Tag Archives: biology

200. Morgellons: The Non-Existent Epidemic

Supposed Morgellons 'Disease Fibres'

It spreads like wildfire beneath the skin, the slight prickling sensation of itching. Tiny and innumerable fibres seem to poke through the skin and tiny parasites creep beneath the surface. The urge to pick at the fibres arrives, fingertips reach and simply start to scratch. Later sores appear over the body near where the picking occurred, it feels as though the fibres are causing it.

This peculiar condition is called Morgellons. In the past 11 years 12,000 people claim to have been affected. Yet, according to the consensus among medical professionals, it does not exist.

The first case was in 2001, Mary Leitao’s son had sores around his mouth and complained of feeling ‘bugs’ beneath them. She examined his skin with a toy microscope and found an astonishing array of coloured fibres peppered over his skin. She did some reading and found a reference in a 17th Century text referring to a condition in which people had long dark hairs grow on their backs. From this text she got the word ‘Morgellons.’ She maintained that it was a new condition and set up a foundation to research it.

After 12,000 reported cases a million dollars(USD) was set aside by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) in the United States of America to research it. They followed the symptoms and tracked down those claiming to have morgellons. Sufferers described their compulsion to pick at the fibres, often displaying a strong conviction that they were the products of other creatures beneath or on the skin. Morgellons sufferers were looking for a little information and a confirmation of the conditions existence. The CDC more than scratched the surface, the drilled deep.

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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Articles


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199. Fighting Tuberculosis and Embarassment

Listening to a patient for tuberculosis

Near the dawn of the 19th century medicine advanced inwards. Doctors began once more to diagnose problems with the heart and lungs by placing their ears against the bodies of patients and listening intently. This practice had been used since the time of the Greeks but recent advances had returned to frequent usage. This new body of science was in its infancy and doctors had great trouble listening to internal problems and keeping abreast of developments in the understanding of the human interior. Then it was improved by chance and embarrassment.

The Doctor René Theophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec was busy at work in the nineteenth century, doing nineteenth century things when he was presented with a chest problems. It was a young and rather plump lady, who was followed by her family. They lined the room as the young lady told of her suffering. For a decent diagnosis, he needed to listen to her lungs.

Under the watchful gaze of the family and the pressure of nineteenth century sensibilities he felt suddenly aware of how uncomfortably close he would have to place his head to her bosom, so he improvised. He grabbed a nearby piece of paper and rolled it up into a tube and placing the paper purposefully on her skin. To his shock when he listened, the sounds were much clearer. The lazy lungs breathing and the nervous heart beating.

That day, in 1816, the stethoscope was invented. Over time they became less papery and more trumpet-like. So it was until 1851 when a binaural stethoscope, one allowing the use of both ears, was introduced. Designs similar to the ones still used today, or so I hear.

Further Reading:

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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Articles


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186. The Melted Caterpillar

by GollyGForce

For over a century scientists have been observing caterpillars engaging in strange migrations. This condition affects many different species of caterpillar, but the virus specialising in the Gypsy Moth caterpillar has a few extra surprises.

These normally nocturnal creatures would starts venturing out in broad daylight, leaving their normal grazing and reaching up into the open canopy. The change was not a choice, it was forced by an invader. The caterpillars were sick, and a virus was in control.

One single gene has been isolated in the virus which is thought to be the ‘caterpillar control,’ it deactivates the caterpillar’s will to moult, sending the caterpillar on a constant feeding cycle. Making one very hungry caterpillar.

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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Articles


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172. The Dead Art of Self-Mummification

Sokushinbutsu is the name, a practice no longer observed or condoned by any Buddhist sect, self-mummification requires patience, dedication and a steely determination. Preparing for and living through your own death is an unpleasant process, truly a suicide slow.

It begins with 1000 days of withering. For just under three years only nuts and seeds are eaten, stripping any person of their body fat. Combined with this was a punishing exercise regime. After the initial thousand days the next stage was employed.

