Category: Human Nuttery


mushroom cloud box jellyfish

Two causes of the sense of impending doom. Note uncanny similarity.

by chelsea schuyler

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An Actual Scientific Symptom

Winner of best science symptom contest: ‘a sense of impending doom.’ I love it when scientists are forced use their words.

twilight cover

No! You have so much (else) to live (read) for!

And this isn’t your gloomy, sullen, withdraw-from-the-world (because patriarchy), plunge into a Twilight binge kind of impending doom. This is a violent, fear-ridden, panicked sense of impending doom.

When I wrote a blog about common fruits and vegetables bent on our destruction (Produce, Prodeath), I was delighted to find that overindulging on nutmeg can cause nutmeg psychosis, which includes ‘feelings of impending doom.’

Well, it was recently brought to my attention by a fan (thanks Michelle!) that there is yet another source of this jolly symptom – the jellyfish.

The Culprit

Not just any jellyfish of course, but the giant, ship-drowning, MEGAJELLY!!!! One assumes.

blue tang and box jelly

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy

Wrong! Actually it’s a tiny, translucent, four-armed box jelly of the “Squishy” variety.

But still, fear it! Make no mistake, this single centimetered fraud can cause wide-spread hysteria and agony in the body. Included is the ever awesome ‘sense of impending doom.’

It’s called Irukandji syndrome, after the aboriginal tribe that had lived in the region with the most cases. (Always name a horrendous syndrome after a marginalized people, because every little racist bit helps.)

aborigines

Aborigines: “It’s just that there’s been so little to demonize us lately”

Checklist of Doom

Victims of the unassuming Carukia barnesi jellyfish become so utterly convinced that they’re going to die that “they’ll actually beg their doctors to kill them just to get it over with,” according to Australian biologist and jellyfish expert Lisa Gershwin.

It’s not just some psychological psychobabble either, there’s plenty of evidence to help them feel quite confident of suffering their last hours. Mainly:

  • excruciating back pain (“similar to an electric drill drilling into your back” – Gershwin again.)
  • nausea accompanied by vomiting EVERY 90 SECONDS for up to 12 hours

    drill | The Chelsea Scrolls

    The experience is a drilling adventure ride.

  • full body cramps
  • raining sweat
  • the perception that you can’t breathe
  • pain when moving any muscle, which might be okay except for:
  • muscle restlessness

It’s a sneaky thing too – you don’t even know that you’ve been stung. With regular jellyfish, you know it immediately by a searing pain, throbbing, and blistering. But with this little jelly, you know nothing Jon Snow. Until about half an hour later, with the vomiting and the dooming.jon snow, kit harrington | The Chelsea Scrolls

Totally Moral Test Subjects

Because of this doom delay, it actually took a long time to figure out what exactly was causing this horrendous hellflood. But after studying currents and patterns and stuff, scientist Jack Barnes figured he had it figured. But how to know for sure?

Good ole Science Jack is hangin out on an Australian beach. He thinks he’s found the rascal culprit causing this terrible syndrome, so he nabs some teeny box jellies to prove it. But who does he test them out on?

fingers | The Chelsea Scrolls

I bequeath unto you, my son, my unbridled  inappropriateness

Well, himself of course. No potential movie rights are complete without the stereotyped, obsessive scientist blazing through the scientific method with enough overconfidence and impatience to self-stun. (Must I always have to reference The Fly?)

But why take just your own word for it, Jack? Better include more subjects.

Hey look, a 9-year-old boy that happens to be your son. Definitely. Why spare your child the maturity of depressing worldviews that only a harrowing experience of impending doom can bring?

lifeguard tower | The Chelsea Scrolls

Um..lifeguard? Lifeguard?

Hmm, how about just one more. Ah, the lifeguard. Looking at a beach’s worth of possible subjects, the lifeguard certainly serves the least use.

The Results

And so, using his plethora of diverse subjects (three, slightly-differently-aged, white males), we have our experiment! Ah, the days before an Institutional Review Board.

After 40 minutes, Barnes reported that “the abdominal musculature of the three subjects was in unrelenting spasm…subjects were seized with a remarkable restlessness, …stamping about aimlessly winging their arms, flexing and extending their bodies, and generally twisting and writhing”. That’ll do jellyfish, that’ll do.

