From his results, he concluded that gas exchange, along with other internal processes, had a better performance as the recovery period went on. This led him to believe that gradual exposure to lower temperatures will facilitate acclimation and therefore keep photosynthetic processes as efficient as possible.

Several aspects of Partelli’s experimental design were questionable and, therefore, could lead to skepticism regarding the validity of the results. To start off, Partelli does a good job at explaining the reasons for which photosynthetic efficiency decreased. In particular, when he discussed the maximum quantum efficiency (the ratio between a plant’s stress and the amount of reaction centers that are available), he states that photosynthetic efficiency may have decreased because of an accumulation of zeaxanthin, a chemical that controls the overproduction of chlorophyll. As the zeathanin increases, the rate of photosynthesis decreased as well. Partelli also provided an clear, accurate, alternative explanation that demonstrated the thoroughness of his research. Despite his efforts, the overall experimental design raised many questions regarding its validity. In particular, the methods called for a rather small sample size when analyzing the photosynthetic rates of Coffea Canephora and Coffea arabica genotypes prior to lower temperature exposure. How is it that he expects to generalize the idea that gradual temperature decrease will allow a majority of coffee genotypes to maintain internal processes stabilized, if he is unable to provided the appropriate data for it? While I do believe the impact of this matter will have a large impact to the scientific field, I feel its impact would greater if the experiment analyzed the changes to photosynthetic rates in higher temperatures. This adjustment to the experiment would be more beneficial because the global increase of temperature due to climate change is more relevant nowadays.

Partelli’s experiment led him to conclude that there was a negative correlation between temperature and photosynthetic efficiency. While I do believe that Partelli drew accurate conclusions from the data he collected, I do not believe the conclusions can be applied in a larger sense because of the unreliability of the data. This was, however, a step in the right direction since we will need to understand the adaptations that coffee plants will need to make, especially as climate change carries on.


  1. Partelli, Fábio Luiz. 2009. Low temperature impact on photosynthetic parameters of coffee genotypes. Pesq. agropec. bras. [online]. 2009, vol.44, n.11, pp. 1404-1415.

More Than Meets the Eye: The Answer to Why Animals Have Different Eye Pupil Shapes

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

In a recent study with 214 different terrestrial species of varying pupil shapes and foraging mode (i.e. predator or prey), Professor Martin S. Banks and his colleagues, at the University of California, Berkeley and the United Kingdom’s Durham University, identified a striking and significant correlation between pupil shape and ecological niche. Through computer-generated eye models and multinomial logistic regression, the group showed that pupil shape was accurately predicted by how an animal gathered food, whether it foraged on plants or hunted other animals.

To understand why this correlation existed, Banks used point-spread functions (PSFs), which visually describe how an imaging system (for instance, the eye) responds to a single, localized source of light, to illustrate the 3-D diffraction patterns of light in both a vertically slit and a horizontally elongated pupil. What he found was that animals with vertically slit pupils were more likely to be ambush predators that waited until their prey was relatively close before attacking. Banks’s PSFs and eye models demonstrated that the vertically elongated pupil allowed for a sharper field of vision for vertical contours – vertical lines in physical space. This condition helped predators easily identify and estimate the locations of prey on flat, horizontal ground, and the restricted horizontal field of vision also appeared to aid predators in estimating distances along the ground where the prey were.

However, vertically slit pupils worked best only for short animals, whose eyes were fairly close to the ground. Additional statistical analyses showed that taller animals that actively chase their prey (for instance, a tiger or human, as opposed to a house cat), as well as birds, were more likely to have round, circular pupils instead of vertically slit pupils. This illustrated a fascinating correlation between eye height and the possibility of a predator having a circular instead of a vertically slit pupil.

On the other hand, species with horizontally elongated pupils tended to be prey, animals that often need a horizontally panoramic view of their surroundings to quickly detect and escape from potential predators. The horizontally elongated pupil was advantageous for these animals, because it made horizontal contours sharp, thereby optimizing a large horizontal range of vision and the ability to scan the environment for predators. The vertical restriction of this pupil also appeared to reduce the amount of overhead sunlight that entered the eye, hence allowing the eye to capture light in the more important directions along the ground, rather than from above.

Overall, Banks and his colleagues made a very convincing case of why animal eyes have differently shaped pupils. Their thorough statistical analyses, eye models, and PSFs, have accurately highlighted the significant correlation between pupil shape and ecological niche. Especially as the first comprehensive study of its kind, this research is a great beginning towards better understanding more about the eye and the role of pupil shape in vision. Nonetheless, there are still many studies that can be conducted to further enhance and add to this research. For example, Banks’s study focused primarily on terrestrial species – species on dry land, but it would be great to also consider examining the various pupil shapes of species that thrive in different environments: those that live in water, those that fly in the air, or those that reside in forests and underground. And of course, there are those few animals with pupils of the most bizarre shapes and forms: the gecko’s multiple pinhole-like openings in the eye, and the cuttlefish’s W-shaped pupil. Analyzing these special pupils in future studies will also likely provide a great wealth of new information to explain the mystery of why pupil shapes exist as they do.


