Seat belt patented: July 10, 1962
An invention that will save more lives than almost any other is awarded a U.S. patent. It’s the “three-point seat belt”—better known as the lap and shoulder belt-- and it’s the creation of Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin. A former aviation engineer who worked on ejector seats in planes, Bohlin is, at the time, the first safety engineer at Volvo, which had started installing his belt in its cars in 1959. But other makes of cars that have seat belts are still using the single strap version—one that crosses only the stomach with the buckle right in the middle. It’s a design that often results in severe internal injuries in high-speed crashes.
That single strap belt had been around for a while. It was offered in Nash models as early as 1949 and had been included in some Fords beginning in 1955. And actually, a three-point safety belt had been patented in 1951 by two Americans, Roger Griswold and Hugh De Haven. But their design had the buckle in the middle. Bohlin, using his knowledge of ejector seats, came up with a version that would restrain the human body as safely as possible under extreme conditions and still be easy to use. .
‘‘I realized both the upper and lower body must be held securely in place with one strap across the chest and one across the hips,’’ Bohlin told an interviewer. ‘‘The belt also needed an immovable anchorage point for the buckle as far down beside the occupant’s hip, so it could hold the body properly during a collision. It was just a matter of finding a solution that was simple, effective and could be put on conveniently with one hand.’’
Volvo allowed the design to be used by other car companies and in 1966, the U.S. Congress passed a law requiring that starting in 1968, safety belts would have to be installed in all new American cars. A study presented by Bohlin in 1967 provided plenty of evidence to back up that decision. Based on analysis of 28,000 accidents, he and his team found that when used, the lap and shoulder belt reduced the risk of injury or death in accidents by as much as 75 percent. It also determined that drivers not wearing belts died in crashes at all speeds, but that no one wearing belts was fatally injured in accident speeds below 60 mph.
Still, the majority of Americans didn’t bother to buckle up until 1984, when the first state laws were passed penalizing drivers and passengers who didn’t wear seat belts. Today, only New Hampshire doesn’t have a mandatory seat belt law. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the belts reduce the risk of deaths in car crashes by at least 45 percent and estimates that they save more than 10,000 lives a year. Overall, according to Volvo’s estimates, Bohlin’s safety belt has saved more than a million lives.
On the day that he died in September, 2002, Nils Bohlin was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.
More Slices of History
Birth of SPAM: July 5, 1937
Dancing hysteria: June 24, 1374
First kidney transplant: June 17, 1950
Alcoholics Anonymous born: June 10, 1935
Bizarre stomach experiment: June 6, 1822
Heimlich maneuver born: June 1, 1974
Toothpaste in tubes: May 22, 1892
The Fist Vaccination: May 14, 1786
The Pill Arrives: May 9, 1960
Hello, Cheerios: May 1, 1941
First hit workout video: April 24, 1982
Insulin goes mainstream: April 15, 1923
Polio vaccine celebrated: April 12, 1955
Athletic performance boosted by shellfish, beets
A lot of performance enhancing products available – both legally and illegally – carry some major side effects. However, researchers from Ithaca University have discovered a natural substance that they say can boost athletic performance by as much as six percent. The discovery? It’s betaine, a nutrient found naturally in shellfish and beets. The study found that betaine can contribute to creatine synthesis, which improves strength, power and short-term performance.
For this study, researchers tested college-aged cyclists three times. The first test established baseline performance. The subjects were then given either half of a commercially-available sports drink or a betaine-infused drink twice a day for seven days, then were tested again. Three weeks later, the subjects repeated the same process, but drank the beverage they hadn’t consumed. The results showed that one week of the betaine drink increased peak and average anaerobic power by 5.5 percent.
To see the best results, the researchers suggest dissolving 2.5 grams of betaine – either powder or tablet form – in a 20 ounce sports drink. They say it’s most effective by drinking half of it in the morning and half in the afternoon.
While betaine is already found in some performance-enhancing supplements available in vitamin shops, this study provides scientific proof that the nutrient can be helpful.
Sex can make older people look younger
Sex after 70 is not a subject that comes up much in conversation. But it should, according to the authors of a new study presented to the British Psychological Society. Researchers found that keeping an active sex life into old age could be the key to maintaining a youthful look. After examining the effects of having regular sex at old age, the authors found that staying sexually active can help preserve a person’s youth.
David Weeks, who presented the paper, noted that having sex makes people happy, which is essential for a mental and emotional health balance. In fact, abstinence from sex has been known to cause anxiety and depression, He also cited a study conducted at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which found that people who had an active sex life lived longer than those who didn’t. Also, sex releases endorphins which act as natural painkillers, can reduce cholesterol levels and can brighten the skin and reduce a person’s risk of dermatitis.
Weeks said that sexuality should not be exclusively associated with younger people, pointing out that sexual satisfaction is a crucial contributor to quality of life–ranking as high as spiritual or religious commitment and other moral factors.
Gamblers like noisy slot machines
Today’s slot machines average about 400 sound effects. But what may seem like overkill is actually a clever marketing ploy – from a psychological perspective, gamblers prefer these noisy machines, as they reinforce the rewarding feeling of a win. That the conclusion of a new study from the University of Waterloo in Canada, which also found that the sounds associated with winning can cause people to overestimate the number of times they have won while playing the slots. Of particular interest were the “losses disguised as wins,” where people interpreted the lights and sounds with winning, even though players were winning back less than they had wagered (bet $1, win 20 cents, for example).
The researchers set out to study the physiological responses to various slot machine outcomes – wins, losses and losses disguised as wins. The study analyzed 96 gamblers who played two sessions on slot machine simulators. In the first session, wins and losses disguised as wins triggered rolling sounds and jingles, as well as visual feedback. In the second session, the sounds were turned off, and only visual feedback was given. The researchers measured sweat on the skin and heart rate response to the outcomes. They were asked which they preferred, and then to estimate how many times they had won back more than they had wagered.
The results found that skin conductance responses were significantly greater when the sound was on, and that the noisy sessions were more arousing. The majority of players preferred the noisy sessions, as they appeared to enjoy the extra level of excitement. However, players overestimated their wins by 24 percent in the noisy experiment, as opposed to 15 percent in the quiet sessions.