Not doubt his son is proud that his traumatizing experience, subsequent trust issues, and years of therapy could help put the ‘Barnes’ in C. barnesi. Sorry kid, your dad was an A-hole. Science!

Should I Pee On It?

nutmeg jellyfish chelsea scrolls

Nutmeg and jellies, in it together…how, why?

So what do you do if you get stung? By this, or any jellyfish for that matter? Well, first, don’t worry,  arguably only two people have died from the impending doom jellyfish (the exact same death toll for nutmeg psychosis! Coincidence?).

Next ask yourself: “Am I in Australia and vomiting by the minute?” If yes, go to the hospital.

If no, and therefore it’s definitely just a regular jellyfish sting, then first things first: DO NOT pee on it. This is a great general rule for fixing most problems.

friends monica and joey | The Chelsea Scrolls

sorrowful humiliation

Remember that Friends when Monica pees on Joey’s jellyfish sting and it worked? Yeah, don’t do that. Cuz it won’t.

See, when jellyfish sting, they leave behind a bunch of stinger cells in you called cnidocytes (vermicious knid…o-cites). Inside these cells are little ticking time bombs – organelles called nematocysts. These explode with venom at the slightest jostle.

Don’t scratch it – that will set off the bombs. Don’t pour your water bottle on it either. See, the inside and outsides of cells are always trying to be in balance. Water outside a cell makes there be an imbalance of solutes, so cells will release solutes to make the outside equal the inside. Freshwater therefore draws solutes out of cells, which also happens to make the nematocysts release more pain juice.

Urine, as it turns out, can act a lot like freshwater, so you might actually feel more pain, not just the humiliation of a story you will never live down.

What Does Work?

warning sign | chelsea scrolls blog

Absolutely no fun-having on this Australian beach. Also, every danger is present. Use vinegar.

Turns out, vinegar and it’s 5% acetic acidness is just the thing. And talk about convenient, as what self-respecting beach trip is complete without a good gallon of delicious vinegar?

Or you can just avoid Australia, as this sign seems to imply. But, like celibacy, where’s the fun in that?

(Speaking of nonwhizzing, this blog brought you by the memory of Ren & Stimpy and the game they introduced to the world:)

Photos in public domain except:
box jelly – photo by Forgerz, CC by SA 3.0
twilight – photo by norika21, CC by SA 2.0
jellyfish in tube – photo by GondwanaGirl, CC by SA 3.0
jon snow (Kit Harrington) – photo by Kevin Dougherty, CC by 2.0
“Friends” – photo by Peter Pham, CC by 2.0

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Cairo and Egyptian pyramids | Chelsea Scrolls

Contrary to my desolate, isolated imaginings, the Egyptian pyramids are a quick cab ride from Cairo.

by chelsea schuyler

The White Person’s Reprieve

seven wonders | Chelsea Scrolls

Artists largely not to several scales impressions of the Seven Wonders (left to right, top to bottom: Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis, Statue of Zeus, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes, Lighthouse of Alexandria)

If you’re white, like I know I am, there’s a lot to feel guilty for. Top of the list? Slavery.

So when I’m taking a white privileged break from the guilt of my ancestry and the inevitable, if unintentional, consequences of my own racism in my American society, I think about fun things like the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Except I’m stymied there too, cuz I can’t really remember what any of them are, except for the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. But wait, that was built by slaves. Man! Now every 6.5 million tons of stone is riddled with the sadness of drudgery and torture. Way to ruin it, slaves.

But allow me to deliver the (non-Bible related) good news. They weren’t actually slaves! I just assumed they were. Why? Because I’m so white that I can’t imagine something so grandiose not being built by slaves? Well, maybe, but to be fair, I was misled.

Herodotus | Chelsea Scrolls

Herodotus: The first fake news

Alternative Facts Misled Us

The Pyramid of Giza was built in 2560 BCE. Greek historian Herodotus visited the pyramids in 450 BCE and wrote about it, estimating that about 100,000 slaves must have built it.

Then, in 1977, then Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin visited, then went to the Museum in Cairo and said “We built the pyramids”, meaning the Jews.

Menachem Begin, Egyptian Museum | Chelsea Scrolls

“If you can’t say nuthin true (in front of a giant group of experts on the subject), don’t say nuthin at all”

Ignoring the tiny detail that Jews didn’t exist yet, but who ever said the Israelites knew anything about Jews? Y NetNews.com reported that historians and archeologists were quite offended, “the Egyptian press was full of protest articles.”

