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Safer Sex

The next wave of AIDS prevention will put control in women's hands, according to Professor of Medicine Ken Mayer. Speaking at the Sixth International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in October, Mayer said that new topical gels and creams called microbicides will enable women and receptive partners in gay sex to protect themselves from HIV. When used in the vagina or the rectum, Mayer said, microbicides alter the biological environment, making it inhospitable to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. "The goal is to have a product that the receptive partner can control," Mayer says. "Saying Եuse a condom,' for women, means depending on someone else." Mayer says his preliminary testing of the microbicide Buffergel has indicated that the product is safe and well tolerated.

Stairmasters

"Move it and lose it" - that's the key to long-term weight loss, says Professor of Psychiatry Rena Wing. With colleagues at the University of Colorado, Wing has established a voluntary registry of 3,000 men and women who have lost an average of sixty pounds and kept it off for six years. The key to the dieters' success, Wing says, is physical activity. In September's Obesity Research, Wing and her colleagues reported that successful dieters were twice as active as those who failed. Subjects in the study wore digimeters, and the results found that registry members took 10,877 steps a day - the equivalent of walking four miles - compared to 4,983 steps taken by a control group of people about to enter a weight-loss program. The successful dieters varied their exercise routines, combining aerobics, biking, walking, weightlifting, and other activities. Wing's advice? "Whatever you're already doing, do more." (She also urges successful dieters to contact the National Weight Control Registry at 1-800-606-NWCR.)

 

 

Ugh, grunt

A good vocabulary might make you a crossword ace, but when it comes to computers, simpler is better, according to Takeo Igarashi, a research associate in computer science. According to Igarashi, most voice-recognition programs are slow, giving the user less direct control than a mouse or a keyboard. What's more, they often "mishear" complex words and respond incorrectly. Now Igarashi has developed a voice-recognition program that responds immediately to nonverbal inputs, such as changes in voice pitch and sound frequency. For example, a rising inflection on the word "up" instructs the computer to scroll upward, stopping when the user stops speaking. Even simple sounds, like grunts, can be used as commands, Igarashi says. He envisions his "no hands necessary" system as useful for the disabled, in entertainment applications, and eventually in automobile computers - but not, Igarashi says, in business applications. "Grunting is not useful in an office environment."




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