Literature Cited

Banks, M. S., Sprague, W. W., Schmoll, J., Parnell, J. A. Q., & Love, G. D. (2015). Why do animal eyes have pupils of different shapes? Science Advances, 1(7) doi:10.1126/sciadv.1500391

Taming the Metastatic Beast

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

A voracious, aggressive, and ruthless beast engulfs and commandeers the body of thousands of women every day, slowly deteriorating them. Ovarian cancer (OC), the brutish force, kills 15,500 women annually in America. Many women undergo chemotherapy, only to undergo a recurrence later on, thereby necessitating the scramble for an alternative treatment. A recent possibility, dendritic-cell (DC) based immunotherapy, induces an immune response with OC-specific immune cell markers. A team of researchers in Japan published “The feasibility and clinical effects of dendritic cell-based immunotherapy synthesized peptides for recurrent ovarian cancer patients.” Determining the efficacy of this treatment provides answers for uncertain treatment methods.

While DC immunotherapy is frequently studied, the scientists focused on a particular population of recurrent ovarian cancer (ROC) patients and analyzed the efficacy and feasibility of treatment. This could potentially explain how specific antigen proteins will respond to the therapy.

The researchers screened and selected 56 inoperable ROC patients who had undergone chemotherapy unsuccessfully. Antigen proteins, WT1, MUC1, and CA125 are crucial ROC markers and were assessed in each patient to tailor the respective specialized DC treatments. Patients were injected with the treatment five to seven times every 14 to 21 days. Immune cells such as CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, WT1, and natural killer (NK) cells were quantified. Additionally, clinical assessments and observations of adverse events (AEs) were also monitored.

Efficacy was determined by measuring patient response. Patient conditions were classified according to the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors. Three statistical tests were used: Kaplan-Meier probability estimates determined the survival probability and statistically significant data in the variables between treatment groups, the Cox regression method analyzed the effect of certain risk factors on survival, and the Fischer exact probability test determined whether differences between two variables were random.

DC-based immunotherapy was accepted in patients and induced an immune response. However, there was no correlation between the antigen-specific lymphocytes and mean survival time (MST). Further research includes using more OC-specific antigens to promote effective treatment.

The potential therapeutic effects of DC-based immunotherapy expand the breadth of cancer treatment. The study is rationalized with pertinent background info and the underlying flaws in past research. An extensive analysis is made of several variables such as antigen response and toxicity, which are well- grounded standards to determine potency of treatment. The researchers also address improvements for further studies such as a larger sample size.

However, there were discrepancies in the study’s protocol. Too many variables were manipulated such as antigen products each patient received and their historical diagnoses. Changing one variable would have reduced the complexity and factors being analyzed. Varying individual antigen treatments also provided flawed conclusive evidence on the correlation between antigen and treatment. The study was conducted in Japan, so the lack of diversity of the participants is a possible source of bias as variation of disease progression could be sourced to demographic variables like race. Furthermore, the medical research did not clearly indicate the use of a blind test.

The study focuses on an area of research that would be extremely valuable to women worldwide battling OC. By successfully investigating its efficacy and feasibility, the researchers find more information that will drive further research to manipulate the treatment, potentially to a final win.


Literature Cited

Kobayashi M, Chiba A, Izawa H, Yanagida E, Okamoto M, Shimodaira S, Yonemitsu Y,

Shibamoto Y, Suzuki N, Nagaya M. The feasibility and clinical effects of dendritic cell-based immunotherapy targeting synthesized peptides for recurrent ovarian cancer. J Ovarian Research. 2014;1-9.





Endophytic Treatment of Soybeans against Pathogen R. solani: A Possible Alternative to Pesticides?

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

Pesticides not only kill harmful organisms to crops, but also vital ones like bees, and they pose health hazards to people. Scientists have been exploring a more natural alternative to pesticides. One hopeful but largely unexplored solution is the use of endophytic treatments. Previous studies have shown that endophytes, micro-bacteria or fungi living within plants’ cells, provide beneficial effects for hosts, such as support growth, prevent disease development, and increase their resistance to environmental stresses. Endophytic treatment consists of coating seeds with pre-selected, helpful endophytes, which in theory should promote plant growth and decease disease in plants.

