STEM news – Baseball and sweat

stem newsAre all you STEM readers dyyyying to know how and why we’re talking about tigers again this week?  I’m so excited for this post.  I am a huge baseball fan, and a huge Detroit Tigers fan.

I have many memories of visiting my grandparents’ house as a child, and playing in the house while my grandfather listened to baseball (the Cincinnati Reds) on a radio on the porch.  At the time, it was an incredibly boring game to me, and I especially couldn’t understand why you would listen to a game on the radio versus watching it on TV.

Now, years later, I have so much appreciation for the game, and if I can’t be at a game in person, I love listening to it on the radio.  Commentators are awesome  – to be able to entertain listeners through an entire game, and have such a vast knowledge of the sport and the players is really a gift.  We are lucky in Detroit that we’ve always had incredible commentators.

When browsing through my social media the other day, I noticed that several of my friends were linking to this Sport Science video of Detroit Tiger Jose Iglesias making a great catch and throw to get an out against the Yankees.  It’s too bad we didn’t have more great plays like this (and more hits!) in that series!  Anyway, the ESPN video does a great job of spelling out the geometry, speeds, and the incredible athleticism of the play, so I’ll leave it to the video:

Isn’t this play amazing? In this case, having high-quality, high-speed video footage allows the ESPN analysts to easily calculate the geometry and the physics of play – radio wouldn’t give you a quantitative understanding of the catch or throw.  If you’re into sports and STEM, Sport Science is a really cool series that you might be interested in following, to see really cool analysis of the plays that everyone is talking about.

Fun fact – the Lead Engineer for the TV show Sport Science is a woman AND a former Wayne State University Engineering Professor.  Talk about using STEM to find your dream job – I’m so jealous!!  Good for her!


Sweating makes me jump for JOY!

Another thing I noticed on the sports scene this week was this article, “The Smell of Your Sweat Could Make Other People Happy” in Runners World.  Good job to those editors – with a title like that, I couldn’t help but check the article out!  Let me tell you – this story delivers!! The premise of the article is based on an actual scientific manuscript. The study scientists collected the underarm sweat from men watching movies that triggered different emotions, and then had women judge the smell of the sweat.

When the female test subjects smelled the mens’ sweat associated with feelings of “fear”, researchers noted stronger electrical signals in the portion of the womens’ brain responsible for making scared faces. That is pretty cool.  There is no specific mention, however, of if the women had a specific physiologic response to the smell of the men’s ‘happy’ sweat.  It makes me wonder!  Additionally, it was pointed out that the emotional response in the men was stronger than the response in the women who were just smelling the men’s odor.  Makes sense.

Studies like this are awesome, but also leave me with so many questions.  First and foremost – where do they find the men and women to volunteer for the study?  Do perfumes or other scents create an equivalent or stronger emotional response?  What are they going to do in future experiments to build on these findings, and how can it be applicable to all of us one day?  The Runners World authors said that if you skip a shower after a workout, it could be possible to send good emotions to your friends through the smell of your sweat (they assume that a good workout brings out happy emotions).  Do you think this is over-stating the results presented in the article?  Do you think the sweat/smell/emotion relationship is the same when watching a movie versus when being physically active?  If so, do you think the overall emotional outcome of a run is ‘happy’?  What if you have a bad workout day, or a bad practice?  Would you broadcast less-happy emotions?

That’s a lot of questions for one article, and there are so many more questions we could ask about the biochemical, cellular, and electrical responses!  That’s where the scientific method and problem solving come in.  If you or I were part of the research project, we could use one or more of these questions to plan out the future experiments to better understand the complex processes going on.  What hypothesis would you suggest for the scientists to examine next?  How could they test it?

Don’t love baseball, running or the Tigers?  I’m sorry – but don’t worry.  The point of this website is to highlight the diversity of STEM – we won’t talk about baseball again for a while, unless I get lots of comments begging me otherwise – then I’ll be happy to post more about baseball!  We may come back to the sports theme once football season comes around – but there’s no need to rush fall.  We’ll enjoy summer and baseball and sweating for now.


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