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Stomache can tell a lie

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  • Stomache can tell a lie

    Student turns gut instinct into a top science project

    17-year-old wins praise for research using stomach monitor as a lie detector

    Chantal Eustace, Vancouver Sun
    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Cassandra Fong's technique for detecting liars, one stomach twitch at a time, helped the science-savvy 17-year-old become the first student in Britannia secondary school's history to make it to the Canada Wide Science Fair last spring.

    "I just really wanted to do something important in science," said Fong.

    Through testing the stomach movement of 100 volunteers -- using an electrogastrogram machine she borrowed from a professor at New York's Columbia University -- she was able to get an indication of when people may not be telling the truth.

    An electrogastrogram is similar to an electrocardiogram of the heart. It records the electrical signals that travel through the muscles of the stomach and control the muscles' contraction.

    She found that these signals were affected when people were lying.

    Now the U.S. school is reviewing the findings and plans to publish her work in a scientific journal, she said.

    Fong credits an innovative University of B.C. partnership program, Let's Talk About Science, with helping her to find her scientific groove.

    The program sends UBC graduate and undergraduate students into schools to work with teachers and students -- ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12 -- in interactive workshops, experiments and training.

    It's all aimed at making science interesting.

    Britannia secondary school in east Vancouver began participating in the program two years ago and Fong said it has really helped.

    "It created a better, open exchange between the students and the teachers," she said, recalling that one teacher even volunteered to help her with her project during lunch hours and after school.

    Fong, a well-spoken Grade 12 student, spent more than a year and a half perfecting her experiment, titled "Liar, liar, your stomach's on fire."

    One hundred volunteers were questioned 100 times, while electrodes measured their stomach activity, she said. When they were lying, the activity changed.

    Her efforts earned her a scholarship to UBC, a gold medal at the regional science fair and a finalist spot in the May 2007 Canada Wide Science Fair.

    Even though she didn't win the top spot, she said, she learned a lot.

    Lars Rose, a coordinator for UBC's Let's Talk About Science partnership, said that last year, more than 11,000 B.C. students received assistance through the program, which includes a rural outreach element.

    "We want to provide science literacy to the students," said Rose, a volunteer with the program who is doing his doctorate in material science at UBC. "We want to raise the awareness of science technology and sort of make it more interesting."

    He said the program is particularly helpful to schools in lower income neighbourhoods like Britannia secondary, where students may have less resources or access to tutors.

    Fong's school principal, Beverly Seed, said the program has been great for students.

    "It definitely is a motivator," Seed said, adding that Fong is a role model for her peers.

    Fong said she wanted to affect the world through her experiment but the process, including the science competitions, changed who she is.

    "It gave me a lot of new experiences," Fong said. It also influenced her post-secondary goals.

    "Now I'm considering studying science."

    On a personal level, she said, she knows when people aren't telling the truth. "A lot of people won't lie to me, for sure anymore," she said, chuckling.

    What's next?

    She plans to update her experiment this summer, she said, adding she's already working on a revised hypothesis for it.

    "I want to see if it can work for everyone and if it could be used for everyday things," said Fong, of her stomach-focused truth quest. "Expand it."

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  • #2
    Re: Stomache can tell a lie

    are you speaking the truth? show me your belly

    i wonder if that works with pregnant women
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