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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.

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Posted by on January 30, 2012 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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180. Space Invaders Versus The Japanese Mint

Image courtesy of Gil De Los Santos

From a slow start in 1978 Space Invaders experienced a meteoric ascension to become a true icon as it is today. The mere image of one of the ‘aliens’ instantly brings to mind video games as a whole. Its sudden rise in popularity after its initial 2 months was on a scale never seen before. In Japan, the home of video games, it became so popular that it managed to cause a thankfully temporary 100 yen shortage, a feat so notable that it was recorded in the 2008 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. It also forced the Japanese to further increase the amount of 100 yen coins they were producing each year.

Within 2 years of release the game was making some serious ground. Arcades with nothing but Space Invaders machines opened up, and it was seen by many as the first case where games came even close to competing with major forms of entertainment such as Film. Video games were much more marginalised in the 1980’s, but Space Invaders came to the fore, its success was a precursor to the position video games now occupy in the 21st Century, the largest of all the entertainment forms.

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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178. Bat Bombs

–This Article comes courtesy of my good friend Jack Evans.–

In 1942,  American dental surgeon Lytle S. Adams was contemplating bats. As World War II raged on around him he looked into bats as a possible weapon, some kind of animal attack that could no doubt be harnessed in the fight, specifically the Empire of Japan. Four potentially useful biological features of bats were noted, each of which was essential to producing one of the least known, yet most deadly products of the war.

Firstly, they could be found in huge numbers in Texas. This would mean they could easily be ‘mass produced’ as a weapon. Secondly, they could carry more than their own weight in-flight – females can even fly whilst carrying twins. Thirdly, bats can hibernate and during this do not need food or indeed any kind of sustenance or maintenance. If this could be harnessed, they could be made dormant and stored for large lengths of time, then awakened and unleashed on an unsuspecting enemy. Lastly, they fly in darkness and seek out buildings in the day time, meaning that they are both a stealth weapon and would home in on vulnerable buildings. Along with this, bats held other natural advantages. They could defy conventional detection systems. They were difficult to destroy using existing air defences and could easily navigate the confines of cities. With these advantages, he came up with the perfect way to weaponise bats; and so he created the bat-bomb.

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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Articles

 

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175. The Great Saharan Eye

In a remote section of the Sahara Desert, Mauritania specifically, there lies this most mysterious formation, the ‘Eye of the Sahara,’ also known as the Richat Structure. Those passing over the large flat dome on the ground do not notice anything particularly out of the ordinary, but when viewed from space it stands out.

The eye of the Sahara is 50km in diameter and when viewed from above it does bear a resemblance to the human eye. Especially when one considers that it is actually a low dome, like a large eyeball peering out of the desert and gazing up into the sky. Its bizarre appearance and considerable size have led to great speculation as to how it ever came to exist. It used to be that no-one understood its formation and even now it has been extensively studied few believe that we are in possession of the truth yet. I suppose we shall have to wait, and see.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Articles

 

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174. Neptune’s One Year Anniversary

In 1846 the planet Neptune was discovered; since then one year has passed. Now we celebrate the one year anniversary of its discovery. As you may have gathered, that is one Neptune year, something much longer than the human year.

Neptune is the coldest and most remote planet in our solar system (pluto does not count). BEing so far away it has an orbit that is 30 times larger than earth. One year of  Neptune, one full orbit of the sun, lasts 164.79 earth years. Making 12th June 2011 the one year anniversary.

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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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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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