School-based programs that aim to reduce teen pregnancies by giving girls a ‘robot baby’ to look after, simulating the experience of having a real infant, actually have the opposite effect, Australian scientists announced in August.
Similar programs are used in schools in 89 countries around the world, but this was the first time the artificial infants had been tested in a proper scientific trial. The robotic rugrats were looked after for a weekend by 1,267 girls aged between 13 and 15 from 57 schools in WA, while 1,567 girls didn’t receive a toy toddler.
When the scientists looked at their medical records at age 20, they found 8 per cent of the girls given the digital dolls had been pregant since, compared with just 4 per cent of those who had remained robot-free. The girls who cared for the robots were also more likely to have had an abortion by age 20; 9 per cent compared to 6 per cent. The conclusion? Robot bubs aren’t a good use of public money when it comes to preventing teen pregnancies.
Science isn’t always serious. The Weird Science series, collated by the Australian Science Media Centre, serves up the most quirky, curious and downright bizarre science stories of 2016.