We explore a study that explains how sometimes, if you look at the data in just the right way, backpacks are as safe as parachutes.
Jump out of an airplane transcript:
Welcome to Brain Junk, I’m Amy Barton. And I’m Trace Kerr, and it’s time for a Brain Storm.
TK: Amy, what if I told you there was a medical study that proves that parachutes don’t save people that fall out of airplanes.
AB: I would be skeptical and delighted that someone did that research.
TK: Right? So cardiologist Robert Ye, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, he decided to do a study to talk about the potential problems with research shortcuts. The people in his department, when they were on airplanes, would ask their seatmates if they would be willing to participate in a trial where they had a 50% chance of jumping out of the plane without a parachute. Everybody said no.
TK: What a shocker, right? So they got other scientists to agree to participate in this trial. They had 23 people who were either given a backpack or a parachute and those people jumped out of either a biplane or a helicopter. K?
TK So the biplane was on the runway and the helicopter was on the runway, and although all authors and people in this study suffered from substantial abdominal discomfort from laughing, it’s technically correct that parachutes that parachutes performed no better than backpacks.
AB: I would agree.
TK: The problem that they were looking at is they didn’t have the high risk people for injury in the study, which is what happens in a lot of studies. They will be testing for the results they kind of want to get. What the people who were doing this parachute thing were saying is, the people who should have been in this study are people who are actually flying the aircraft. Because then if you were giving them parachutes and backpacks, well you’d know, that 100% parachutes are better, right?
AB: They are!
TK: What’s the takeaway? Read the fine print.
AB: For sure. And scientists are diabolically hilarious nerds. I love them.
TK: I know. I do too. And that’s my Brain Storm!
AB: Want to hear more? We’re on Facebook and Instagram as BrainJunkPodcast, and you can find us on Twitter as @MyBrainJunk. Trace and I will catch you next time, with more of everything you never knew you wanted to know, and I guarantee you will not be bored.
TK: Especially if you’re one of the guys that got the backpack instead of the parachute.
AB: Yeah, if you didn’t read your contract carefully?
TK: Right? Who knows what could happen.