Short Course in Anthropometry

NPR just ran an extremely detailed article on the importance and study of anthropometry. The topic is the undue stress nursing places on the spine, even when “proper” lifting procedures are followed. Highlighed is the work of Bill Marras (recent Editor of the journal Human Factors), who developed a sensor rig for the forces experienced by the spine. Read for yourself, but if you want the high points:

“Moving and lifting patients manually is dangerous even for veteran nursing staff, Marras says, for several reasons:

  • The laws of physics dictate that it’s easiest to lift something when it’s close to your body. But nursing employees have to stand at the side of the bed, relatively far from the patient.

  • Nursing employees also often bend over the patient. That’s important, because there’s a chain of bones along the spine, called facet joints, hidden under the little bumps protruding under the skin. Those bones interconnect and help absorb loads when standing straight. Marras says that when nurses lift as they’re bending, those bones disengage and their disks take most of the force. Those forces are “much, much higher than what you’d expect in an assembly line worker,” he says.

  • When nurses keep working under these loads, it causes microscopic tears in the “end plates,” which are films as thin as credit cards above and below each disc. Those tears lead to scar tissue, which can block the flow of nutrients into the disks — until, eventually, the disks start to collapse. “You could be doing this damage [to your back] for weeks or months or years, and never realize it,” says Marras. “The event that caused you to feel the problem is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The final conclusion was that people cannot lift other people safely. Assistive machines are needed, and as the article points out, hospitals do not have them.

Treemap sighting in the wild: U.S. Budget proposal

imageI get pretty excited when I see my favorite infovis being used: The Treemap

Just released today – the proposed U.S. budget as a treemap!

So, how well did this visualization work for its intended purpose:

  • Points awarded for using a treemap – it makes it so easy to see how massive social security and healthcare are.
  • Points deducted for the cluttered overlay text in the Transportation section.
  • Points deducted for making the areas clickable, but not actually providing more information beyond a platitude (“Military Personnel: When it comes to our service members and their families, America stands united in support. The budget helps ensure that those who serve our country receive all the support and opportunities they’ve earned and deserve.”)
  • Points deducted for making me click a link to “learn more” from a YouTube video of the entire State of the Union address when I could be learning more with a deeper treemap.

I’d like to see more of the blocks broken down into the components they fund, making it as informative and transparent as my go-to example of a treemap: the stock market. My second favorite treemap is a program that will treemap your harddrive, making it easy to see where those giant spacehogging files are hiding, deep in directories you forgot were there. I treemapped my lab server with it as we ran out of space and found giant video files about 10 directories down in an unlikely spot that were eating up our GBs.

Perhaps we could have a treemap that lets us change things in the budget to see how we would make it look, like the American Public Media interactive “Budget Hero” game from a few years ago (now defunct or I would link it)? I learned a LOT about what could budge and what couldn’t budge in the budget from that game.

*All the points deducted are far outweighed by my support of the treemap being used in the first place! Brilliant!