This Way Up for Saturday 5 November 2016

How video games are changing football, a visit to a doll hospital, using bike parts to build an open source wheelchair, and should we be worried about acrylamide in our food?

How video games are changing football

Goal mouth incident

Goal mouth incident Photo: (Flickr user Playstation Europe CC BY-NC 2.0)

Video games are changing the way that professional football is being played and managed.

Big titles like FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer and Football Manager have sold hundreds of millions of copies worldwide. 

Now these games have become so realistic that they have started influencing how players play the game, and even how the clubs assess transfer targets and recruit their staff.

Rory Smith writes about the blurring between sport and video games in The New York Times.

"Soccer video games have spent much of the last 20 years in an arms race for authenticity. FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer study the movements of players to make their simulations as lifelike as possible; Miles Jacobson, the creator of Football Manager, sends out early copies of his game to 1,500 players to beta-test, while “the access we are given to clubs” means he and his team can incorporate new developments rapidly." Rory Smith



The doll doctor: repairing memories

Retired aircraft engineer Keith Martin and his wife Faith are doll doctors, who restore sagging, chewed, chopped or dropped dolls to better health.

Over the years, they've saved countless tears and 10,000 dolls of all shapes and sizes.

With 40 years' experience and some serious skills from his time as an aircraft engineer, no case is to hopeless for Ken and his wife Faith, who is pretty handy with a needle, too.

And they certainly doesn't discriminate either – Ken, Action Man and even teddy bears are all welcome for treatment at his Doll Hospital

"You are restoring part of their childhood and so we try really hard to get it back to the way it was" - Faith Martin.

SafariSeat: turning bike parts into an open-source wheelchair

Janna's friend Letu, who has been disabled by polio since birth, shows a child his SafariSeat

Janna's friend Letu, who has been disabled by polio since birth, shows a child his SafariSeat Photo: Supplied

Conventional wheelchairs aren't really an option in many parts of Africa – they're too expensive and they just can't handle the conditions. So often people with mobility issues just have to get around as best they can on their own, or with the help of their family and friends.

Janna Deeble grew up in Kenya and saw the problem for himself. His SafariSeat is a rugged, low-cost wheelchair made from bicycle parts, that can be assembled by just about anyone using easy, open-source plans.

Acrylamide in food: should we be worried?

Heston's Triple Cooked Chips

Heston's Triple Cooked Chips Photo: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Acrylamide (or C3H5NO) is a chemical produced when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures, so we ingest low levels of it in things like chips, toast, cereal and instant coffee.

If the name sounds vaguely familiar it was the substance implicated in the poisoning of Professor David Lloyd in the so-called 'Poisoned Professor Case' in Christchurch back in 1992. 

Although there's no firm evidence it can cause cancer in humans, it is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals at certain levels. So Food Standards Australia New Zealand advises "it is prudent to reduce our exposure to acrylamide in food".

It has also been in the news in Europe where the European Union has just decided it won't go ahead with plans to restrict acrylamide levels in processed food, reportedly after some serious lobbying by the food industry.

Ian Shaw is Professor of Toxicology at The University of Canterbury and he's been weighing the evidence, having previously examined acrylamide exposure in a typical New Zealand diet.