Ha! This is why the world should be ruled by scientists. There wouldn’t be any wars, just the renowned fury of swift letters to the editor!!

Archeology Says ‘Duh’

Anyway, so how do we know now that these builders weren’t slaves? There certainly were slaves at the time, so it’s not a totally crazy notion. However, Harvard Magazine says that the following evidence helped:

sliced bread and freed slaves | Chelsea Scrolls

equivalent.

  • geological history
  • analysis of living arrangements
  • bread-making technology
  • animal remains

Bread-making technology. Technology. Of bread-making. Yeah, okay. As long as we can say that these workers not being slaves is the best thing since (primitive-technology-chronologically-excluding:) sliced bread.

Basically, here’s what points to well-fed, respected workers:

pyramid city Egypt | Chelsea Scrolls

Pyramid city – formally underground

  • A ‘pyramid city’ found deep in the sand nearby, which could have housed the rotating teams of about 10,000 workers, each working in 3 month stints for 30 years (per pyramid – the successor pharaohs wanted pyramids too).
  • This city included ancient bakeries – which they recognized from the conical bread pot remnants that match tomb hieroglyphics of the bread-making process. Keep in mind that large scale production of anything was not a thing in ancient times, so this is epic.
  • Evidence of nearby clover fields (used to feed cattle) but no cattle bones to be found.
  • conical Egyptian bread | Chelsea Scrolls

    Actual conical bread turds from a tomb at Giza

    Scads of bones at the pyramid city, to the point where it is estimated that workers ate 21 cattle and 23 sheep a day, the best meat available at the time.

  • Tombs specifically for workers were very recently found near to the pyramids. No treasure, and no mummification (just regular corpses), suggesting that the people weren’t THAT revered as to be royalty or anything, but important and respected enough to be buried near the Great Pyramid, with tubs of beer and bread for the afterlife. The lack of treasure made these of no interest to looters, leaving them pristine (cool!!).

Let’s Not Go Crazy

Now, this doesn’t mean these workers were just so idyllic that they happily skipped along in the heat hauling rocks like tanned Smurfs singing and carving JOY in their diaries each day.

great pyramids and smurf | Chelsea Scrolls

La laa, la la la la

Their bodily remains show all the signs of a very hard-working and painful (arthritis, etc) life. Some of the single blocks of the pyramids weigh nine tons. You can steak me all you want, that’s still a rough job.

But yes, they were indeed loyal to the pharaoh, and also, at that time manual labor was just a part of the culture (of the lower classes anyway), intertwined with religion, status, purpose, and yes, a lack of ample, independent choice. For a peasant of Egypt the promise of meat, bread, beer, and relative glory in the afterlife would have looked pretty Smurfin’ good.

hieroglyphics of egypt | Chelsea Scrolls

Lay off, I’m reading.

Our Bad, We Got Distracted

So why did it take so long to discover this? Well, if you found three gargantuan, ancient tombs filled with treasure and symbols and mummies and royalty and myth, are you really gonna go digging in the sand miles away just to see if there’s anything there?

inside the Great Pyramid | Chelsea ScrollsKeep in mind there was also hieroglyphics to decode, which was only figured out in 1822, and remember that the pyramids aren’t empty – they’ve got hallways and chambers and all kinds of cool stuff.

But, after all that Tomb Raider fodder died down, some Egyptologists went looking a little further.

Suck It Heston

Well, sweet – now I can appreciate the pyramidal amazitude without a dark cloud of human cruelty hanging over me. Granted, this kinda dampers the Hollywood mood set for decades.

charlton heston moses | Chelsea Scrolls

WTF my people?

Heston fans who remember the ‘Let my people go’ scene can now imagine all those people going “screw off, I ain’t givin up my daily meat to starve in some desert!”

Oh – and why is the pyramid the only wonder I can remember? Because it’s the only one still standing. Just goes to show that healthy, free workers ensure long-lasting, quality achievements without need for whipping and various horrors.*

*21 and 23 daily cattle and sheep beg to differ, but..one step at a time.

Images in the public domain except:

 

ivan pavlov

Science’s Santa Claus, Ivan Pavlov

by chelsea schuyler

PAVLOV – NOT THE FRIENDLY (science) GIANT?

