SpongeBob and Pre-schoolers

SpongeBobA recent scientific study, published in the journal Pediatrics, on the effect of fast-paced television shows on preschool-aged children has made the rounds on the Internet over the last few days. The study showed:

Children who watched the fast-paced television cartoon performed significantly worse on the executive function tasks than children in the other 2 groups when controlling for child attention, age, and television exposure.

The study went on to conclude:

Just 9 minutes of viewing a fast-paced television cartoon had immediate negative effects on 4-year-olds’ executive function. Parents should be aware that fast-paced television shows could at least temporarily impair young children’s executive function.

Do the conclusions concern you?

As a parent of three (3-year old twins and a 4-year old), I always second guess my decision when I let them watch TV. Creative play, reading, and playing outside are all better options, right?  However, Matt over at GeekDad brought up some good points regarding the study:

  1. Four-year olds aren’t the target audience of SpongeBob, as the humor revolves around irony and sarcasm, two concepts that age doesn’t grasp.
  2. SpongeBob isn’t indicative of most cartoons on TV, much less ones aimed at 6-year olds (and older.)
  3. The study doesn’t mention anything about long-term effects. Matt’s money quote, being: “is it necessarily worth worrying about if your four-year-old can’t do well at mentally-challenging tasks immediately after watching a goofy TV show?”

I tend to agree with Matt.  I’ve never liked shows like SpongeBob, although the few episodes of Phineas and Ferb I’ve seen were pretty clever. So that filter, along with our kids not knowing about these shows yet, has helped us stay far away.

In the end, I’ve always felt moderation and age-appropriateness are the most important areas to focus on with regard to kids and TV. If you follow those principles, it’s probably not worth worrying about possible negatives — especially short-term negatives. Our kids pretty much only watch education-focused cartoons (PBS cartoons, Dora, Diego, etc.), anyway. Maybe I should worry about them not being funny when they grow up?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

(Hat tip: Wired’s GeekDad)

Teen Harnesses Solar Power Using Fibonacci

A cool story of 13-year-old Aidan Dwyer, who noticed the patterns in the branches of trees. His curiosity led him to investigate if the shape of the branches helped the tree optimize the amount of light it collected for photosynthesis.

From this he developed an award winning experiment that applied the Fiibonacci sequence — where each number is equal to the sum of its two predecessors — to his design for a solar panel array. His results claim to produce more power than a uniform array of solar cells.

Although his results were questioned by many professionals, GeekDad post this awesome update to their original article:

Yes, we are aware that young Aidan’s conclusions have been contested elsewhere on the Internet, including this article offered by Tuan Nguyen. The focus should probably be on what this group of young people have managed to do with a little curiosity and smarts, not whether the work would either hold up to stress-testing on Nature or revolutionize the world.

As a father of three toddlers, who are still in the early stages of developing their curiosity, it’s a nice reminder to focus on expanding interests and providing the necessary resources for them to learn and grow, rather than the wrong answer.

SourceTeen Taps Into Power of Fibonacci to Harness the Sun | GeekDad | Wired.com

Super-Dense Stars May Squash Neutrons Into Cubes

Theoretical physicist Felipe Jose Llanes-Estrada of Complutense University of Madrid recently co-authored a study that suggests gravity inside super-dense stars may squash neutrons into cubes, leading to:

The idea could mean that neutron stars, as researchers call the stellar corpses, are denser than anyone expected. It could also question what stops them from collapsing into black holes and out of existence.

Wired’s post also notes that the study hasn’t been warmly received by all:

Particle physicist Richard Hill of the University of Chicago, for example, noted the study looks at a neutron in isolation, not in aggregate.

“It’s an interesting idea, but what happens among the neutrons isn’t clear,” said Hill, who wasn’t involved in the study. At the densities in neutron stars, he noted, the “identities of individual neutrons may be blurred out.”

Read more: Super-Dense Stars May Squash Neutrons Into Cubes | Wired Science

Perseid Meteor Shower Sounds Captured by Space Radar

The U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas recorded echoes of the Perseid Meteors as they passed over the monitoring facility. Includes imagery of a meteor photographed by astronaut Ron Garan aboard the International Space Station.

Ever wonder what a meteor shower sounds like?

Meteor Shower Sounds Captured by Space Radar – YouTube.

(Hat tip: Geekosystem)

Creating a Hubble Galaxy in Two Minutes

Hubble images are made, not born. Images must be woven together from the incoming data from the cameras, cleaned up and given colors that bring out features that eyes would otherwise miss. In this video from HubbleSite.org, online home of the Hubble Space Telescope, a Hubble-imaged galaxy comes together on the screen at super-fast speed.

Learn how those beautiful, color Hubble images are created.

Creating a Hubble Galaxy in Two Minutes – YouTube.

(Hat tip to Boing Boing)