Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trivial. Maybe.

I'm not really a fan of "scientist bashing"- ridiculing various research reports because they seem foolish. In a huge number of cases, work that seems trivial to the casual observer may actually have some real merit, when viewed by a specialist. I've even gone on record here as bashing the bashers- Proxmire's "Golden Fleece Awards" being an egregious example of anti-intellectual pandering (in the comments here.)

But! Sometimes stuff really is silly. This one just escapes me- and there is a real significant question it raises - when do we "know" something?

Researchers in the UK have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and money- to discover that- wearing 50 lbs of steel armor will make you more tired than not wearing it.

In the formal abstract for the research, they state: "How much wearing armour affected Medieval soldiers' locomotor energetics and biomechanics is unknown."

And end up with "Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers' physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles." Translation: old soldiers have a hard time carrying lots of steel, and maybe gasping for breath could have affected their performance."

I have to tell you- I really think "we", as in scholars interested in the field - "knew" that before the treadmill tests.

But there are a growing number of researchers who actually believe that if something is not published in a journal they recognize, then in fact we do NOT know it.

It may seem trivial- but I think it may not be. How do we decide what is in our joint pool of "true" information?


Rialian said...

===Actually, that one might make sense..(chuckles)

===I have a good friend that actually found that heavy armor has unusual effects upon a person....especially when drinking. He had gone to a costume party in actual heavy chain mail and proper helm, and he was drinking a bit. He apparently drank quite a bit more than he though. There was apparently no discernable effect on him until he took off said armor.....and THEN the alcohol hit.

===It takes a fair bit of awareness to walk about in armor. The focus needed can mitigate other factors (such as alcohol poisoning to a degree....and possibly other factors that might come with age.

===I wonder if the scientists doing this study had been inspired by something like this? It is not necessarily something you would put down as what got you wondering on the effects of the armor, but might come out if you said you were looking at the effects of fatigue. (My friend reports he was not all that tired, and folks commented on how sober he was even after all the drinking.)

===(No, he does not go drinking in armor anymore...that I know of.)

knutty knitter said...

It all depends doesn't it! I once saw an interesting doco that started with some old guy investigating the erectile potential of bulls penises (or some such). The point was that this research lead to other research which cross pollinated around the globe and ended up with a cure for shock syndrome and a whole new system that wasn't known about before.

You just never know where something will go :)

viv in nz

Aimee said...

I'm with KK - a lot of research that appears in the popular press as completely obvious and/or impractical is actually what used to be called "basic research." We end up quantifying something that hadn't been quantified before, or learning some new facts that are only relevant later on, in applied research.

Besides - somebody has to dress up in chain mail and run on treadmills! Right?

Michelle said...

My local SCA chapter had a good laugh over that one. But, having met some of the re-enactors at the Royal Armoury at Leeds, I can say that I'm positive they had a good time experimenting.

Greenpa said...

Michelle- very cool! Hey, you can pass on my suggestion for their NEXT investigation!

It is not KNOWN that thatched roofs can keep rain out of houses.

Clearly, that needs to be investigated!

Likewise, it is not known that a pig can actually be cooked by holding it over a fire and turning it on a spit! I haven't seen it published anywhere!

There would be fun in experimenting though! :-)