What (we think) Pavlov taught us: ring a bell before feeding time, and a dog will learn to associate the bell with food, and salivate just at the ring of it.

Wait, we can trigger automatic reflexes with mere association? Epic! This concept of ‘classical conditioning’ has led to treatments of phobias as well as effective marketing.

pavlov experiment

DIY dog drool

We love Pavlov because this experiment sounds like a nice, friendly one you could do at home with full PETA approval.

Even the apparatus just involves loose rope to hold the dog at a wooden structure, and a little test tube attached to the jowls to catch and measure the saliva. Kinda neat.

pavlov dog

Taxidermy dog of Pavlov with test tube accessory. Because nothing is sacred

However, there are two things wrong with the previous impressions:

  1. Pavlov may or may not have even used a bell.
  2. Pavlov was not kind to animals

Oh, and

  1. Americans are not kind to babies.

That third one is a bonus misassumption that I bet you didn’t even know you were assuming! Allow me to explain:

NERD DEBATES – DEFINE ‘BELL’

The best part of science is the nerd arguments among researchers – the red rage of their faces when debating whether T. Rex was a scavenger, or whether Neanderthals bred with humans – it’s the best part of any documentary.

spock

I fail to comprehend your indignation

yosemite sam

OOO!! that rackin’ frackin’…

The Spockian part of their conscience tells them to calm the F down and be presentable as a logical scientist, while the Yosemite Sam part is OOOOoooo!!! bursting with the Bunsen burner flames of the years of research at stake from this varmint!!

I’m not sure it got quite to this level, but in 1994, yet another mostly useless debate began about whether the famed Russian scientist in fact used a bell.

First guy: there’s no evidence he did
Second guy: yeah, it was the reporters misled us
Third: No, here are three instance that specifically say ‘bell’ in Pavlov’s writings
Fourth (or back to first? I’m lost now): but maybe ‘bell’ refers to an electronic sound?

…until even I was like OH MY GOD it’s so not the point! The only thing at stake is whether the joke “Does Pavlov ring a bell?” even works anymore.

WHAT PAVLOV ACTUALLY USED

michael jackson

Annie was in fact ‘okay’ according to science dogs

Whatever, regardless, Pavlov didn’t use bells often – what’s actually more interesting is what he did use, which includes a buzzer, a harmonium, a metronome, and electric shock.

And it didn’t just stop at one sound. For example, in one trial he only fed the dogs when the metronome was at 60 beats per minute. 120 beats per minute, no chow for you.

Interestingly, the dogs subsequently became more discerning, only salivating at the speed of say, the classic Michael Jackson original “Smooth Criminal”, while dry-mouthed at the spastic Alien Ant Farm version.

NOBEL PRIZE IGNORES BELLS, PRAISES TORTURE

Pavlov did win a Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine but not for his (non)bell experiments. It was actually for researching the digestive system of mammals, via dogs.

Horrifyingly, this involved surgically removing their esophagus and adding a tube so that the food would just fall right back into the bowl. Pavlov would measure the gastric juices that the stomach (from another tube) makes when expecting to get humanely treated, I mean, fed.

Meanwhile, another tube was inserted into the stomach so the gastric juices could be collected and measured. …And then sold as a treatment for dyspepsia – digestive trouble. Let the irony sink in there for a minute.

pavlov dogs

Pepto bismol factory of old

This was a good side business – some dogs could reportedly drop a thousand cubic centimeters of gastric goodness a day! (Which is like a quart, but sounds way impressive to Americans cuz of the word ‘thousand’ and because metric jargon is inconceivable to us. “This lettuce is five thousand cents per kilogram – it’s an outrage!”)

I guess we didn’t really know anything about digestion, so, this was epic.

AMERICA JUMPS ON THE TORTURE TRAIN

Okay, so Ivan “Dr. Moreau” Pavlov removed parts of dogs to catch the fluids at every part of the digestive system. Many dogs didn’t survive the surgeries let alone enjoy being Dr. Suessian machines behind curtains, but don’t give all the heinousness credit to the Russians.

frog

Frogs everywhere however, would like to thank Pavlov for his subject choices

First of all, Pavlov was kind of anti-Russian. He called Marx a fool, wrote to Stalin that he was “ashamed to be called a Russian”, and said publicly “For the kind of social experiment that [Russia is] making, I would not sacrifice a frog’s hind legs!” to which his dog subjects were moderately offended.

