November 6, 2021 | Issue 22-11
Science Spotlight

Someday Soon, Smartwatches May Know You’re Sick Before You Do

Smartwatch-style wristbands may soon be able to gauge whether you’re coming down with a cold, flu, or other infection — even before you feel sick. This early warning can help you avoid spreading the disease.
Jessilyn Dunn is a biomedical engineer at Duke University in Durham, N.C. She was part of a team that analyzed heart rates and other data from wearable devices. The smartwatch-like systems contain sensors. These collect data — lots and lots of data — that can point to health or disease.
Dunn’s team asked 49 volunteers to wear sensor-laden wristbands before and after they received a cold or flu virus. At least once per second, these wristbands recorded heart rates, body movements, skin temperatures, and more. In nine out of every 10 recruits, these data showed signs of developing illness at least a day before symptoms emerged.

Read more about this research here.
Here’s Why Ducklings Swim In A Row Behind Mom
Baby ducks are known for paddling in an orderly line behind their mother. Now scientists know why. The babies take a ride on their mom’s waves. That boost saves the ducklings energy.
Earlier research studied how much energy ducklings burn while swimming. That showed that the youngsters saved energy when swimming behind mom. But how they saved energy wasn’t known. So Zhiming Yuan made computer simulations of waterfowl waves. A naval architect, Yuan works at the University of Strathclyde. It’s in Glasgow, Scotland. Yuan and his colleagues calculated that a duckling in just the right spot behind its mother has an easier swim.
But to reap the benefits, the youngsters need to keep up with their mom. If they fall out of position, swimming gets harder. That’s fair punishment for ducklings that dawdle.

Read more about this research here.