Since endophytic treatments vary widely according to species of plant and the type of immunity needed, many experiments are required to test the treatment’s range of abilities. Dalal and Kulkarni’s research paper specifically studies the different endophytic treatments needed to protect soybean Glycine max (L.) Merril, a soybean species commonly grown in India, against the soil pathogen R. solani. His research also further explores Cultivar JS-335, the indigenous endophytic microbes for soybean crop cultivar. The researchers hypothesize that endophytic treatments on soybeans will aid plant growth and decrease disease incidences.

The experiment took place in an experimental agricultural research facility in India that has suitable climate and soil for soybean production. The researchers constructed a microsystem grid of 33 1plots and randomly assigned spots for the control and experimental seeds. The researchers infected the all soil with R. Solani; however, the experimental plots were fortified with the pathogen manually, while the control plots were not. There were 3 control seeds, which did not receive endophytic treatment, and 30 experimental seeds, which consisted of 10 different endophytic treatments (3 seeds per treatment.) The seeds grew and were harvested 3 months later. The data collected included: Root Nodulation Count, Yield, and Disease Incidences (%). The researchers gathered the data for each category, and then found the mean values.

Before analyzing the results of the experiment, inconsistencies with the method must be addressed. Out of the 33 plants, there were only 3 controls plants. To have truly reliable data, the control numbers should equal the treatment numbers. This disproportionate ratio of control and experimental variables shows bias towards the experimental variable and skews data, making it unreliable. Also, the control treatment plots were not treated with the same 10% more R. solani fortified soil, unlike the experimental treatment. This variable between control group and the experimental group should have been standardized. Once again the data appears biased and the relationship between the experimental treatment and the result comes into doubt.

The researchers concluded that endophytic treatments do increase plant growth and build resistance against R. solani. The data do show in most critical tests, such as disease incidence and seed yield, the experimental variable did consistently outperform the control. However, the researchers’ methods did not produce reliable data, so the conclusion must also be unreliable. This research does not effectively support that endophytic treatment increases plant growth and defenses against R. solani in soybeans.


Literature Cited

Dalal, J., &Kulkarni, N. (2014). Effect of Endophytic Treatments on Plant Growth Performance and Disease incidences on Soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merril) Cultivar JS-335 Against Challenge Inoculation with R. solani. American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences, 10(2), 99-110. doi:10.3844/ajabssp.2015.99.110

Review of “Exploring Interactions with Physically Dynamic Bar Charts”

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

In “Exploring Interactions with Physically Dynamic Bar Charts,” a paper published in a conference for Human-Computer Interaction, researchers at Lancaster University have begun to explore various interaction techniques designed for physically dynamic bar charts. The physically dynamic bar charts are self-actuating rods capable of color output and touch detection for modifying data. The authors provide a concise presentation of their design and implementation process, and results. It is an interesting perspective to explore this new type of visualization and observe how different interaction techniques affect people’s abilities to complete commonly used visualization tasks.

The purpose of this study was to introduce this new type of visualization and 14 baseline interaction techniques and receive feedback from participants. A user study was carried out with 17 participants to evaluate the techniques to determine which ones were most preferred and effective. Participants were asked to complete four visualization tasks with the baseline interaction techniques. Participants then rated and commented on the techniques. The researchers were able to conclude two major points: (1) interaction techniques varied in user preference based on context of use, and (2) prevalence of touch-screen devices has shown significant influence over interaction techniques.

Based on the data collected, the two major conclusions the author made seem valid. Some of the given tasks required targeting certain data points while other tasks required more of an overall view of the data presented. Thus, the author’s conclusion that different tasks require different techniques is valid. Many participants assumed techniques would be similar to what would be used on touch-screen device, but they were open-minded when introduced to the baseline interaction techniques that involved more direct touch. Although it is important for designers to take advantage of people’s familiarity with touch-screen gestures, it is also important to expand on designs to incorporate the interaction space.

The method of the study proved to be sound and provided significant results. However, one point worth mentioning is the fact that a few of the participants have already been exposed to shape-changing technology. The researchers are unaware if the exposure had been positive or negative, and thus their feedback could be biased.

The authors did a good job providing a written presentation of the study but they did a poor job presenting the data graphically. The one graphical visualization of the data is clumped together and difficult to interpret. It would also be beneficial to include more of the participants’ feedback. It’s understandable that including all the feedback would be difficult and make the paper dull, but many of the conclusions of the paper were plainly stated. There were a few quotes here and there, but other than that, the readers have to take the author’s word regarding the conclusions.

Overall, the study was a successful attempt to gain further insight on these new physically dynamic bar charts and its various interaction techniques. To further the study, researchers should measure how accurate these interaction techniques could perform with certain tasks.