Anyway, while Russia was removing any non-red citizens, America took Pavlov’s dog torture and brought it to the next level: babies and Santa Claus.

THE LITTLE ALBERT EXPERIMENT

John B Watson

American Horror story, John B Watson

Arguably (always arguably!) the greatest and most deplorable application of Pavlovian concepts was carried out by oft-cited American psychologist John B. Watson. In his famous ‘Little Albert’ experiment, he wished to show that he could turn what is naturally pleasant to all human children, furry things, into terrifying realizations of our nightmares.

He took a nine month old infant, and first simply allowed him to interact with a monkey, a rat, a rabbit, a dog, fur coats, etc. The child was happy and unphased.

Then Watson paired the items/animals with the deafening sound of a hammer hitting a steel bar behind from where the child could see. After doing this, well, more than once and therefore, a horrendous number of times over days, the child burst into tears at the mere sight of the fur of any his former plush pals.

john b watson and little alfred

dear god people

INCLUDING (and it doesn’t get better than this) Dr. Watson himself in a crude Santa mask with all the poofy white fur attached, on his hands and knees getting right up into the kid’s grill. Science!

P.S. The idea that Santa Claus produces an innately friendly response has been disproved by decades of photographic evidence of screaming children in shopping centers. Let alone an aggressive man-stranger with a mask a 4yr old could have glued together more tastefully.

THE PSYCHOLOGY TRAIN WRECK CONTINUES

But be comforted baby Albert, in a mere 54 years, they’ll make the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects. Oh, and sorry that Dr. Watson didn’t desensitize you. Why?

Rosalie Rayner

Rosalie ‘is this tainted?’ Rayner, who is: “unanimously in favor of breaking the mother attachment as early as possible”

Because he was fired. Not because of child abuse, no, but for having an affair with his grad student assistant, Rosalie Rayner, who later died young from eating tainted fruit. Because Watson, I guess, just wasn’t tainted enough.

But she managed to co-author the book Psychological Care of Infant and Child, in which she tells mothers thatWhen you are tempted to pet your child remember that mother love is a dangerous instrument.”

And because the fun never stops, she and Dr. Watson’s two children both suffered depression and  attempted suicide, with one saying that their upbringing “eroded [their] ability to deal effectively with human emotion.” You think?

DEBATE! WHERE’S ALBERT TODAY?

Little Albert

Have you seen me? I’m likely in therapy and frantically scrambling away from malls around Christmas time…

But why focus on the horrors of our past ideas of child-rearing when there’s a pointless debate to be had? Decades later some scientists dutifully wondered, where’s Albert now?

Some say that he was Douglas Merrite who was sadly sick with neurological problems (not divulged by Dr. Watson, and therefore totally disqualifying any results humanity can scrape from this disaster) who, also, died 5 years later.

But wait no – that kid would have been vastly underweight and clearly from the video (shown below!) he is not. So maybe it’s Albert Barger who reportedly disliked animals, especially dogs, and died 10 years ago! Let’s speculate with creepy, old timey video (Santa footage at 3:10)!

Photos are public domain except:
Pavlov drawing: photo by Wellcome Images, CC BY 4.0
Taxidermy dog: photo by Rklawton, CC BY-SA 3.0
Spock: photo by e_chaya,  CC BY 2.0
Yosemite Sam: photo by Mark Anderson, CC BY 2.0
Five dogs: photo by Wellcome Images, CC BY 4.0

old yeller poster rabies

Rabies poster child from Disney. Disney: tragically killing animals since 1957

by chelsea schuyler

The Zombie Apocalypse Was SO 131 Years Ago

rabid man

Besides agitation, hallucinations, loss of motor control, and death, rabies can also cause panic in association with water (hence the old name ‘hydrophobia’), as swallowing induces horribly painful spasms. The virus spreads through saliva from biting, so swallowing = less saliva = unpatriotic to the zombie cause.

While an excess of movies and books have been preparing us to meet an inevitable zombie apocalypse, fear not. We’ve actually been facing it for thousands of years, and are now simply in a post-apocalyptic residue phase.

