16 April 2021

Women’s Sports Uncovered

Welcome back. Did you catch any of the March Madness games? The women’s tournament? With all the hoopla focused on the men’s tournament, you’ll probably be surprised that a tally of Twitter and Instagram counts found 8 of the 10 most-followed players on the final eight teams were women.

Coach Tara VanDerveer cuts down the net after Stanford beat Arizona for the 2021 women's national title (AP photo by Morry Gash from chroniclet.com/photo-single/155963/?mode=team).

The fans must have been excited to see those players in action. The women’s tournament was televised, even if there was relatively little on televised sports news and highlights shows. Unfortunately, the lack of coverage is nothing new; women’s sports are usually ignored. At least that’s what Purdue and the University of Southern California researchers have documented every 5 years from 1989 to 2019.

Data Collection and Analysis
For their 2019 effort, the researchers followed the same methodology they applied in assessing the quantity and quality of men's and women's sports news coverage since 1989. They sampled and analyzed three 2-week blocs of televised news in March, July and November on NBC, CBS and ABC Los Angeles affiliates and on the ESPN SportsCenter program. When available, the continuous running ticker at the bottom of the television screen was included. As a first, they also added online daily sports newsletters and official NBC, CBS and ESPN Twitter accounts.

Men’s vs. Women’s Sports Coverage
The enormous gap between men’s and women’s sports coverage in 2019 appeared in every way.

Less than 6% of airtime was devoted to women’s sports (i.e., about 94% to men’s sports). Most of women’s sports coverage was in July, when the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup and U.S. women were competing in the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Airtime in March and November was only 1.7% and 0.7%, respectively.

The proportion of airtime devoted to women’s sports on three network affiliates’ sport news and on ESPN’s SportsCenter, 1989–2019 (from journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/21674795211003524).

Women’s sports fared better in online newsletters (8.7%) and Twitter (10.2%); however, most was due to espnW, which ended its weekly newsletter following the July 2019 data collection period.

Lead Stories
Like all news shows, sports open with the most important or engaging story of the day. Of the 251 broadcasts analyzed in 2019, five led with a women’s sports story; all five were on the U.S. Women’s soccer team winning the World Cup. Of the 93 online newsletters analyzed, eight led with a story about women’s sports.

Men’s “Big Three”
In their 2009 analysis, the researchers reported that sports coverage was becoming less diverse; 68% of the airtime was devoted to what they labeled men’s Big Three--college and professional basketball, baseball and football. That rose to 75% in 2019, with the remaining 25% shared by other men’s sports, gender-neutral topics and women’s sports.

Televised news and highlights, online newsletters and social media sports coverage, by gender (excludes espnW), 2019 (from journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/21674795211003524).

Never Too Early or Too Much
Since moving to Wisconsin, I’ve been amused by TV network affiliates’ year-round coverage of the Green Bay Packers whether important or trivial.

The researchers point out that the dominance of men’s Big Three sports on TV news and highlights programs is amplified by in-season as well as off-season reporting. In 2019, men’s professional basketball had nearly as much off-season as in-season coverage, while women’s professional basketball was covered only in-season. Worse, even in-season, women’s sports stories may be superseded by off-season men’s sports stories.

Notably, the community and charitable contributions of men athletes and teams were frequently featured in news and highlights shows, but women athletes’ contributions, including their social justice activism, seldom made it into women’s sports stories.

Wrap Up
Women’s sports coverage hasn’t changed in quantity for 30-years, yet there have been striking changes in the ways they’re reported. In the 1990s, women athletes were routinely trivialized, insulted and humorously sexualized. By the 2000s, sports news viewed women athletes less offensively, instead underlining their roles as wives, girlfriends or mothers. In 2014, women’s sports was being delivered in a boring, inflection-free manner.

I began and end with March Madness. The researchers found that, in 2019, their local network affiliates and ESPN’s SportsCenter devoted no more than 5% of their combined coverage to the women’s tournament, the online newsletter articles and tweets about 11%. Go girls!

