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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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194. The High House

Reachable thanks to the violent and thorough application of nunchuksIn 2004 some developers planned a shopping complex in the Chinese municipality of Chongqing. As per normal they bought the land and swiftly evicted the 280 home owners, however they met resistance in the  form of Wu Ping and her husband, Yang Wu. The ever calm 49-year-old Wu Ping and supporting Yang Wu decided to not leave. Instead they settled down in their two-storey brick house while the land around them was scraped clean.

The developers were impatient and even began to excavate the land around the house; still, Wu Ping and Yang Wu stayed in their house. While the ground fell away from around their humble abode the developers apparently threatened the pair by sending up thugs, presumably thugs of the threatening kind. The oddity of the case and the bravado displayed meant news of the case spread far and wide. The image of a single house on a column of earth became synonymous with the struggle between citizens and property developers in an aggressively modernising China. As Wu Ping said:

“I’m not stubborn or unruly, I’m just trying to protect my personal rights as a citizen.”

Fortunately Wu Ping’s husband was more than able to help. Being a martial arts champion he threatened to beat up any authorities approaching the house. He also happened to be a practical and fairly determined individual. For simpler access to the house he cut stairs winding up the 10 muddy metres to the house. How? With the violent and thorough application of his personal nunchuks to the soft earth.

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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Articles

 

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191. All Aboard The British Rail Space Express!

In 1970, Charles Osmond Frederick was drafted in by British Rail to design a lifting platform. Mr Frederick took on the challenge but after some revisions and a few edits it seemed he had gone rather off track. In December 1970 British Rail filed a patent application for the affectionately named ‘space vehicle‘. The official British Rail Flying Saucer.

Instead of a lifting platform the result of the design work was a large interplanetary passenger spacecraft designed for the pan-planet traveller. It was a truly preposterous proposition and in March 1973, the patent was granted.

The design named nuclear fusion as the source of lift and thrust. To start the engines one or more high-powered pulse laser beams are required the material. The pulses of nuclear energy generated would occur 1000 times a second to prevent any chance of resonance which might damage the vessel. To provide extra comfort for those traversing the notoriously low gravity of space, the acceleration of the ship could simulate that wholesome gravity feeling, a weight off the minds of those unaccustomed to zero-g travel. As an added comfort the patent even goes to the trouble of including a thick layer of metal above the fusion reactor to shield passengers from the deadly levels of radiation.

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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in Articles

 

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184. Deadly Dough

In San Diego the sun beat down mercilessly on every available surface, metal  singed fingers and waves of air rose off of the tarmac. Outside of a small shop there was a car parked, from inside came a muffled bang, no-one outside noticed. The figure inside the car reached up cautiously to the back of its skull then collapsed limply.

Over time the people passing in and out of the shop noticed the slumped figure with her eyes closed and windows rolled up. The figure was one Lisa Burnett, a 23 year-old blonde-haired figure who was now by some contrivance of circumstance inert in the front of a rapidly heating car. Eventually one person who had been in the shop for over an hour became concerned and carefully approached the car.

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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Articles

 

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173. The Great Rolling Hotel and the Sahara

Subsaharan Africa is an inhospitable place at best, life maintains a tenuous grasp on that hot and arid landscape. It has long presented a great challenge to travelers, expeditionaries and nomads alike. Crossing  the Sahara even today is quite an undertaking. In 1969 humanity first set its footprints into the lunar dust, in the Shara another frontier was being broken. Overshadowed by the moon landing but still deserving of its own plaudits. For in 1969, humanity also first crossed the Sahara, in a bus. Well I say bus, really it is more than that. Not so technically advanced as the space shuttle but something equally as novel. It was ROTEL.

ROTEL is a simple concept from Germany, a hotel on wheels. Check in, tour the world then check out. To this day ROTEL still runs, operating tens of buses visiting over 150 countries. Touring from Baghdad, Bali, Scandinavia, the Arctic circle to just about any other country. For over 40 years ROTEL has provided the lazy explorer with the world. All in relative comfort, not decadence but at least from a position most unique. Where else after all, does the room itself take you to your destination?

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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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169. Flying Back in Time

A small shock awaits anyone who flies from Tonga to Samoa these days.

The flight takes two hours in the air, but crosses the international date line. Meaning you arrive before you left. Therefore the flight takes a total of negative 22 hours were you to trust the watches.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Trivia

 

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168. Charles Dickens’ Watch

The Dickensian from September 1906 recalls a peculiar incident involving the theft of Mr Dickens’ watch:

Charles Dickens, during one of his visits to Paris, had his watch stolen from him at the theatre. This watch had been given to him by the Queen, and was, therefore, very much prized by him. On returning to his hotel, Dickens found a small parcel waiting him, to which was pinned the following note:-
          Sir,–I hope you will excuse me, but I assure you I thought I was dealing with a Frenchman and not a countryman. Finding out my mistake, I hasten to repair it as much as lies in my power, by returning you herewith the watch I stole from you. I beg you to accept the homage of my respect, and to believe me, my dear countryman, your humble and obedient servant,
 
A PICKPOCKET.
 
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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Trivia

 

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