Little black box convicts man of manslaughter

Q. You know about the “black box,” or flight data recorder, on airplanes, for reconstructing details of accidents. But what about the black box in your car?

A. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 85 per cent of new vehicles are equipped with an event data recorder (EDR), says Willie D. Jones in “IEEE Spectrum” magazine. This nondescript box, about the size of a deck of cards, can provide a rich record for police, courts, and insurance on how fast you were driving, when you hit the brakes, and whether you were wearing a seat belt.Case in point: In 2006, after a vehicle struck and killed a 15-year-old pedestrian in a crosswalk, it was estimated that the driver was travelling at roughly 90 kilometres per hour in a 72 km/h zone, allowing him to plead guilty to the lesser offence of hit and run rather than vehicular manslaughter. Later, though, authorities discovered that his GMC Yukon had an EDR showing that it had actually been going 122 km/h.  The box further revealed that the driver applied the brakes only from 2.1 to 1.3 seconds before he hit the pedestrian.

With that evidence, the prosecutor withdrew the plea agreement and proceeded to trial on the more serious charge. The driver was convicted.


Q. Hamburger lover that you are, you’ve been eating roughly four quarter-pounders every week for lunch for all of ten years. How many cows’ worth of hamburger have you consumed over that time?

A. At a pound of hamburger every week, that’s 52 pounds a year, 520 pounds for the decade – roughly the weight of a small cow, half of which gets turned into edible meat.  So make that two small cows to satisfy your hamburger hunger (from “ScienceIllustrated.Com” magazine).


Q. When you reach into the cupboard to fetch your dog a cookie, what’s she got in mind? a) devouring the treat  b) licking your face in gratitude c) running outside to work off the calories d) no way of knowing

A. If you answered a), you’ve got common sense and the latest dog science on your side.

A research team at Emory University did functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans of two nonsedated dogs to scientifically “read” their minds. The team studied the dogs’ neural responses to different hand gestures, and noted that the brain area associated with reward pathways was activated.

Now, brain-scanning scientists can “begin to explore how dogs process human language, how they distinguish between different people, and how they represent human facial cues and gestures.”

-Bill and Rich Sones

Strange But True

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