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Gizmorama - December 11, 2017

Good Morning,

Science does it again! How should you judge the quality of champagne? Taste? Smell? Nope, it's sound. No, really!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists devise method for judging champagne quality using sound --*

Don't taste, listen -- the sound of rising bubbles may reveal the quality of a champagne.

When people think of what champagne sounds like, they're likely to hear the pop of a cork exploding from a celebratory bottle of bubbly. But researchers at the University of Texas set out to measure the sound of champagne bubbles, with hopes of quantifying the sound of expensive sparkling wine.

"The point of the project is to study the sounds that champagne bubbles make, and to see what we can infer about the bubbles from the sounds that they make," researcher Kyle S. Spratt said in a news release. "Bubbles are very resonant. They basically ring like bells, and the frequency of that ringing depends in part on the size of the bubbles."

Some believe the size of champagne bubbles is related to quality, with expensive bottles yielding many small bubbles and cheaper versions producing fewer, bigger bubbles.

Spratt and his colleagues wanted to determine whether bubble size and distribution could be measured using acoustic instruments.

"When we came across the idea that bubbles play an important role in the quality of a sparkling wine, our first instinct was to drop a hydrophone into a glass and see what kind of sound we can hear," said Spratt.

Researchers quickly realized recording the sound of champagne bubbles was challenging. Bubbles formed on the hydrophone, skewing the recordings. Scientists used a smaller hydrophone to limit the interference.

Spratt and his research partners also realized the glass plays a significant role in promoting bubble formation.

"A wine glass is also a resonant object, so another challenge for us was to make sure that the characteristics of the glass itself weren't biasing our measurements in some way," he said.

Previous research has shown that while higher quality champagne tends to feature an abundance of smaller bubbles, larger bubbles are in fact superior for delivering a pleasant aroma at the champagne surface.

Should wine makers agree on a benchmark for bubble size and distribution, scientists could measure the acoustics to ensure a wine meets quality standards.

"The direct application would be as a simple tool that could be used to monitor the bubble size distribution in sparkling wines," Spratt said.

Spratt and his colleagues are presenting their work this week in New Orleans at the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.

*-- FDA approves EKG app for Apple Watch --*

Apple Watch wearers will soon be able to easily monitor the rhythm of their heart whenever and wherever they want.

That is if they buy AliveCor's Kardiaband EKG reader, the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The previous iteration of the KardiaMobile device used a remote sensor linked to a smartphone, but the latest accessory inserts into the band of the Apple Watch. When the sensor is touched, it can capture an EKG reading in 30 seconds and differentiate between normal sinus heart rhythms and atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm.

The medical device also includes a new feature called SmartRhythm, which taps into the Apple Watch's activity monitoring capabilities for correlations between heart activity and physical activity. The feature can identify anomalies or disconnects between the two.

"KardiaBand paired with SmartRhythm technology will be life-changing for people who are serious about heart health," Vic Gundotra, CEO of AliveCor, said in a news release. "These capabilities will allow people to easily and discreetly check their heart rhythms when they may be abnormal, capturing essential information to help doctors identify the issue and inform a clear path of care to help manage AFib, a leading cause of stroke, and other serious conditions."

Apple is one several technology companies chosen by the FDA to take part in a new digital health software precertification pilot program. The program was created to accelerate the development and production of health-tracking devices like Kardiaband.

While other health trackers are in the pipeline, it's not clear whether Apple itself will make their own devices and add-ons or simply partner with other companies. Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedy been testing a glucose-tracking prototype himself.

Even when fast-tracking is made available, getting FDA approval isn't easy. Until now, getting an EKG reading could only happen at a hospital or doctor's office. Now, an accurate reading is at the fingertips of the average consumer.

"It's not possible to diagnose atrial fibrillation without FDA clearance," Gundotra told TechCrunch. "That is a big, big play."


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