Death of the stethoscope?

By Font Awesome by Dave Gandy -, CC BY-SA 3.0, LinkIt’s not just zombies that rise from the dead—science news stories can also come back to haunt the reader.

Take “Death of the stethoscope,” which surfaced in my RSS feed in the middle of 2015. As a former stethoscope user, the clickbait headline immediately intrigued me.

No stethoscope? How would clinicians survive?


First off: a little history. According to his Wikipedia summary, a French doctor called René Laennec invented a hollow hearing tube in 1816 to assist doctors in listening to a patient’s heart and lungs. Around 1852, the single tube morphed into the standard model that you see plugged into physicians’ ears from Grey’s Anatomy to House to ER. Apart from making them look hot professional, a stethoscope also helps with auscultation, the examination procedure whereby a doctor eavesdrops on your internal whooshes, pings and lub-dups. Noises from heart rhythms, gut movements

In case you were wondering: HeroRATs

APOPO rat holds a snack in its pawsWe first squealed with delight over the APOPO HeroRATs in a cool science gifts post waaaaaay back in November 2014. Always on the lookout for science treasures, we couldn’t help but introduce the amazing impact the rats’ olfactory abilities were making in mine detection and tuberculosis screening in Africa.

Oh, and the cute! Valentine’s Day is coming soon…

We adopted a couple of the rodents (Hans and Gertie), added APOPO Hero Gifts to our browser bookmarks and sent some virtual baskets of bananas to our nearests and dearests. With regular updates from our adoptees, APOPO is never far from our hearts and minds.

So, what have the giant pouched rodents-of-unusual-size been up to since then? We thought you’d like to share in the awesomeness (and of course the cuteness—squee!) of this amazing organization.


APOPO mine-detecting rats from the training program in Tanzania are currently deployed in Angola and Cambodia, with logistical aid supplied in Laos and Vietnam—all recognizable to history buffs as some

Around town: 21st FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics

Obstetric_Fistula_Locations_DiagramAnother medical conference launches in October at the Vancouver Convention Centre: the 21st FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics takes place between October 4th and 9th, bringing a packed program of workshops, plenary lectures, poster presentations and lectures to delegates.

FIGO, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, is the only global non-profit that brings clinicians and researchers in the two allied disciplines together. Held every three years, the conference covers a whole spectrum of women’s reproductive and sexual health issues with the aim of raising the standard for women’s health care worldwide.

The six days of the conference feature live surgery and a film festival in addition to the usual scientific program, covering the usual “controversial” topics: contraception, abortion, fistula repair, pregnancy and delivery, violence against women—some of the hot button topics that weasel their way into political debate in the way that challenges to men’s health never do… And controversial media figure Eve Ensler will give the inaugural Mahmoud Fathalla Lecture, titled In the Body of the World.

FIGO president Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran describes this year’s conference as

Work tips from the Talk Science to Me Team

5750960959_529a1a70b4_mThe Talk Science to Me team is a dedicated collection of science communications professionals. Unfortunately, we rarely see each other, since most of us work remotely. Our weekly internal newsletter has become a great way to stay in touch, and we often share tips for staying productive and getting the most out of a workday.

So, supplementing our recent post on resolutions for writers, here are some of the team’s recommendations for getting it done (whatever it is).


Warming up to work Deb starts the day by checking her schedule on her smart phone while running up 1,000 stairs, stopping to stretch after every 100. Roma prefers the slightly more sedentary approach of looking over her diary while drinking a cup of strong coffee.

Not sure if this works, but Amanda suggests watching the strangely hypnotic Dancing Jellies video to get into work mode at the beginning of the day.

Resolutions for writers, and why

Minor_Scale_test_explosionApart from sticking to deadlines for timely submission, what other useful habits could/should writers adopt to help workflow? Here are some habits that could help keep the words coming, and why they might help.

Inbox zero and muting the ping!

File this one under “removing distractions.” How many times an hour does that ping of mail arriving interrupt workflow? The answer is too many, so turn off the notifications. In addition to interrupting creative flow, checking emails throughout the day messes with your mood. According to a recent paper from UBC, checking your email less frequently reduces stress.1 In a two-week within-subjects study, Kushlev and Dunn (2015) found that when participants limited inbox inspections to three times per day, they reported lower stress levels than if they checked for new mail as many times as they wanted to throughout the day.

Focusing on email checking as a form of task switching, something already known to negatively impact well-being and increase cognitive load to the point of further distraction, Kushlev and Dunn used an exploratory approach in