Stories of Modern Science ... from UPI

By ALEX CUKAN, UPI Science writer  |  Nov. 12, 2001 at 1:53 AM
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In clinics and doctors' offices of the future, hand-held echocardiography machines will be used to quickly screen patients' hearts for structural abnormalities that could indicate the need for more thorough cardiac testing. The stethoscope, the most commonly recognized instrument in medicine, will no longer be used in the initial assessment of a patient's heart, according to researchers at Duke University. The smaller echocardiography machines do not provide the same level of detail as their larger and more expensive counterparts, but they can detect heart abnormalities needing further attention. "These handheld devices are not as good as standard echocardiography for everything, but as a screening tool, they are a major step forward over what we currently use," says Dr. John Alexander. "Doctors could pick up a large number of patients who have heart abnormalities that cannot be detected by a stethoscope or who have heart disease but are not yet having symptoms." Alexander prepared the results for the 74th annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association.


Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that telling a lie and telling the truth require different activities in the human brain. The findings will be presented Tuesday at the national meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego. "Sections of the brain that exercise a significant role in how humans pay attention, and monitor and control errors, were on average more active in the volunteers when they were lying than when they were telling the truth," says Daniel Langleben, M.D. "If truth was the brain's normal 'default' response, then lying would require increased brain activity in the regions involved in inhibition and control." By identifying the brain activity associated with deception and denial, the research paves the way for improvements in lie-detection techniques.


Microsoft Corp. announced a major milestone for the long-held industry vision of the next-generation mobile business PC as leading computer companies unveiled their Tablet PC prototypes at the Comdex Fall 2001 in Las Vegas. Company chairman Bill Gates showcased several new prototype machines and software applications during his keynote address. "With the Tablet PC, the industry is entering a new phase of mobile computing that will make the power of a fully functional PC more flexible and accessible than ever before," according to Gates. The Tablet PC features a battery life that will approach a full day of undocked usage, a high-speed microprocessor, support for wireless connectivity, a high-resolution display and a weight of as little as 2 1/2 pounds (a bit more than a kilo). Gates says that with a Tablet PC and Microsoft Office XP software, users will be able to incorporate the comfort of handwriting into everyday tasks such as creating e-mail, annotating word documents and marking up presentations in PowerPoint.


Private dinner parties, barbecues and other social functions are the most common source of food poisoning, according to a study by Britain's Public Health Laboratory. The agency analyzed food poisoning reports filed between 1992 and 1999 and found 88 percent were from social functions, New Scientist reports. "Foodborne outbreaks in the home seemed to occur when individuals catered for larger groups than users," says Sarah O'Brien in the British Medical Journal. "Our analysis found that the outbreaks are related to cross-contamination in the kitchen." Chicken dishes and food containing raw eggs were identified as the biggest source of post-party illness. Salmonella bacteria were responsible for most cases of food poisoning reported among party guests. The researchers discovered that many hosts, unused to preparing food for large numbers of people, undercooked meals, failed to keep food fresh and allowed it to be cross-contaminated, by using the same knife or surface to chop uncooked and cooked meats. Poor food storage caused 39 per cent of the reported cases, undercooking 31 per cent and cross-contamination 20 per cent.

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