Why? Because zombies are in fact tiny, itty-bitty viruses that eat brains and cause zombification, known more commonly as: rabies.

Think about it – super aggressive, no longer recognizable, frothing at the mouth, walking and moving all weird – total zombie. It even affects multiple mammals, just like I am Legend, Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, and other equally authoritative sources have shown.

Walk like a (rabid) Egyptian

Walk like a (rabid) Egyptian

Rabies is well described in writings by Egyptians dating back to 2300 B.C., but a vaccine was found in 1885.  So, slightly anticlimactically, this apocalypse has already happened, and now we’re left twitching and scarred to the tune of 55,000 people a year still getting it (mostly in Africa and Asia).

The Golden Years

Motherland!!

Motherland!!

But let me offer you a story of simpler times – a glorious age of “viper’s venom, crayfish eyes, and the liver of a mad dog.” The perfect witch’s brew? Why no, rabies treatments of course! Well, alternative treatments anyway. Naturally, the standard treatment was a red-hot iron at the site of the bite, which usually did nothing and the person died anyway.

This is why we all miss the old days, which was filled with dandy perks like pre-death scaldings, leeches, and blood-letting. Name an obscure animal part or barbaric practice – anything goes (went)!

But then a boring old white guy had to ruin it for everyone with ‘science’ or whatever. The story:

Rabies Cure Origin Story

Joseph Meister rabies survivor

Joseph “fiest” Meister himself

One day in October of 1885, in a town just like this one (not really), a small boy just about your age and size (if you are a 9 yr old French boy) was sent to town to fetch ingredients for his father’s bakery.

As little Joseph Meister made his way, he encountered a terrifying rabid dog that bit his hand and legs a total of 14 times. Luckily, a locksmith beat the dog away with an iron bar (locksmiths are SO handy!).

Who needs arrows and swords when you have locksmiths?

“Call the locksmith!” Takes on a whole new meaning.

The doctor came later that afternoon. You know, after the mini-zombies had had plenty of time to populate the body, establish a government, and draw up plans for a fully funded, full-scale brain takeover.

Here, let me just rabies that for you

Here, let me just rabies that for you

The doctor uselessly cauterized all 14 wounds, and left – because the horrific pain of being mauled by drooly fangs isn’t complete without the searing sensation of your own bludgeoned skin melting together. Don’t forget the lack of pain medication folks. Fun times all around!

The boy’s options at this point were a horrible slow death, or to be suffocated between mattresses – which was sometimes used to put victims out of their misery. It just gets better and better right? Simpler days…

Here, let me just mattress death that for you

Here, let me just death that for you

Luckily, rumor had it that a guy in Paris could help. Word spread to the parents, and the mangled, blistered boy was on the next bumpy wagon to the city of romance, a doubtlessly comfortable and restful trip.

Got Milk Disease?

MEANWHILE IN PARIS: people were not big fans of medical facilities – who needs science when you’ve got home visits from doctors with lava sticks at the ready?

Louis Pasteur with rabbit spine

Pasteur with the infinitely coolor science equipment of back in the day

So, scientists like Louis Pasteur had to make do with little money, but he did okay by figuring out how to prevent wine from ‘disease’ (going bad). Pasteur had suspected that a living organism was the culprit, and not a spontaneous generation of badness (the generally accepted idea).

He realized that if he heated the wine to a certain temperature he could kill it off. This procedure was passed on to milk (etc.) as well, and we now know it as ‘pasteurization’.

But because saving millions of people from botulism and the like is never enough, Louis Pasteur wanted to continue his work on little organisms and apply it to human disease.

Rabid Rabbits, Happy People

Though someone had made a smallpox vaccine, nobody really knew why it worked. Pasteur, however, was beginning to put two and two together (horrifying disease, tiny creatures (zombies)).

Louis Pasteur with rabbits

Pasteur and his hare-raising experiments. (Halloween pun – CHECK)

Pasteur grew rabies in the brains of a bunch of adorable rabbits (like ya do), then killed the rabbits and dried out the tissue to ‘weaken’ the virus.

He tried out the new vaccine on dogs with much success (because when you’re already brutalizing bunnies, why not generate more compassion from the public by throwing in a few puppies?).