Thanks for stopping by.

Most-followed players on men’s and women’s elite eight teams: www.axios.com/ncaa-basketball-social-media-followings-a98b2f21-e907-4276-b860-32565654d64a.html
Study of women’s televised sports, 1989-2019, in Communication & Sport journal: journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/21674795211003524
Article on study on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uosc-nmk032221.php

09 April 2021

Quick Responses More Sincere

Welcome back. When I was young or at least younger, I was normally able to respond quickly to most questions. These days, people may have to give me some slack.

Does response speed really matter? In a recent study, researchers affiliated with France’s Grenoble Ecole de Management and Australia’s James Cook University conducted 14 experiments involving 7,565 participants to prove that it does.

When people pause before replying, even for just a few seconds, their answers seem less sincere, less credible than if they replied immediately. Slower responses are perceived as taking time to fabricate an answer while suppressing the truth.

Are you lying or do you just respond slowly?
(Graphic from Walt Disney Productions)
Now, if you’re asking me what was done in the study, I’ll try to respond as quickly as I can.

Experimental Design
Participants in the experiments included U.S. or U.K. adults enlisted via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk or Prolific as well as one experiment with French students.

The notion that slower responses are thought less sincere is predicated on the delays attributed to a cognitive process related to lying. Nevertheless, the researchers recognized and allowed that response delays might be due to other factors, e.g., mental effort or digging to find socially desirable responses. For instance, people often downplay resentment at being asked a favor or they try to cover materialistic with positive values.

The experiments thus included audio, video and vignette stimuli, testing the perceived response sincerity across different response speeds, actors and scenarios; whether slower responders would be judged guilty of serious or trivial crimes; if the sincerity judgement is weaker when attributed to mental effort; and even if the sincerity judgement is weaker when participants are instructed to ignore response speed.

When participants were instructed to ignore response speed, the perceived sincerity and guilt judgment was reduced though not eliminated (from www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspa0000250.pdf).
Example Experiments
The initial experiment tested the sincerity judgement using audio stimuli with 1,133 MTurk participants (57% male).

Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 6 response speeds from 0 to 10 seconds. For each speed, they listened to 4 audio snippets--2 with male actors, 2 with female, 2 snippets pertaining to a taste preference scenario, 2 snippets to a money theft scenario. For each speed and situation, the question and answer were the same, replying either “Yes I did” to liking the taste or “No I didn’t” to the theft. After each audio snippet, participants rated the responder’s sincerity from 1 to 7.

One variation of the initial experiment used video stimuli with 562 MTurk participants (52% female) to test whether slower responders were more likely to be judged guilty of an accused crime.

Participants were randomly assigned to hear either a fast or slow response. Each was shown 2 videos of police interrogating a man or woman accused of stealing a few thousand dollars. In the fast condition, after the police officer asked, “Did you steal the money?”, the suspect immediately replied, “No, I didn’t!” In the slow condition, the suspect replied after a delay of about 5 seconds. After each video, participants rated the suspect’s sincerity from 1 to 7 and whether they thought the suspect was guilty (yes/no).

Wrap Up
Across all experiments, participants consistently rated delayed responses as less sincere. As expected, however, certain conditions reduced the effect. For example, if the answer was considered socially undesirable, such as saying “No" when a friend asks if you like their cake, the response was considered sincere whether fast or slow. Similarly, if participants thought a slower response was due to mental effort, such as recalling the theft of candy 10 years earlier, response speed had a smaller effect. 

Response speed affected sincerity judgments when the response was socially desirable (e.g., telling your friend you like the cake he or she made), but speed hardly mattered when the response was socially undesirable (e.g., telling your friend you don’t like the cake) (from www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspa0000250.pdf).
The lead researcher notes that the study results apply to a wide range of interactions--workplace chit-chat, couples bickering, job interviews, court trials. Though it may seem unfair when a response is delayed by distraction or being thoughtful, delaying for even a couple of seconds may be considered a slow lie.

