Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taking "there's an app for that"

It's interesting to see how things bounce around in the blogosphere - or, for that matter, in print or broadcast journalism. Someone runs a story, someone else picks it up, and then it gets passed on from there. In some cases, the subsequent stories have less content than the original (I won't name any organization in particular, but there's one with the initials "AP" that specializes in summarizing stories). In other cases, the people who pass the story on add additional value.

Take the story about the caffeine-related death of Michael Lee Bedford that originally ran in This Is Nottingham, was picked up by Boing Boing, then to Geekosystem, and then to The AppsLab, where I saw it and followed the trail back to the original source. (Yes, Paul Bragdon, my Reed College-derived love of original sources has stayed with me.)

You might want to take a look at how the different publications presented the story. This Is Nottingham concentrated on the anguish of the grandmother and aunt. Boing Boing compared the Nottingham story to the recent hospitalization of some students in the state of Washington after drinking caffeine-enhanced malt liquor.

And James Plafke at Geekosystem was...well, he was geeky. After pointing out (correctly) that ANYTHING taken in excess can harm you, Plafke then noted:

[T]he dosage that led to [Michael Lee] Bedford’s untimely death were far, far greater than anything you’d take in from normal consumption of food and beverages. Even if you’re still worried about dying from your morning coffee, sugar-free Red Bull, or what have you, there’s an app that lets you check how many servings would need to be taken for it to be lethal. 138 cans of Amp sounds unbearable.

Plafke then links to the iTunes page for an app (iPhone, iPod, iPad) called "Caffeine Death Count."

Ever wonder how much of your favorite caffeinated beverage will actually kill you?

Now you can find out with Caffeine Death Count!

The page then displays the example cited by Plafke, in which a 150 pound, 25 year old person drinks cans of Amp. If you press the "Kill Me" button, the app calculates that 138 cans will do just that.

For those who do not have Uncle Steve's Magical Insanely Great Device, there's a web page which appears to offer similar functionality.

Let's just say that I won't be drinking 400+ cans of Coca-Coca Classic any time soon.

And I'll be laying off the decaf coffee after about 2,000 cups. (Yes, Virginia, decaf coffee is not entirely caffeine-free.)

And I'll absolutely positively draw the line at 300 cups of Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream.

The product that was ingested by Bedford was not identified at the inquest (presumably because of a fear of copycats, or fear of a lawsuit?), so I couldn't run that product through the European version of the online page.

Presumably the coroner wouldn't be pleased with this advertisement, even though it contains a warning of sorts:

We advise you use a scale to measure out a dose of caffeine powder. Overdose from caffeine is no joke! DO NOT consume more than 1600mg per day!

For Americans like me, that is equivalent to less than 1/3 of a teaspoon. Per 24 hour day. Yeah, as if anyone attending a party is going to suddenly become extremely careful. It's a wonder that there aren't more deaths like Bedford's.

It's times like this when the libertarian in me starts becoming less libertarian.
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