"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Helpful Technology 

Young diabetics may soon live a bit easier: UK researchers are beginning trials of an 'artificial pancreas,' consisting of an implanted glucosometer and an external insulin pump. The technology could free Type I diabetics of their oppressive testing and injection regimens, but I wonder about how reliable such technology will be on kids. I mean, kids play, roughhouse, and move around a lot - mightn't a device like this be as disruptive to their activities as testing (though in different ways)? Still, it's pretty cool.

At least in the US and UK, most cases of head lice occur in kids, and treating them is, at best, a royal pain. My sister used to get lice not infrequently (probably from sharing brushes, etc., with other girls at school), and consequently the whole house would need disinfection. A new technology may ease the removal of the buggers from actual people, by replacing messy and increasingly-unreliable creams and shampoos with a mechanical drying process. I'm still not sure how/if this will impact the effects of lice infestations on family/schoolmates, but it's likely a good step.

Parents also worry about their kids' fevers, often loading them up with drugs like aspirin or acetaminophen at the first sign of a temperature. Researchers have found that fevers increase the ability of the immune system to mobilize against new infections, suggesting that disrupting them may hamper disease recovery. Aside from any general objections to our over-medicating our children and ourselves, this is a good point to consider, while being careful about dangerous fever effects like seizures.

Finally, a possible union of natural and man-made technology: it seems that electrostimulating students' brains during sleep may improve memory. These results concern me for a number of reasons. First of all, the stimulation appears to have caused lighter sleep cycles to become deeper ones, which may have side effects in and of itself. Secondly, this may have worked because medical students are famously over-stressed anyways, which leads to poorer sleep quality, and so the effect of this study may well have been just as easily achieved by a proper night's rest. Still, it's a nice idea: zap your brain for better memory. Sign me up!

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