Enter a terrified Madame Meister and a mutilated, sickly boy. Though unlicensed to practice medicine, Pasteur was persuaded to treat the boy, and it worked. The people rejoiced, forgave his malpractice, poured money into the lab, and came from all over the world to receive the rabies treatment. ‘Institut Pasteur’ thrives to this day as a non-profit studying micro-organisms, diseases, and vaccines.

Institut Pasteur

Epic gate of which Meister became the keeper (keymaster unknown).

Epilogue:

Happily: The boy grew up, sold the family bakery, and became the gatekeeper at the very Institute that saved his life. He married and had a couple of daughters.

Unhappily: When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Meister heard that his family had been killed in the bombings, and so committed suicide with gas. His wife and daughters returned just hours later, safe.

Nothing says Halloween like epic tragedy, eh?!

oregon rabies map

Best. Map. Ever. Fox has appealed to be removed from the legend due to lack of involvement.

 

Rabies Today

Rabies is still everywhere here in the US – in the saliva of usually wild animals, especially bats.

The only sure method for determining if an animal has rabies is to look for the virus in the brain. Which, I can say from veterinary experience, is done by literally cutting off the head with tree clippers (standard zombie kill treatment!!) and mailing it to a lab. Good to know that some barbarism still thrives.

Batman and any others whose primary workspace is a cave is advised to be vaccinated.

Batman and any whose primary workspace is a cave are advised to be vaccinated.

You can get the vaccine, but it’s expensive and you have to do it three times. So, only do so if you’re a vet or a field biologist. Or if you’re just really, really into bat-riddled cave exploration.

The frugal spelunker like myself can take comfort in the fact that you can get the vaccine even after being bitten by a suspicious animal. But be quick about it.

Oh, and by the way, according to the WHO, “Human-to-human transmission by bite is theoretically possible but has never been confirmed.”‘ Yet, my friends…yet.

Thanks to Danielle who requested this topic!

Photos are in the public domain except:
Crayfish: photo by Monica R., CC by 2.0
Institute gate: photo by Lamiot, CC by 3.0

Mad, Mad Mirth

first picby chelsea schuyler

On Rudolpha!

On Rudolpha!

Reason’s greetings everyone! In trying to think of what to post for Christmas this year, I was looking over past posts, and found that I have been slowly spiraling into celebratory celibacy.

I started out okay, in 2010 we learned that Santa’s reindeer are all female, but after that, topics began to have no holiday relation at all like fighting fossils and Spanish moss. Then last year there was nothing! Until in early January when we learned about Myths, which may have had a Freudian quality to it, but bore no mention of the precious and sacred reason for the season. (Axial tilt). Where’s my atheistic war on Christmas spirit?

dbWell, I’m shaping up this year. I’m getting excited about the most nature-based aspect of the holiday, the christmas tree. I’m puttin’ the HR back in christmas to research the most commonly culturally absorbed tradition of winter’s history.

If there’s anything we in the northern hemisphere can agree on, past and present, religious and non, it is this: winter is depressing. The light of day is short, it’s frickin freezing, and everything is dead. Everything except the evergreen tree. Long before Christianity, the ancients would take branches of this hardy evolutionary marvel and decorate their houses to bring a little life and color into an otherwise snowed in and barren world.

We all noticed the shortest day of the year, the solstice on December 21st or 22nd , and fashioned our beliefs around it to explain things.

Sun God Ra has to sit this one out

Sun God Ra has to sit this one out

The Egyptians believed their sun god Ra had become ill, and brought palm rushes into their homes for solstice to celebrate the triumph of life over death as Ra began to recover from illness. The Celts decked their temple halls with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life, and the Romans had days, sometimes weeks long festivities called Saturnalia, honoring the god of agriculture, and bringing much merriment. Slaves swapped clothes with masters and sat at the head of the table, families gave gifts, and greenery and wreaths were hung. There was singing, dancing, and drinking. Lots of drinking.

Ruins of the Temple of Saturn

Ruins of the Temple of Saturn

so cheerful right now

so cheerful right now

So yeah, pagans all over the globe liked christmas before it was cool. Religious takeover of pagan festivities is nothing new, it helps ease the transition of new thoughts and regimes. But Christmas was actually quite the fight, not with the pagans, but the Christians. They didn’t want it. BBC reports, festivities “yo-yoed in and out of favor with Churches because of its association with the more debauched side of pagan festivals like Saturnalia.”

