Freshmen participate in sociology study

first_imgFitbits, the activity tracking wristbands, have become a popular identifying feature of Notre Dame freshmen this year. Five hundred Fitbit-wearing freshmen are participating in a study called NetHealth, which aims to explore the relationship between social networks and health.Notre Dame sociologists David Hachen and Omar Lizardo, in conjunction with University computer scientists Aaron Striegel and Christian Poellabauer, are conducting the study. Hachen said the National Institute of Health is funding the study through a $3 million grant.“The National Institute of Health is very interested in the social conditions that influence peoples’ behaviors, like sleep, diet and activity,” Hachen said.According to the NetHealth website, the Fitbit devices will be used to track each student’s sleep and fitness, while a monitoring app on their smartphones will record social activity. The study therefore attempts to find a connection between social activity and health, one already seen by freshman Brian Quigley, who is participating in the study.“I can see my friends on Fitbit and how many steps they have, and so I always want to have more steps than them,” Quigley said. “It’s a way to compete in a friendly manner.”Hachen said he believes “our patterns and health related behaviors are amplified by the people we hang out with.” The challenge, though, he said, will be determining the direction of the causality between friendship and health.“The biggest puzzle is we believe we are affected in our behaviors, attitudes, and taste by who we hang out with,” Hachen said. “… It’s also the case that we tend to choose as our friends people that are similar to us, so we’re trying to disentangle whether your networks are influencing you, or you select the networks to be like you.”In looking to solve that puzzle, Striegel said one of the major questions in this study is, “Do you conform to the group, or do you change the group?”Hachen said the researchers plan to note changes in each student’s social groups over time, which is made possible by the continuous data collection from the Fitbits and smartphones.“People’s networks are much more fluid than most social scientists have ever thought,” Hachen said. “So we want to look at how people’s networks change, because if I’m not healthy and I hang out with someone who is healthy, I could become more healthy, or I could stop hanging out with them. I could change my network.”Hachen also said the study’s use of Fitbits and smartphones will make it more accurate than similar past studies, which usually rely only on surveys for information.“On surveys, you may not tell the truth, you may not remember or recall your social networks. … By this method, we get continuous, reliable data that’s probably better than the self-reports that come from surveys.”In addition, Striegel said the study can be used to “improve the health of the network,” since the researchers receive data on how many times people try and fail to connect to the network in different locations on campus, thus allowing them to identify the network’s weaker points.Hachen said in the next few months the study will be expanded to include about 400 more students — without Fitbits — who, through smartphones and surveys, will further contribute to the data collection. Further, Hachen said in the future he hopes to perform the same study at different universities and with different age groups.Tags: Fitbit, NetHealth, sociologylast_img read more

Britain ranks flu pandemic among top threats

first_img The document is part of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s overhaul of homeland security strategy, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. It said Brown ordered the drafting of a list of threats shortly after he replaced Tony Blair in June 2007, arguing that previously classified assessments should be made public. See also: Calling itself “a first attempt to inform the public more fully of the types of risks that we face,” the report invites readers to provide feedback for consideration in future updates. The report is described as “an assessment of the most significant emergencies which the United Kingdom and its citizens could face over the next five years,” including accidents, natural events, and malicious attacks. The National Risk Register, prepared by Britain’s Cabinet Office, depicts pandemic flu as the biggest threat in terms of potential impact on the country, well above such risks as terrorist attacks, coastal flooding, and major industrial accidents. It says a pandemic could infect as much as half of the British population and kill as many as 750,000. Noting that 228,000 Britons died in the flu pandemic of 1918-19, the document says that history, scientific evidence, and modeling suggest that up to half the UK population could contract the flu and between 50,000 and 750,000 people could die of it. Previous government assessments also have mentioned the possibility of 750,000 deaths, the AP story said. “Experts agree that there is a high probability of another influenza pandemic occurring, but it is impossible to forecast its exact timing or the precise nature of its impact,” the report states. Aug 8, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A new report from the British government ranks pandemic influenza very high on the list of major security threats to the United Kingdom. The government also has “advanced supply agreements” to buy enough doses of pandemic-specific vaccine for the whole population, if needed, but delivery of the first doses would not start until 4 to 6 months after the emergence of the pandemic, according to the report. Full text of report “Normal life is likely to face wider social and economic disruption, significant threats to the continuity of essential services, lower production levels, shortages and distribution difficulties,” the document states. The document also discusses the threat of other new and emerging infectious diseases. It says the risk that a major new disease will arise in or spread to Britain is low. However, the emergence of a flu pandemic or other widespread infectious disease abroad could cause some of the 12 million British nationals living abroad to return home, which would have “a short term but significant impact” on the areas where they settle. The Register is intended to help people improve their own preparedness for the various threats. It lists further information resources, discusses business continuity planning, and offers suggestions for individual, family, or community-based preparations. The 52-page report portrays a pandemic as somewhat less likely than terrorist attacks on transport and crowded places but just slightly less likely than severe weather. The report does not suggest a numeric probability for any given event, but it portrays the comparative likelihood and impacts of various threats on a graph. Although the report does not rank threats in order of overall seriousness, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said it does indicate that a pandemic is considered the most pressing concern, the AP reported. British Cabinet Office page with introductory information and links to the report Concerning preparations, it says the government has stockpiled enough oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat up to 25% of the population. “This should be sufficient to treat all those who fall ill in a pandemic of similar proportions to those that occurred in the 20th century,” it states.last_img read more

