Archive for December, 2008
“When you think you are done… You are only 40% in to what your body is capable of doing. That’s just a limit we put on ourselves.”
J. R. Atwood
From air bags for the elderly to wine from China, the online version of the 8th Annual Year in Ideas published in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine compiles an interactive list of the science, research, thoughts, breakthroughs, paradigms, and “things that make you say hmm…” born in the past 12 months.
- In 2006, there were 16 Ironman-branded races throughout the world; in 2008 there are 34 — many of which sell-out within hours of opening their online registration.
- Costs for completing an Ironman? Entry fees are around $500. Add $3,000 for the typical tri bike, $200 for bike shoes, another few hundred for accessories and cycling gear, $350 for a wetsuit, $150 for running shoes, maybe $750 for coaching services and gym memberships, and another two-grand for airfare to and weeklong lodging in places like Kona, Hawaii or Nice, France.
- Average household income of a triathlete? $177,000. Says one industry insider, “I don’t think [triatheltes] are the people getting laid off. They’re the people laying off.”
- Membership to USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body, increased by 15 percent in 2008, to 115,000.
- Subscriptions to Triathlete magazine continue to climb, as do their advertising rates. Circulation is now at 70,000, a 10 percent annual increase.
Thirty years ago, who would have thought that a simple race among training buddies in San Diego, CA would morph into a sport lifestyle of the wealthy?
Continuing with my end-of-the-year cleaning and de-cluttering of my home, I found myself flipping through Outside Magazine‘s September issue and was captivated by a story about the Wooden Bike Classic in Rwanda.
Almost fifteen years after the genocide, tiny Rwanda is suddenly a hot adventure destination, the new darling of multinational investors, and, says mountain-bike legend Tom Ritchey, one extra-long bicycle short of a comeback.
Videos and photos of Rwanda’s Wooden Bike Classic can be found here, but I was most intrigued to learn about Project Rwanda, an organization “committed to the economic development of Rwanda through initiatives based on the bicycle as a tool and symbol of hope. Our goal is use the bike to help boost the Rwandan economy as well as re-brand Rwanda as a beautiful and safe place to do business and visit freely.”
One of the cool things to come out of Project Rwanda is the “coffee bike,” a 45-pound, all-steel bicycle with special modifications (e.g., V-brakes, eight-speed drivetrain, long-wheelbase) that allow coffee farmers to cut hours off the time it takes to haul beans from fields to the processing plants — a job that is still done on foot throughout much of Africa. By delivering more beans at a faster pace, farmers and workers are able to demand a premium for fresher product.
World Vision plans to offer two-year micoloans to help Rwandans cover the $185 cost of a coffee bike. Feel free to donate directly to any of the above organizations (easy to do via online donate buttons on their sites); Project Rwanda also sells a $1,000 replica of the coffee bike in the U.S., with proceeds supporting its cause.
I have no idea how I first came across this — and actually forgot about it until cleaning up my desktop this morning. But “Berkeley’s Longest Paths or, why I took so long to graduate” by A. A. Efros is a romantic, nostalgic, and inspired collection of the author’s favorite walking and hiking paths throughout the greater Berkeley, California area.
In the footnote on the first page, Efros notes that his reflection of pedestrianism in northern California was originally tucked away as an appendix in his 2003 doctoral thesis, “Data-driven Approaches for Texture and Motion,” and “will likely become the most useful part of this present manuscript.”
I don’t have the rest of your thesis, A. A., but I found myself smiling this afternoon as I took a sunset stroll along a part of Berkeley that I had not yet otherwise explored (and probably would not have known about) if it weren’t for your collection of walking and hiking paths. Many thanks!
J. R. Atwood
“Society must respond to the growing demand for cognitive enhancement. That response must start by rejecting the idea that ‘enhancement’ is a dirty word, argue Henry Greely and colleagues.”
This is the introductory tease of “Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the health,” a new and provocative opinion piece in the journal Nature.
It’s a fascinating document because it re-frames the debate of chemical enhancement from one rooted in morality to one that is based on issues of health. No longer is fairness the determinant of what could and should be allowed: so long as something is safe, these experts claim, it should be acceptable.
As noted in the Reuters story on this commentary, some medical, science, and health experts advocate the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs because, “much like education, the Internet or other helpful tools … [they provide] a legitimate way of improving brain power.”
“We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function,” Henry Greely of Stanford Law School in California, Barbara Sahakian, a psychiatry professor from the University of Cambridge in Britain and others wrote.
They cited a recent survey that found nearly 7 percent of students in U.S. universities have used prescription stimulants, and on some campuses, as many as a quarter of students have used the drugs for non-therapeutic purposes.
So what would these experts say about the practice and use of doping, steroids, and chemical-enhancement in sports?
In the context of sports, pharmacological performance enhancement is indeed cheating. But, of course, it is cheating because it is against the rules. Any good set of rules would need to distinguish today’s allowed cognitive enhancements, from private tutors to double espressos, from the newer methods, if they are to be banned.
Have a thought on the issue? Leave a comment or join the debate at Nature‘s online forum.