The next thousand days saw a shift, the only permitted solid consumption was a mixture of bark and roots. Then came a new tincture, the sap of the Urushi tree. A substance used to lacquer bowls. When ingested it is poisonous, causing rapid evacuation of their bellies and bowels. This was not the main purpose though, whilst it did test fortitude there was a practical use. Three years of imbibing that deathly sap would spread poison through the whole body, tainting all reaches. The aim was to make the body so poisonous that no maggot or other animal would consume it after death. In turn, preventing any rot or deterioration after death.

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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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166. ‘Clever Hans’ the Mathematical Horse

In the early twentieth century there was a spectacle, a horse called ‘Clever Hans,’ whom the owner claimed could add, subtract, multiply, divide, work with fractions, tell time, keep track of the calendar, differentiate musical tones, and read, spell, and understand German. Truly a spectacle, bolstered by the sudden interest in animal intelligence thanks to the then fairly recent publication of Darwin’s, ‘On The Origin Of Species.’

Propelled by this interest ‘Clever Hans’ quickly gained repute and fame for both himself and his trainer, Wilhelm Van Osten, a mathematics teacher and an amateur, but in this case successful, horse trainer. Van Osten held spectacles for which he never charged entry, he would gather a crowd, ask Hans a question and Hans would tap the answer out until the right number was reached. For example he would ask,’If the eighth day of the month comes on a Tuesday, what is the date of the following Friday?’ The Hans would tap his hoof the requisite number of times(in this case 11).

Question could be submitted either verbally or in written form. The success of the spectacle allowed ‘Hans’ and van Osten to travel widely across Germany and in fact the whole event was featured at one point on page six of the New York Times. Then came queries, exactly how did the horse do it? Due tot he popularity and wide speculation the German board of education put together a committee of 13 people in order to test the scientific claims being made. They were known as the Hans committee. Read the rest of this entry »


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161. Planet In a Bottle

Biosphere 2 was ambitious, and the first of its kind. The aim was to create a second, slightly more portable earth, a closed system you could put anywhere which would allow people to survive, growing their own food and living off of it even the oxygen was recycled. A totally closed experiment to test whether or not we could live on another planet.

The site is spread over 3 hermetically sealed acres with double airlocks for assured safety. Inside were replicated all the world’s necessary environments. A small ocean with a wave machine and beach,  grassland savannah, tropical rainforest, farm and an additional mangrove wetland. Plants were chosen to remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with oxygen.

All 14 before the final selection

A group of fourteen people initially held a practice run. Each sported a fetching red jumpsuit made by the former maker of Marilyn Monroe’s dresses. Out of the group, eight were chosen for the full thing. A two-year stint in a completely closed system, just themselves and the farm, in a giant glass structure in the Arizona Desert.

8:15 am, 26 September 1991 all eight of the red-clad ‘bionauts’ climbed through the airlock, leaving behind them their recently consumed breakfasts and waving crowds. Behind them the airlocks closed and so began the $150 million experiment. Over the next two years the groups would survive together and be self-sufficient, exit only came for the ill. It was a bizarre affair.

Initially it was a media frenzy, Biosphere 2 was the first of its kind and tourists came by the busload to serve their voyeuristic needs, staring through the glass walls at the toiling human specimens held within. This activity itself went on to inspire a small cultural revolution, leading directly to the creation of Big Brother, an extremely popular Reality Show which let viewers in on the lives of ‘housemates’ who were people chosen to live in a house together and perform tasks. It is easy to see the similarities.

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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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155. AC/DC Sharks

RRROOOOOOCCKKK!!What is the best way to lure a great white shark? The typical response was ‘chum’ – essentially chopped up fish. It turns out the answer may be hard rock classics, such as those from AC/DC. The most effective song is the aptly named – ‘If You Want Blood’.

The use of sound is not totally new, it has been known for a long time that certain sounds can drive off sharks and other animals: in fact sonar from ships is so painful for animals that it is a big factor in causing the beaching of whales. What wasn’t known extensively until now was which sounds were liked by animals.It turns out that, after extensive trial and error, lower frequencies preferred by great white sharks. In particular AC/DC is their favourite, fitting in with their aggressive reputations.

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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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