Did you learn much? (Answer quickly.) Thanks for stopping by.

Study on response speed perception in Jour. of Personality and Social Psychology: www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspa0000250.pdf
Article on study on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/apa-aqt021121.php

02 April 2021

Transparent Wood

Welcome back. I don’t know about you, but I had no idea that wood could be made transparent.

Unbeknownst to me, various researchers have been working to optimize see-through wood. The products have promising properties for buildings and structural applications, including their renewable and abundant source, optical properties, outstanding mechanical performance, low density, low thermal conductivity and potential for multiple applications.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. A few years ago, I owned up to gaps in my material sciences education. If you recall, I blogged how amazed I was that a team of researchers developed a way to transform wood into a product that’s about as strong as steel (see reprinted post, Steel-Like Wood).

Well, some of those same University of Maryland researchers are back to amaze me again, this time with transparent wood. If you’re befuddled by what transparent wood is, don’t be. It’s just what you think it is.

Viewing the sky through a 1 mm (0.04 in) thick sheet of transparent wood (from Fig. 1 of Univ. of Maryland study, advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/5/eabd7342).

Making Wood Transparent
To understand how transparent wood is fabricated, it helps to know a bit about wood’s cellular structure, particularly the organic polymer lignin. In Steel-Like Wood, I wrote:

Wood cells consist of cellulose (about 50%), lignin (about 20% to 25% in hardwoods, 25% to 33% in softwoods) and hemicellulose (the residual). In general, cellulose is wood’s fibrous bulk. Lignin holds the fibers together, filling the cell wall spaces between cellulose and hemicellulose and conferring mechanical strength as well as a more hydrophobic barrier for water transport.

The usual approach to producing transparent wood is to remove the lignin with a solution-based immersion, then add a refractive-index matching polymer to the delignified wood matrix to minimize light absorption and scattering.

The problem, of course, is that removing lignin reduces wood’s mechanical strength. Moreover, employing a solution-based immersion is relatively energy and chemical intensive, lengthens the processing time and generates liquid waste that’s difficult to recycle.

More recent approaches, as exemplified by the University of Maryland study, have tried to address these issues by controlling the degree of delignification.

Solar-Assisted Chemical Brushing
Instead of immersing the wood, the Maryland researchers brush hydrogen peroxide across its surface to modify the lignin, then illuminate the wood with ultraviolet light (sunlight or artificial) to remove the lignin chromophores responsible for its color. Finally, they infiltrate the wood with a refractive-index matching epoxy. 

Schematic illustration of fabricating transparent wood by brushing with hydrogen peroxide and illuminating with sunlight to modify the lignin and make wood colorless, then adding an epoxy (from Fig. 1 of Univ. of Maryland study, advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/5/eabd7342).

Natural wood’s porous structure promotes rapid infiltration and diffusion of the hydrogen peroxide, ultraviolet light trapping and epoxy infiltration. The resulting product is a dense microstructure with low light absorption and scattering and high light transmittance (up to about 90%) whether the wood is cut longitudinally or transversely. The lignin-modified wood is some 50 times stronger than lignin-removed wood.

Compared with solution-based immersion processes, the chemical brushing and UV light approach requires fewer chemicals and less energy, greatly reducing the cost and liquid waste. One very cool benefit is that designable patterns can be easily added to the transparent wood.

Image of transparent wood patterned with a tree-leaf shape and word “Wood” (from Fig. 1 of Univ. of Maryland study, advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/5/eabd7342).

Wrap Up
The study demonstrated a rapid, cost-effective and sustainable approach to fabricating patternable transparent wood that has optical and mechanical properties favorable for energy-efficient building applications and light management. That the approach can use solar energy in the processing opens the application to large-scale industrial production.

