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FIELDS OF STUDY: OLYMPICS EDITION

"SHE BLINDED ME!" Getty Images

The Olympic Games have inspired the world—even people who wear lab coats to work! Put on your safety glasses and check out a few studies that prove even science nerds can make noise at The Games.

  • Apparently Title IX doesn't apply to television coverage. Analysis of all 348 prime time hours of the 1996-2006 Olympics showed that men received significantly more coverage than women (51.9% to 48.1% respectively). Oddly, women get even less coverage in the Winter Olympics than in the Summer Games (only about 40%). Despite growth in women's sports over the past decade, the percentage of coverage has remained essentially unchanged during that period.

  • The hardest working people in Beijing may be the referees. A study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport tracked seven officials at a pre-Olympic women's basketball tournament. At an average age of 29, with an average body fat content of 21%, the refs were in shape, and for good reason. Heart rate was monitored wirelessly and logged every five seconds for the duration of several games. The average heart rate was 150 beats per minute which registers at 79% of the average maximum heart rate for that population. No difference was found between the quarters, nor did the study discuss whether men's basketball might place greater demands on its refs.

  • There's no place like home. Research released by LG electronics found that our British brethren spend more time watching sport than any other country in Europe. Nearly one quarter of the population spends between nine and 30 hours/week watching the 'teli'. And despite a reputation for loving the pubs, more than 90% of those surveyed would rather stay at home than watch the game live or at a bar.

  • So much for rooting for the home team. A study of nearly 9,000 adults from 16 countries across the world showed that only 7% of British fans considered British sports as "very good." Only Japan and Poland rated lower, while 53% of Aussies think their Olympic athletes are solid.

  • Want to win gold medals? The Sports Economics Research Group base in Madrid thinks it has predicting aggregate Olympic success for countries down to a science. Analyzing data from the past four Olympics, the group factors the following values in a prediction: GDP (bigger is better), population (less important), public spending on recreation, whether the country is a former Soviet bloc member (they over perform), who the host is, whether the country has previously hosted, which country will host next and how many gold medals the country won at the last Games. The notable missing component is looking event by event at world records.

  • Charlton Heston would be proud. A recent Swedish study showed the rifle shooting of those athletes who implored a relaxation exercise referred to as Applied Tension Release for ten weeks showed increased accuracy and held their barrels steadier. It's a smarter solution than the North Korean shooter who took a steroid for a similar effect and had his medal stripped last week.

  • Time delay or not, people want their Olympic results. Data collected by NBC Universal has seen an increase in people downloading data to their cell phones during the Olympics. On Sunday and Monday alone, nearly one million people used their phones to check a result. Following Monday's swimming relay, more than 1.7 million people downloaded the stream online. But despite the growth, more than 95% of those experiencing the Olympics are still using old fashioned television.

  • Who doesn't like crushed ice? Apparently crunching down on the stuff has physiological benefits as well. Australian researchers have found that the crushed form is an excellent way to cool the body. Athletes in Beijing will use a concoction of ice and electrolytes that's been shown to drop the core body temperature a full degree.

  • Good thing it's Red, White and Blue. Previous research published in the journal Nature in 2005 had shown that teams wearing red outperformed opponents wearing blue in combat sports (tae kwon do, wrestling etc.) during the Athens Olympics. The theory was that red was an intimidating color. But data published this month in the August issue of Psychological Science claims the discrepancy may be a subconscious bias by the referees. To test the theory, 42 referees were shown video footage of bouts followed by the same footage with the colors swapped (refs weren't aware of the switch). The athletes in red scored, on average, 13% higher.