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Biomechanics, Ergonomics, F-16, and VDU's

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  • Biomechanics, Ergonomics, F-16, and VDU's

    Dear Biomch-L readers,

    Following my recent posting on an Ergonomics position with Atomic Energy
    Research Canada, I have received a number of reactions in private, and one
    of our subscribers started a more general discussion about Ergonomics cost
    benefits on the C+HEALTH list (Computers & Health).

    In a Biomechanics context, colleagues at the Division for Biomedical Physics
    and Technology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam/NL have done some
    interesting, ergonomic work. A few days ago, I received a report (in Dutch,
    I'm afraid) entitled "Medical Technology in the field of the Movement Appara-
    tus" in which the results of funding by the Dutch Ministry of Education and
    Sciences over the past three years are reported.

    The preface subtitling a cartoon in this report is intrigueing (my trans-

    In the case of Medical Technology the first priority is equipment that
    works, is used, and if possible, sold. Publications about this are
    usually confined to a "Technical Note". If it concerns a product, the
    relevant industry does not at all appreciate detailed publication.
    In this way, the image of the cartoon results: a scientist's output
    can usually be gaged well by considering the number of publications,
    while the result of technology can, in fact, *not* be measured from
    merely the number of publications and Ph.D. theses.

    However, in the whole scope of scientific endeavour, the creation
    of, e.g., a new measurement method results in numerous publications
    by investigators that use this measurement possibility.

    Or, in the words of the German poet and author Friedrich Schiller two
    centuries ago on the classical duality of scientific endeavour: "Einem
    ist sie die hohe, die himmlische Goettin; dem andern eine tuechtiche Kuh
    die ihn mit Butter versorgt" (for the one she is the high and heavenly
    goddess; for the other, a vigorous cow who provides him with butter).
    Yet, quality assessment and verification of new methods require more
    openness than a commercial provider might care to provide, and the quality
    of a scientist's productivity does not simply follow from the number of
    publications that bear his or her name. Under patents law, openness is
    reasonably guaranteed; under copyright and trade secrecy law (especially
    in respect of software), this remains to be seen.

    One of the (in my mind) many interesting items in the Rotterdam report
    is a study of neck movement and loading in F-16 fighter pilots, and the
    implications of this work for the positioning of Visual Display Units
    in man-computer-interaction. Based on a biomechanical model of the neck
    and on actual measurements on F-16 pilots flying at high altitudes, it
    was concluded that looking straight ahead results in a very relaxed
    posture, and that this would be better than the currently recommended
    15 - 25 degrees downward viewing direction on VDU's. This idea is now
    being introduced at a large scale with the Hoogovens (blast furnaces)
    in IJmuiden/NL. The study has been reported in the British Medical
    Journal "The Lancet" with, a.o., the following conclusion:

    When the Lancet becomes available on floppy disc,
    adopt the F-16 fighter pilot posture.

    I wish to compliment our Rotterdam colleagues, and hope that the Dutch
    Ministry of Education and Science will provide them with a well-deserved
    continuation of their funding! Some of them are subscribers to Biomch-L,
    and will hopefully be willing to provide further details on their work.