Next time you
can't balance your checkbook, or you make mistakes with even the
most basic arithmetic, you might want to look in your medicine chest.
If you've been taking over-the-counter medications with antihistamines,
they may be the reason why you've gone foggy with figures. Researchers
at Youngstown State University say they've found a link that suggests
that these popular cold remedies could make people susceptible to
careless math errors.
retired math professor Joseph Altinger says he first suspected the
drugs a decade ago. "It happened to me. . . I'd been taking
a sinus medication and I made three ridiculous mistakes, glitches
really, like 2 plus 3 equals 7." So he conducted a little test.
He didn't take the drug for several weeks, and made no more such
errors. Then he took another dose. And once again, he caught himself
making silly mistakes.
gathered anecdotal evidence from students who had made embarrassing
goofs on tests and quizzes. He discovered that an "amazing"
number of them were taking antihistamines. So he enlisted the aid
of two YSU colleaguesSharon Shipton, a doctor of nursing,
and Andy Chang, a statistician. They gave around 400 students basic
arithmetic problems to do and then had them fill out a detailed
questionnaire, which included questions about such things as age,
marital status, parenthood, as well as any OTC medications they
Chang fed the
results into a computer and the team discovered a correlation between
math errors and antihistamines. They hope to submit their results
to medical journals for publication in the near future. Altinger
says he doesn't know why antihistamines would cause these momentary
short circuits, but he thinks the effects are short-lived and go
away once you stop taking them. Altinger doesn't suggest that people
shouldn't use antihistamines, but if they do, he recommends that
they carefully re-check any math work they do.
If the trio's
findings are eventually corroborated by subsequent research, it
would be just the latest bad news for OTC cold and allergy remedies.
Many popular brands, including Dimetapp and Alka-Seltzer, were pulled
from shelves in December after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
announced that studies showed that an ingredient in many of them,
phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, could cause strokes, particularly in
Consumers may well decide that a runny nose is preferable to a brain
on the blink.
of Islay in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland is famed for
its malt whiskey. But locals know it's also renowned for water as
well as scotchin the form of heavy waves that regularly pound
its shores. Now a Scottish company has teamed with Queen's University
in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to produce on Islay the world's first
commercial power station to harness the energy of ocean waves.
Wavegen began feeding electricity to the U.K.'s national grid and
signed a 15-year purchase agreement with Scotland's Public Electricity
Suppliers. The station is rated at 500 kilowatts and generates enough
electricity for 400 local homes. It uses what is called the LIMPET
device, which stands for Land Installed Marine Powered Energy Transformer.
is located on the shoreline and its collectors are partly submerged.
It uses an oscillating water column; external wave movement causes
a variation in water levels that compresses and decompresses air
trapped above, which then flows through two Wells Turbines. Wells
Turbines are named for their inventor, Wavegen's co-founder and
former Queen's professor of civil engineering Alan Wells.
Wells Turbines rotate in the same direction regardless of which
way the air flows across its blades, so they're not hampered by
the ebb and flow of the waves. David Langston, business development
director, says the turbines are simple designs that need no gears
or pitching mechanisms. "That's the beauty of them," he
of the power station traces to 11 years ago, when Queen's University
set up a research power station at Islay. The university remains
involved and will be part of a team that monitors LIMPET's progress.
Langston says Wavegen, which is located in Inverness, Scotland,
has global aspirations and that the system should work in any coastal
areas, even those with mostly placid seas. Right now, he says, the
energy produced by LIMPET is priced competitively, but new technologies
and increased volume should eventually make wave power a low-cost
option. And certainly a greener one.
fast becoming major line items in the budgets of American schools.
Gone are the days when schools relied on donations of corporate
castoffs or the proceeds of 8th-grade bake sales to wire their classrooms.
research firm Market Data Retrieval, public schools spent nearly
$6 billionaround $121 per studenton technology in 1999-2000,
a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year. And the spending
could become more intense. A bipartisan congressional body, the
Education Commission, recently reported that wiring schools to the
Internet has "transform[ed] learning in new and powerful ways"
and that more time, energy, and money should be invested in boosting
this "new learning opportunity." The commission strongly
urges more federal and state funding for educational technology.
executive director of the Consortium for School Networking, hails
the commission's report, saying it "puts forth a very visionary
view." But that said, Kruger warns that schools need to do
a better job of budgeting for IT.
Retrieval also notes that 60 percent of school funds are spent on
hardware and 20 percent on software. That leaves precious little
money for training and technical support, and is the opposite of
how businesses spend on information technology.
know, Kruger explains, "that the real cost isn't hardware and
software, it's training people and technical support. What's the
use of having a state-of-the-art system if it takes weeks to fix
it when it crashes?" he asks. His group promotes within schools
a business concept called total cost of ownership (TCO), which takes
into account maintenance and replacement costs as well as the purchase
When it comes
to tech support, Kruger admits that schools face handicaps. They
can't pay competitive salaries to hire full-time support teams.
But, he insists, there are options, including training students
to do some of the work, and using contract technicians.
The more reliant
schools become on high technology, the more serious they must be
about funding their IT programs and budgeting for the future. Indeed,
one federal initiativethe e-rate program, which helps schools
pay for Internet connectionsrequires schools to maintain an
up-to-date technology plan. School chiefs are swiftly learning that
education technology has many payoffs, but it doesn't come cheap.
Now even the
family portrait has gone digital. Georgia Institute of Technology
researchers have devised a picture frame that can help people keep
tabs on elderly loved ones.
it works. Sensors hooked to a PC are placed around the house to
be monitored, and the data they pick up are sent via the Internet
to the digital family portraitwhich presumably is hanging
in the house of a relative, friend, or caregiver. So far, the Georgia
Tech folks have focused on measuring activity in the kitchen, movements
from room to room, and in bed. (For example, how long have they
been in bed, are they sleeping well or restlessly?) The elderly
people involved can decide what they want monitored so that the
system doesn't become too intrusive.
Icons on a
flat-panel display mounted on the wooden frame indicate daily how
much activity is taking place. "We are adding a second interface
that updates on an hourly basiswhen you touch the picture,
you get a more detailed display. It resets after a few minutes,"
explains Elizabeth D. Mynatt, of Georgia Tech's College of Computing.
It is not an alarm system. It won't alert anyone that someone has
fallen, for example. But it may be a good way to see how someone
is recuperating after a fall or illness, Mynatt says.
has no plans of its own to take the system to market, "But
we're open to working with companies who are interested in commercializing
the portrait," Mynatt says.