Coughs on a train
(Yes the title is meant to remind you of snakes on a plane!)
Goodness! At this time of year there really are a lot of people coughing on trains! I travelled from Southampton to Tunbridge Wells today, and my journey was accompanied by a large range of coughs and sneezes, from the high-pitched cough of the lady opposite me, to the spluttering of an old gentleman in the corner. Leaving aside the public health aspects of coughing (particularly as a number of my fellow travellers did not cover their mouths when they coughed), I wondered if this could be used somehow to analyse the severity of cough/cold illnesses in the UK.
Proposal: All we need is a few willing volunteers who commute on trains. We can give them tally-counter to carry (they could count on a piece of paper, or in their head, but I'd get terribly confused doing that), and instruct them to count every cough they hear in their part of the carriage. This data can then be plotted on a graph over time, and (if we have enough people), over geographic area, and may provide a useful public health dataset. On the other hand, it may be rubbish! But who will know unless we try...
Unfortunately (well, fortunately for me!), I don't commute on a train, but I'll analyse the data if you'll collect it!
Of course all we need now is to find a way to get commuters to count coughs while still reading the Metro!