As much as I appreciate advances in metals, polymers, ceramics and composites, there’s something comforting about advances in wood. Thanks for stopping by.

Study of solar-assisted fabrication of transparent wood in Science Advances journal: advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/5/eabd7342
Example articles on study:
Examples of earlier reports on transparent wood:

26 March 2021

Are You Really Dead?

Welcome back. The doctor checks this and that, then pronounces you dead. Sorry, you’re not in any position to argue, but has the doctor waited long enough? Though I’ve blogged about Near-Death Experiences; this post doesn’t stop at near.

It’s over, you’ve died (photo from www.gdnonline.com/Details/363916).

A recent study examined the minimum duration of pulselessness after circulatory determination of death before organ donation may proceed. In short, how long must they wait? To avoid a damaged organ for transplantation, there’s a limited period of time after life-sustaining measures are withdrawn.

The work drew upon a team of more medical professionals than you could imagine from Canada, the U.S., Czech Republic, U.K. and the Netherlands.

Death and Organ Donation
The dead donor rule is the requirement that removal of vital organs cannot be the cause of the donor’s death and can take place only after death has occurred.

In accordance with Canada’s Criminal Code, for example, the dead donor rule cannot be waived by the donor; however, it is permissible to withdraw life-sustaining therapies and allow the underlying condition to bring about death naturally. 

Deciding when to withdraw life support (photo from theconversation.com).

Before the advent of mechanical ventilators, death was determined by lack of respiration and heartbeat. People who lost all brain function would stop breathing, and their hearts would stop beating. With ventilators it became possible to maintain respiration and heartbeat when the brain had irreversibly stopped functioning. This led to the idea of “brain death” and, in the late 1960s, the determination of death using neurological criteria.

Today, determination of death may be according to circulatory or cardo-respiratory criteria (cardiac death or circulatory death) or according to neurological criteria (brain death). Both determinations involve specific clinical criteria and tests.

Study Design
The researchers conducted a prospective observational study of vital signs--cardiac electrical and pulse activity--in adults that died after planned withdrawal of life-sustaining measures. In all, 631 patients were monitored in 20 intensive care units in 3 countries.

Bedside clinicians monitored the patients for 30 minutes after determination of death and reported resumption of cardiac activity. Continuous blood-pressure and electrocardiographic (ECG) waveforms were recorded and reviewed retrospectively to confirm bedside observations and identify additional instances of cardiac activity.

Cardiac Activity Post-Death
The bedside clinicians reported resumption of cardiac activity, respiratory movement, or both, confirmed by waveform analysis, in 5 of the 631 patients. Retrospective analysis of ECG and blood-pressure waveforms identified 67 instances of cardiac activity after pulselessness, including the 5 reported by bedside clinicians.

Most heart resurgences occurred within 2 minutes after the heart had stopped and were usually a single heartbeat or shorter than 5 seconds. The longest interval between pulselessness and resumption of cardiac activity was 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

Analysis of waveform signals after removing life support (from Death Prediction and Physiology After Removal of Therapy (DePPaRT) study video, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ5RtP7Ec9Y&feature=emb_title).
Wrap Up
The study demonstrated that the classic flatlining of death is not always, well, flat. Cardiac activity restarted and stopped several times before stopping completely, yet no patient in the study regained sustained circulation or consciousness.

Finding that the longest interval before resumption of cardiac activity was 4 min, 20 sec supports the current standard of waiting 5 minutes after the heart stops before pronouncing death and proceeding with organ donation.

By the way, don’t hesitate to register as an organ donor (in the U.S., check your state health department or see P.S. below). Thanks for stopping by.

