Fever Pitching

Last week was an historic one for cricket enthusiasts around the world (I happen to be one of the three, by the way), as we discovered that a team can forfeit a game by sulking.

According to a fascinating article in this week's Economist, "This happened towards the end of the fourth day of a match played in London between England and Pakistan. During the afternoon the umpires decided that the visiting team had been tampering with the ball, and added five runs to England's score. In a huffy response, Pakistan refused to restart play promptly after the interval for tea. (Cricket still revolves around meals rather than the whims of television viewers.) After a while, the umpires decided that Pakistan's tantrum had cost it the match."

Of course controversary is nothing new to the game of cricket. In 1624, for instance, a cricket player was killed when he was hit by a bat in Sussex. More recently, in 1970, a South African tour of England was cancelled and South Africa banned from international play because of their apartheid policies. Then there was the Hansie Cronje incident in 2000. He was the South African captain who was banned from the game (for life) after he admitted to receiving bribes from bookmakers. Word on the street is, he and Pete Rose are now the best of chums.

For those who don't know much of the history of the sport and want to learn more, after the jump, you'll find an abridged timeline via

Dates in cricket history

1550 (approx) Evidence of cricket being played in Guildford, Surrey.

1598 Cricket mentioned in Florio's Italian"“English dictionary.

1610 Reference to "cricketing" between Weald and Upland near Chevening, Kent.

1611 Randle Cotgrave's French"“English dictionary translates the French word "crosse" as a cricket staff.

1676 First reference to cricket being played abroad, by British residents in Aleppo, Syria.

1709 First recorded inter-county match: Kent v Surrey.

1710 First reference to cricket at Cambridge University.

1727 Articles of Agreement written governing the conduct of matches between the teams of the Duke of Richmond and Mr Brodrick of Peperharow, Surrey.

1767 (approx) Foundation of the Hambledon Club in Hampshire, the leading club in England for the next 30 years.

1771 Width of bat limited to 4 1/4 inches, where it has remained ever since.

1776 Earliest known scorecards, at the Vine Club, Sevenoaks, Kent.

1780 The first six-seamed cricket ball, manufactured by Dukes of Penshurst, Kent.

1795 First recorded case of a dismissal "leg before wicket".

1807 First mention of "straight-armed" (i.e. round-arm) bowling: by John Willes of Kent.

First Oxford v Cambridge match, at Lord's. A draw.

1828 MCC authorise the bowler to raise his hand level with the elbow.

1836 (approx) Batting pads invented.

1841 General Lord Hill, commander-in-chief of the British Army, orders that a cricket ground be made an adjunct of every military barracks.

1844 First official international match: Canada v United States.

1850 Wicket-keeping gloves first used.

1864 "Overhand bowling" authorised by MCC.

1909 Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC "“ now the International Cricket Council) set up, with England, Australia and South Africa the original members.

Which Terrestrial Planet?
You Can Sip Coffee and Play Games While This Helmet Scans Your Brain

Brain scanning is a delicate operation, one that typically involves staying very still. Researchers use imaging techniques like magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging to get an idea of how the brain functions and what neurons are being activated, but it's not an easy task. Current scanners are huge, requiring patients to sit unmoving inside them, lest their head movements mess up the data. There may soon be a better way—one that would allow patients to act normally while still getting reliable data.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK report in Nature that they've developed a prototype brain scanner that can be worn like a helmet, one that can generate reliable data even if the subject moves.

It uses lightweight quantum magnetic-field sensors held against the scalp by a 3D-printed helmet that's custom-made for the patient. For the study, one of the researchers volunteered to be the patient and was fitted with a white plastic helmet that looks kind of like a cross between a Roman Centurion helmet and a Jason Voorhees Halloween mask. She was positioned between two large panels equipped with electromagnetic coils that cancel out the Earth's magnetic field so that it doesn't interfere with the magnetic data picked up from the brain. As long as the patient stayed between the panels, she was free to move—nod her head, stretch, drink coffee, and bounce a ball with a paddle—all while the scanner picked up data about on par with what a traditional scanner (seen below) might gather.

A man sits inside an MEG scanner.

The more flexible scanning system is exciting for a number of reasons, including that it would allow squirmy children to have their brains scanned easily. Since patients can move around, it could measure brain function in more natural situations, while they're moving or socializing, and allow patients with neurodegenerative or developmental disorders to get MEG scans.

The current helmet is just a prototype, and the researchers want to eventually build a more generic design that doesn't require custom fitting.


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