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By Stefan Korshak
"Stop right there! And what about excess weight?" A Ukrainian scientist has invented a plate that needles overeaters with sharp language, as his contribution to the international war to control excess weight gain during the holiday season.
Dr Hryhory Chausovsky, a senior lecturer at Zaporizhia University, demonstrated the device at a recent Kiev press conference.
The "talking plate" is 15 centimetres in diameter and connected to a palm-sized computer. Weight sensors allow the diner to load up his plate with a fixed volume of food, and if he piles on more a recording informs the diner of his impending sin.
"Where's your willpower?" demands the plate, according to a Fakty newspaper article.
Chausovsky is already well-known in Ukraine as a leading example of a Soviet-trained scientist turning his brains and imagination to the needs of modern consumers. His by far most famous invention to date is a musical condom with a built-in motion detector, allowing sex partners to vary the music played with the intensity of their love-making.
"Modern microchip technologies offer almost unlimited possibilities for practical applications," Chausovsky said at a recent press conference.
Certainly there is variety. A person embarrassed to bring a talking plate to the table could, for instance, employ a clever Chausovsky-developed belt, which monitors expansion of the wearer's stomach as the meal proceeds, and peeps a discreet alarm when maximum allowable extension has been reached.
"The idea behind this device is that we only start feeling we are full twenty minutes or more after we start eating, and in that time period it's time enough to eat two or three times the proper amount of food," Chausovsky explained. "The belt tells the wearer he has reached 'fullness' before the person's own body will tell him he is full."
Another plate is equipped with a contact sensor built in the food containment area, and a mini-synthesiser, so that each time the diner's fork or spoon strikes the plate, the plate plays music.
"If the utensil strikes are too rapid, the plate will play fast and aggressive music while if the person eats more slowly, the music will be calmer and less stressful," Chausovsky said.
"The natural human tendency to avoid stress and find calm will therefore slow down the eating process," he said.
For the really enthusiastic gourmand unable to limit himself, and interested in statistics, Chausovsky offers a lightweight arm band whose motion detector counts calories by the individual bite.
Chausovsky's anti-fat weaponry is not just for the dining room. One of the most effective devices, he said, is a simple contact magnet and recorder connected to the refrigerator door, which demands of the user every time the door is opened "Are you here because you are really hungry, or is it just your emotions?"
A more subtle approach is at work in Chausovksy's "scent-ring": the wearer puts on the jewellery, which emits a strong perfume partially masking the smell of food, and so reducing the desire to overeat, the scientist claimed.
"What's more, the pleasant scent will contribute towards your mental calm," said Dr Chausovsky.
But the hard core weapon in Chausovsky's anti-overeating arsenal is undoubtedly the "food spectacles" - a pair of tinted glasses turning the sight of even the most appetising goody, visually anyway, into something quite possibly inedible.
"Many of these devices may seem a little bit silly," Chausovsky conceded. "But overeating and excess weight are major problems in the world, and it is the job of science to develop ways to deal with society's problems."
Chausovsky said he was in the inventing business not to make money, but first to benefit people, and more generally to help Ukraine's often-unemployed engineering students adapt to a modern economy.
"I don't take money for any of this, not a kopeck," he responded, when asked how much income his inventions had brought him. "When I invented the musical condom I had people from Canada, Israel, and even Germany get in touch with me, but there were no offers from serious companies."
"Developing these devices is pretty simple, they are based on cheap materials available anywhere," he said. "My goal is to teach my students how to approach common everyday problems and to come up with new technical solutions."
Other inventions developed by the Zaporizhia University Life Activities Laboratory, which Chausovsky heads, include an electric device for "making the human orgasm more youthful," a talking baby pacifier, and a machine that prevents automobile drivers from falling asleep. - Sapa-dpa