Sommers: Big Ten finally earning some street cred

first_imgWhat is going on in college basketball, specifically the Big Ten right now? Be it football or basketball, the Big Ten is rarely considered the best these days. Yet suddenly, everybody is talking about how the Big Ten is the best basketball conference in the country and could have as many as nine teams playing in the tournament come March.The hype the Big Ten has been receiving lately seems strange – almost oxymoronic. For years the Big Ten has been made fun of for its lack of scoring and “boring” defensive contests. Take, for instance, the two Tuesday night matchups earlier this week of Illinois versus Michigan State and Wisconsin versus Penn State.Illinois served No. 9 Michigan State a 42-41 loss on the road in Champaign, Ill. and No. 19 Wisconsin overcame an ice cold shooting hand in a 17-point first half to earn its sixth straight conference victory at State College, beating the Nittany Lions 52-46.Arguably, in any other season, analysts would have been droning on and on about how terrible Big Ten basketball is. So what is the difference in 2011-12 that has the Leaders and Legends flying so high in the eyes of so many college basketball experts?First and foremost, it seems the defensive prowess of the Big Ten is finally getting some of the respect it deserves. The Big Ten boasts four teams in the NCAA top 50 in points allowed per game, two in the top 10.Wisconsin, boasting the top-ranked defense in all of college basketball, is the only team to allow fewer than 50 points per game (49.6 ppg). The Badgers also lead the country in field goal percentage defense at 36.3 percent. Ohio State is ranked seventh at 55.6 ppg, Michigan State sits at No. 32 with 60.2 and Michigan falls in at No. 44 at 61.1.People can complain about lack of offense all they want, but Big Ten players don’t lack the offensive talent that conferences like the Big 12 and ACC are known for. The work Big Ten players put in on the defensive end of the floor simply surpasses that of any other league, forcing offensive players to play against the best defenses in the nation.Perhaps the increased amount of respect also has to do with the fact Big Ten teams aren’t just holding other Big Ten teams to impressively low scoring lines. There is a notable list of offensive juggernauts that have had their offenses suffocated by Big Ten defenses.To name a few, No. 7 Duke, ranked 11th in scoring at 80.3 ppg, managed just 63 in a loss to Ohio State. Wisconsin severely frustrated the offenses of No. 11 UNLV, which is ranked ninth at 80.6 ppg, and No. 5 North Carolina, which is the top ranked offense in the country at 84.9 ppg, allowimg just 62 and 60 points, respectively, in both games.Although the timeless adage of “defense wins championships” lives on, Big Ten defense has long outshone other conferences, so it seems fair to assume that the caliber of defense isn’t the only reason the conference is garnering increased national attention.In Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology update, eight Big Ten teams would be included in the Big Dance in March, including (in order of projected seeding): Ohio State (1), Michigan State (3), Michigan (4), Wisconsin (5), Indiana (5), Purdue (9), Illinois (10) and Minnesota (11).It’s not just the defense – the Big Ten is winning! And winning against quality competition.All eight teams have six or fewer overall losses, which is incredible due to the average strength of schedule for the eight schools: 27.75 (Sum of each team’s strength of schedule divided by eight projected bids). If Northwestern can pull any sort of late season turnaround and get into the tournament, the Big Ten’s resume would look even more impressive, as the Wildcats are ranked No. 8 in strength of schedule but have thus far failed to capture enough important victories.Eight projected bids was only second to the perennial frontrunner Big East’s nine, but a quality 16-team league is bound to receive more bids.Comparing the combined overall records by conference also reveals the top-to-bottom strength of the Big Ten. Out of the six major basketball conferences, the Big Ten is nearly running away from the pack. The Big Ten boasts a .679 overall win percentage; the only conference comparatively close is the Big 12 at .674. The winning percentages of the four other leagues, the ACC (.629), Big East (.653), Pac-12 (.565) and SEC (.660), prove that top to bottom, no conference can match the depth of talent in the Big Ten.The improvement by the Big Ten compared to rival conferences is unprecedented. Since 2000, there have only been three seasons where seven Big Ten teams were called on Selection Sunday, the current Big Ten record for NCAA tournament bids in one season. If current projections follow through, a minimum of eight selections, the Big Ten has a great opportunity to set a new record.When Selection Sunday does finally arrive, don’t write off the Big Ten teams as you fill out your brackets. In 2012, the conference’s high intensity defenses and sometimes slow and methodical offenses know how to win and are capable of beating the best. March Madness is what Leaders and Legends are made of.Brett is a senior majoring in journalism. Do you think the Big Ten will pull off a record number of bids in the tournament, or will the Big Ten falter? Let Brett know at or tweet him at @BAsportswriter.last_img read more