Pulse Oximeters

I first heard about the pulse oximeter when I was younger. You know when you’re watching ER (I’m dating myself — everyone watches Grey’s Anatomy now) and you hear a flurry of medical speech? “Heart rate dropping! BP 140/60, pulse-ox 90…” That last bit is a pulse oximeter reading. But these machines aren’t just for hospitals any more. Pulse oximeters are becoming popular with athletes and small medical practices too, as a quick, pain-free way to find out how oxygenated the blood is.

When you exercise, oxygen is carried to your muscles via the bloodstream. This is why you breathe heavily; more activity from the muscles means more oxygen is required to keep your body moving. This is an essential performance issue, so you can see why a pulse oximeter is a helpful device. Athletes can monitor their blood-oxygen levels in real-time as they train simply by clipping the small device onto their finger. It also shows the heartrate, which is another essential training statistic.

Now that these devices have moved out of the ER and into small, cell-phone-sized devices that cost less than $100, there’s no excuse for athletes not to own one and take care of their bodies as they train.

NewsWatch: New Mnemonic for the 11 planets

A fourth grader from Montana has coined a mnemonic for the 11 planets of the solar system. If you thought there were 9 – or 8, or 12, or whatever it was last week – this memory trick may help you remember all of the planet’s names.

The student, Maryn Smith, won a National Geographic Society contest for her mnemonic, which will now be featured in a book and turned into a song by Lisa Loeb (of 1990s “Stay” fame).

The winning phrase? “My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants” for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris.

The only downside is that Smith’s mnemonic invention will in all likelihood be rendered useless sometime in the near future, as the planetary shuffle and disagreements about what makes a planet continue.

At least we can revel in the fact that 10-year-olds aren’t nearly as cynical as adults… yet.