Literature Cited

Taher, F., Hardy, J., Karnik, A., Weichel, C., Jansen, Y., Hornbæk, K., & Alexander, J. (2015, April). Exploring interactions with physically dynamic bar charts. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3237-3246). ACM.


Chinese Diets and Obesity: Is The Western Diet a Threat?

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Science Times | No Comments

The article, “Major Dietary Patterns in Relation to General and Central Obesity among Chinese Adults,” written by Yu, C., Shi, Z., Lv J., Du, H., Qi L., Guo Y., Bian, Z., Chang, L., Tang, X., Jiang, Q., Mu, H., Pan, D., Chen, J., Chen, Z., and Li, L., focuses on a popular health issue: obesity. Because of the health risks that come with obesity, Yu and the other researchers/authors performed an experiment to see how certain dietary patterns are related to obesity in China. Although general information about dietary patterns and obesity have been proven (such as diets with more fruits and vegetables are inversely associated with obesity), the researchers/authors wanted to produce data for people in China since there is a different food culture.

For their experiment, the researchers gathered general health data from 510,000 people (aged 30-79 years). The population was split into a northern and a southern group. The researchers then produced a baseline survey that had twelve major food groups: rice, wheat, other staples, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, preserved vegetables, soybean, and dairy products. The survey was handed to participants and the participants filled out how often (in days per week) they ate from that food group. The researchers then produced three different dietary patterns, a Southern Dietary Pattern, a Northern Dietary Pattern, and a Western Dietary Pattern. These patterns were based off geological areas and the “western” trend of having high intakes of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, soybean, fresh fruit, and dairy products. After a year, a repeat questionnaire and recollection of data was taken for comparison. The results of this experiment showed that those who followed a Western Dietary Pattern had higher body mass index measurements and larger waist circumferences than those who followed a Northern Dietary Pattern and Southern Dietary Pattern. The researchers concluded that there is a significant, but moderate increase in obesity when a Western Dietary Pattern is followed. Acknowledging the fact that a moderate increase of obesity might not mean much by itself, the researchers also stated that even a slight difference in a country that has a huge population, such as China, may have a huge impact.

There is a major flaw about the performed experiment that the article didn’t discuss about. Weight gain has a direct correlation to the amount of calories one intakes. [1] Although the experiment does ask for how often one eats from a certain food group, the value is measured in days per week. This is ambiguous as if a person only eats 50 calories of meat every day, it still counts as eating meat seven days a week.  By not counting the calories of how much one eats, any relations between obesity and diets aren’t strongly supported.

Despite the flaw, the article was very detailed about the procedure and outcomes of the experiment. The data also supports existing claims that high meat consumption is directly related to weight gain. [2] On top of that, the researchers also made a fine point of how a moderate difference can lead to a huge impact as the average obesity level in a country can rise slightly if enough people shift to the Western Dietary Pattern. People, especially Asians, who are interested in finding a diet that has a low risk of obesity can benefit from this article.

This study produced a direct relationship between the Western Dietary Pattern and obesity which supports present information about the relationship between increase meat intake and obesity. Although the goals of the researchers were met, this experiment should be done again by counting calories to further solidify the relationship between the Western Dietary Pattern and obesity.

Main Citation

Yu, C., Shi, Z., Lv J., Du, H., Qi L., Guo Y., Bian, Z., Chang, L., Tang, X., Jiang, Q., Mu, H., Pan, D., Chen, J., Chen, Z., & Li, L. (2015, July 15). Major Dietary Patterns in Relation to General and Central Obesity among Chinese Adults. Nutrients. 2015, 7(7), 5834-5849; doi:10.3390/nu7075253. Retrieved from


[1] Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity. (2012, April 27). Retrieved October 5, 2015, from
[2] Vergnaud, A., Norat, T., Romaguera, D., Mouw, T., May, A., Travier, N., Luan, J., Wareham, N., Slimani, N., Rinaldi, S., Couto, E., Clavel-Chapelon, F., Boutron-Ruault, M., Cottet, V., Palli, D., Agnoli, C., Panico, S., Tumino, R., Vineis, P., Agudo, A., Rodriguiez, L., Sanches, M., Amiano, P., Barricarte, A., Huerta, J., Key, T., Spenser, E., Bueno-de-Mesquita, B., Buchner, F., Orfanos, P., Naska, A., Trichopoulou, A., Rohrmann, S., Hermann, S., Hoeing, H., Buijsse, B., Johansson, I., Hellstrom, V., Manjer, J., Wirfalt, E., Jakobson, M., Overvad, K., Tjonneland, A., Halkjaer, J., Lund, E., Braaten, T., Engeset, D., Odysseos, A., Riboli, E., Peeters, P. (2010, June 30). Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study. American Society for Nutrition. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28713. Retrieved from

Written by: Tony Chu