Network News Gives Up

With the Daily Show’s writers on strike, you might think it difficult to get entertaining parodies of the poor state of network newscasts — where “in-depth reports” mean the story is 2 whole minutes long — but that’s not necessarily true. The weekend evening newscasts are becoming a pretty good parody of themselves.

Take this example from last night’s ABC World News Sunday, reporting on disabled sprinter Oscar Pistorius’s efforts to be allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympics. One key question is whether Pistorius’s artificial legs give him an “unfair” advantage over able-bodied runners — “unfair” defined plausibly as due to the use of technology during the race. Certainly Pistorius is using technology, but does that actually give him any advantage? When the New York Times looked at that issue 8 months ago, it actually did a step-by-step analysis of how Pistorius’s artificial lower legs compare to having muscles and feet, concluding that Pistorius has to work harder to achieve the same speed in the same amount of time:


Here’s how ABC News does it.

First, “some fear” that sprinters like Pistorius are catching up to able-bodied sprinters, and might “pass them.” (Check out this video at about the 1:15 mark.) How do we know that might happen? Because this PowerPoint graphic shows Pistorius moving ahead of another runner:


Second, allowing Pistorius to compete might mean that eventually we have to allow Steve Austin — the Bionic Man — to compete too. I kid you not:


Did ABC hire Kent Brockman while I wasn’t looking?

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3 Responses

  1. There’s actually an interesting philosophical question there, as in what-is-human? I doubt the olympic officials would disqualify someone for having a metal hip-joint replacement, or metal implants on a leg bone to repair a fracture. But whole metal “legs” are another level.

    Steve Austin is yet another level, since he’s also using electrical power as well as metal legs. So I’d say that puts him out of the “standard human” category. But nothing prevents having a “cyborg” category, where cyborgs race against one another, same as bike or car races (i.e. humans operating machines). The fact that he’s attached to the machine isn’t the distinguishing factor as much as he is in effect operating a machine.

  2. OFan says:

    After watching the newscast, I have to say it was indeed a very summary report of the whole thing.

    Rather one-sided (the poor old Pistorius being mistreated by the bad IAAF).

    Of course now we know that an independant study – – has confirmed that Pistorius gets a great big advantage out of his limbs. He may take longer to accelerate, but once he’s there, it takes him much less (25%) energy to maintain that speed.

    And the return energy on each push-offs (at the beginning of a new stride), is greater by almost 3 times, in a maximum sprint, than that provided by a human limb.

    There’s no need to worry about future developments in technologies to have such rulings, Oscar Pistorius would already have an advantage NOW.

    That guy who said that it wasn’t a motorized device, that Oscar Pistorius had to use his energy to drive it, well… he doesn’t work at a Jet Propulsion laboratory that’s for sure.

    Remember the bicycle, sir? You use your own power to make it go but you can beat a lot of runners with it…(doh).

    Don’t try to tug at our heartstrings like that. Your argument is BS. There’s an issue of fairness towards other runners, in here.

    You wouldn’t let a 100 lbs, skinny little cheetah run with humans, right?

    Why? Because their biomechanics give them a huge advantage. They’re not that powerful, muscularly speaking. Nor are their silhouette or large lungs the main ingredients.

    Structures, not only physiology, have a great bearing on performance.

    A mechanical device that improves bio-mechanics. Forbidden. That’s the rule.

    He’s (the motorization guy) more likely in the marketing department.. 😉

    Yes, that piece of news was somewhat garbagy (sp?).

    And typical :O

  3. edi juandi says:

    dear someone,
    my name edi juandi,i’m from indonesia, my foot was amputated, i want foot imitation such as mr pistorius foot imitation for marathon, but i don’t have money for it, maybe you can help me.

    thanks for you respons