The science of hammering

June 28, 2009
This is a force platform used to study hammering performance. Credit: Duncan Irschick

Scientists are studying hammering ability as a model for difficult motor tasks. The results, to be presented on Sunday, June 28, at the Society for Experimental Biology meeting, indicate that there is a surprising difference in performance between the sexes, and that this difference is dependent in turn on the hammering conditions.

When it comes to something as simple as hammering a nail, some people are naturals and get the job done after a few clean, sharp strokes of the hammer, whereas for the rest of us a similar challenge is likely to end up with the nail bent in the middle, a sore thumb and a wounded pride.

Dr. Duncan Irschick and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have measured hammering performance in men and women and found that men are more accurate than women when hammering under light deprivation, and, conversely, women are more accurate in the light, regardless of target size.

"We believe that our research indicates that humans have remarkable compensatory ability during difficult motor tasks such as hammering in the dark", says Dr Irschick, who in future studies is planning to focus on understanding how hammering ability evolves in humans from early development to adulthood.

Dr Irschick will present his findings at the Society of Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Glasgow on Sunday 28th June 2009.

Source: Society for Experimental Biology

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4 / 5 (2) Jun 28, 2009
I don't believe this study quite hits the nail on the head.

Either the person who digested the study for this snippet of an article missed something important, or the study itself is epidemiological white noise at its worst.

As a former professional carpenter myself, I find it hard to believe that a man who is good at hitting a nail in limited light conditions is going to be worse when using a hammer in better light. I'll bet that if the bell curves for hammering accuracy in all light conditions for the two sexes were looked at, you would find a similar situation to those representing intelligence levels-- there would be a higher number of men than women who are outstanding at hitting a nail in general, as well as a higher number of men than women who are completely incompetent, but more women than men who are average at hitting a nail no matter what the lighting conditions.

But whatever. I prided myself on slamming a 16 d in with no more than four blows whether it was high noon or my eyes were closed (counting the start tap, of course).

One hint even many of the most seasoned carpenters don't know however-- to avoid splitting your wood, make sure you position the chisel point of your nail with the wide dimension perpendicular to the direction of the wood grain. Do it the other way, and you'll split the board more times than not.
not rated yet Jul 28, 2009
Necessities of the 'Dark Age(s)' ... Cave dwelling families dividing the tasks: women tending to families in the light and warmth of the fire being continually fed by the men who had to leave the cave for extended periods for fire fuel and food. Tools for different uses were in use inside and outside, by men and women.

Pure speculation on my part, but the post ice-age archaeology is turning up very interesting details about human survival in those difficult times, and modern genetics may be maintaining redundant capacities/advantages - just in case.

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