Dead donor rule and death determination: cdtrp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Fast-Facts-Death-Determination-FEB2021.pdf
Study of cardiac activity after withdrawal of life-sustaining measures in New England Jour. of Medicine: www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2022713
Articles on study on EurekAlert! and Live Science websites:
U.S. organ donor information: www.organdonor.gov/register.html

19 March 2021

Worldwide Climate Survey

Welcome back. In the early years of this blog, I occasionally wrote about my travels as a technical consultant for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), headquartered in Rome. But my first and last UN consulting assignments were for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), based in New York City.

FAO is a specialized UN agency that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries addressing pretty much everything under food and agriculture.
UNDP works in 170 countries and territories to eradicate poverty while protecting the planet. Toward that end, UNDP helps countries develop strong policies, skills, partnerships and institutions so they can sustain their progress.

I hadn’t seen much about UNDP lately, mainly because I hadn’t looked. Then a major UNDP report appeared on the lists of published research I follow as well as in mainstream media. The 68-page report, titled Peoples’ Climate Vote, documented the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted--1.2 million respondents spanning 50 countries.

Peoples’ Climate Vote Report by UNDP and Oxford University.

The Peoples’ Climate Vote Survey
The goal of the Peoples’ Climate Vote was to convey reliable information to policymakers on whether people consider climate change an emergency and how they would like their countries to respond.

The survey was distributed through advertisements in popular mobile gaming apps (e.g., Words with Friends, Angry Birds) in 17 languages, eliciting a huge, unique sample of people of all genders, ages and educational backgrounds.

Two overview questions asked (1) Do you think climate change is a global emergency? (yes or no) and (2) If yes, what should the world do about it? (everything necessary and urgently; act slowly while we learn more about what to do; the world is doing enough; do nothing).

Policy questions followed, asking what respondents would like their government to do. Three policies plus “none of the above” were offered in each of six areas: Energy, Transportation, Farms and Food, Protect People from Climate Impacts and Nature.

University of Oxford analysts collated, processed and weighted the responses to obtain representative estimates across country groups (high income, middle-income, least developed countries and small island developing states), regions, demographics (gender, age and education) and country-by-country.

Major Peoples’ Climate Vote Findings
Climate Change as an Emergency
In all, 64% of respondents said climate change was an emergency, with country responses ranging from 50% (Moldova) to 81% (U.K. and Italy) and regions ranging from 61% (Sub-Saharan Africa) to 72% (Western Europe and North America).

Belief in climate emergency by region (from UNDP report).

Of those that said climate change is an emergency, 59% said the world should do everything necessary and urgently, while only 10% thought enough is being done.

What governments should do (from UNDP report).

Top Climate Policies
The four most popular climate policies were: conservation of forests and land (54%); solar, wind and renewable power (53%); climate-friendly farming techniques (52%); and investing more in green businesses and jobs (50%).

Respondents in countries with high emissions from deforestation and land-use change (e.g., Brazil, Indonesia, Argentina) strongly backed conserving forests and land; those in countries with high emissions from the electricity and heating sectors backed renewable energy (e.g., Australia, Canada, Germany). Nearly all G20 countries called for more investment in green businesses and jobs.

The country with the greatest number of respondents not supporting any climate policy was Pakistan (5%) followed by the U.S. (4%). Lack of support does not necessarily mean being against the policies; it could signify indifference.

Sociodemographic Factors
Educational background, particularly post-secondary, was the key driver of climate emergency belief and demand for action in every country. 

Climate emergency belief by people with post-secondary education, by region (from UNDP report).
Although gender showed little difference overall (4%), it varied by more than 10% in some countries.

Respondents younger than 18 were more likely than other age groups to believe climate change is a global emergency (nearly 70%), yet a majority of each older age group agreed.

Wrap Up
I encourage you to review the detailed results presented in the report. As the UNDP administrator wrote: “The survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate. It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.”

Thanks for stopping by.

FAO and UNDP websites:
UNDP’s Peoples’ Climate Vote report: www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/climate-and-disaster-resilience-/The-Peoples-Climate-Vote-Results.html
Example articles on Peoples’ Climate Vote report: