science


Two weekends ago, I met a friend for late afternoon drinks at a bar across the road.  When I arrived, he’d been soaking up the sun and cider for a couple of hours already, and was sitting with a cheerful group of people I was invited to join.  This included:  Chester from Newcastle; Chester’s Swedish girlfriend, called Em; the bar’s owner, Dave, who is Irish; Dave’s Polish wife; my South African mate, Sean; and their friend, Gary, who is from Edinburgh.  I mention the hodgepodge of nationalities only because this is one of those things I love about London – Sean also lives with a Ghanaian, an Italian, and two Czech lodgers who were all presumably drinking pints in another patch of sun.

As I was a little bit late to the party, the conversation was relaxed and winding.  A popular topic, however, was what substances could be used to spike Gary’s drink without him noticing.  A range of fluids were suggested, with Gary’s enthusiastic participation.  This was mildly amusing, but a bit weird for a bunch of thirty-somethings to be talking about – with two PhDs amongst them, no less.  It was more the stuff of the fifth-grade cafeteria table.  Because four of the group were bartenders, the discussion covered what noxious liquids could be visually disguised in what ranges of seemingly innocuous beverages.  I finally had to pipe up and ask:  What exactly was the deal?

It turned out that one drunken night four months ago, Gary bumped his head getting into a taxi, and suffered a mild brain injury that had left him without a sense of taste or smell.  The loss of smell is called anosmia, but Gary’s principal complaint was that everything tasted of, well, nothing.  Although likely the hundredth time poor Gary was forced to tell the story, we all sat and contemplated this for a while.  (more…)

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Electron microscope pictures of grains of pollen, aka the reason your sinuses are kicking the shit out of your face this month.  Click the pic for a gallery.

Centrilobular_emphysema

Wiki:  Gross pathology of lung showing centrilobular emphysema characteristic of smoking. Closeup of fixed, cut surface shows multiple cavities lined by heavy black carbon deposits.

I don’t even smoke anymore and this makes my breathing painful.

It also reminds me of the Brain Bug so now I basically need to go puke up my breakfast, 'scuse plz.

It also reminds me of Brain Bug so basically, I need to go puke up my breakfast now, 'scuse plz.

I hate commercials with a passion.  I especially hate prescription drug commercials and if I don’t mute the TV e-fucking-mediately, the droning voiceover rambling on about the long list of side effects is enough to make me set my own face on fire.  My favorite would have to be when they tell you that antidepressants can increase your risk for suicide.  Because, really, that makes all the sense in the world, doesn’t it!? “You hate your life, take this pill!!  But watch out, it might make you feel like someone else is walking in your skin and you’ll want to eat a bullet!!  Your co-pay will be $30, thx.

Everyone is depressed.  Obese children are depressed (from being overfed like suckling pigs), teenagers are depressed and hormonal, women are depressed and psychotic, men are depressed and homicidal.  I can’t get through one fucking day without hearing about someone’s issues, and were I a weaker minded person this would, guess what?  DEPRESS ME.  So when I read this article in Scientific American Mind about depression and good old elbow grease, I was reminded that there IS light at the end of the tunnel and the world is not entirely stuffed with lazy people in shitty moods. The article is long and interesting but I’ve captured the main points for you.  Don’t be a lazy shit and skip it, your mental health is on the line, Slacker.

FAST FACTS:  The Mental Perils of Ease

1.  Rates of depression have risen in recent decades, at the same time that people are enjoying time-saving conveniences such as microwave ovens, e-mail, prepared meals, and machines for washing clothes and mowing lawns.

2.  People of earlier generations, whose lives were characterized by greater efforts just to survive, paradoxically, were mentally healthier. Human ancestors also evolved in conditions where hard physical work was necessary to thrive.

3.   By denying our brains the rewards that come from anticipating and executing complex tasks with our hands, the author argues, we undercut our mental well-being.

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In order to educate the public and combat the prevalence of colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the country, Canada has taken the logical step of constructing a 40-foot-long touring colon.  The interactive colon, which according to this AOL report, resembles “a disturbing take on the traditional bouncy castle,” features informative video lectures on a variety of colon diseases as well as an (Italian?) muppet named Dr. Preventino.

If you would like to see a giant, inflated polyp, you can take a video tour here.  I can imagine that thousands of bored schoolchildren have forcibly toured the inflatable colon in the few years it’s been traveling through Canada, but I have a hard time imaging adults, who should be the real targets of colon health education, voluntarily spending a Saturday afternoon this way (“Hey, Hon!  Dr. Preventino and the giant colon are in town!  Let’s have an early lunch of leafy green vegetables, followed by a single aspirin and then walk briskly over to city center to check it out.”).

Of course, I haven’t been to Canada, so this could  be makings of a heady weekend, for all I know.  I don’t think it’s a bad idea, actually, just that they could have gone farther with it.  Why not tie it in with a waterpark, and construct a Journey Through A Urinary Tract Infection Slide, for example?  A cancer-cell versus radiotherapy shoot-’em-out game?  I see no reason that if South Korea can have a sex theme park, Canada couldn’t have an awesome public health theme park.  Everybody wins!

If you would like to get in on my public-health theme park, please submit your medical tie-in ideas for roller coasters, log chutes ,vertical drops, etc in the comments.  Canada’s Ministry of Health?  Have your people call mine and let’s make this happen.

Thankfully, the media has alerted us to Patient Zero, the original source of the virus known as Swine Flu threatening a global pandemic, so the blaming can begin.  An image of the offender in action can be found below, in flagrant disregard for international health concerns

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Because what seems obsolete is actually the basis of modernity, please find in this video extremely useful tips for getting the best use from your old VCR.  Marshmallows are involved.

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