Yes, down with debauchery! Because nothing brings cheer to a comatose landscape like stern solemnity.

Meanwhile, the evergreens were ever green regardless of which god we were or were not celebrating.

Wilt Stop. Keep your xmas tree alive the way the ancients did, with this bottle of water. Now in a spray!

Wilt Stop. Keep your tree alive the way the ancients did, with this bottle of water. Now in a spray!

Many evergreens can use chemicals in their leaves to act as antifreeze, and photosynthesis can still take place a few degrees past freezing. Their biggest concern is not so much freezing to death, but dying of thirst. Their leathery leaves help retain moisture, and snow can actually help reduce ground evaporation and provide shelter from drying winds.

What is this, a science blog? Back to the history. As Christianity took over Europe and the amount of fun was hotly debated, Christian Germans bumped it up a gnarled notch and went from bringing branches in the house to whole trees. The first documentation of an actual Christmas tree was in 1605, when an anonymous writer recorded festive indoor trees decorated with nuts, sugar wafers, colored paper, apples, and gold-foil.

Oh yew...

Oh yew…

When a German girl name Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was married to King George of England in the 1700s, she brought her Yew bough decorating traditions with her to the royal court, and so the Brits were introduced.

joseph letterMeanwhile, in most of Europe and America too, haters gonna hate. You think we atheists have a war on Christmas cuz we don’t appreciate naïveté scenes, I mean, nativity scenes, on public land? Check out this hell rant from theologian Tertullian against christmas laurel boughs:

“Let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn: to them the testimonies of darkness and the omens of their penalties are suitable. …If you have renounced temples, make not your own gate a temple. I have said too little. If you have renounced stews, clothe not your own house with the appearance of a new brothel.” Hah!

Or Oliver Cromwell, who, when not busy slaughtering the Irish, said that “heathen traditions” of christmas desecrated “that sacred event.”

Et tu Beeblay?

Et tu Beeblay?

Even the Bible has a confusing passage, that some Christians quoth in protest to the tree: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen…. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” – Jeremiah 10:2-4

And the puritans, ever the Captain Bring-Downs of our American foundations, did their part. Cotton Mather of New England in 1712:

“The feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!” Oh the antagonistic alliterations of animosity! Take that Santa! Where your Ho’s at now? In my stewed-up brothel house that’s where!puritan

Rude reveler can't breathe

Rude reveler can’t breathe

It got so bad that Massachusetts actually criminalized celebrating and attached hefty fines for anyone caught decorating.

America would remain in its puritanical boredom until Fashion, that ever powerful force, that swayer of minds and hips, came along to save them.

 

 

Illustrated London Times pic from 1848, Windsor Castle tree

Illustrated London Times pic from 1848, Windsor Castle tree

Everyone-wants-to-be-her Queen Victoria had taken Queen Charlotte’s influence, and encouraged her German husband Prince Albert to bring Christmas trees to the royal house. A sketch of her family standing around their decked out tree made it into the Illustrated London Times, which was devoured by fashion-hungry East Coasters, and suddenly the tree was all the rage. Eventually, America ran out the puritanical view with its other worthless inhabitants (looking at you native americans).

So where did christmas lights come from? Well, candles on the tree had been done for centuries, rumored to have been started by Martin Luther, who was supposedly inspired by seeing stars through the winter trees as he walked home. Actual christmas lights wouldn’t come into play until the 1900s.

First christmas lights, cool!

First christmas lights, cool!

Whoever invented Christmas should be nailed to a cross

Whoever invented Christmas should be nailed to a cross

Thomas Edison invented the first strand of electric lights in 1880, but due to a general mistrust of electricity, they would not be popular until a few decades later. Because when it comes to illuminating drying pine leaves, always fall back to actual flames just to be safe.

So, as another atheist taking back the christmas tree from the Christians who took it from pagans who took it straight from Nature, let’s not fight. To celebrate is to be human, and we all celebrate different things for different reasons. I’ll make fun of your traditions, you’ll make fun of mine, but let’s all drink to the tree, and promise to be there to help when the other’s house is burning down from those sketchy Edison inventions.

Happy Solstice/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa and a very Merry Christmas to you all! Ho³!

Myths!

of which this is obviously not one

of which this is obviously not one

by chelsea schuyler

I think it’s high time I discussed some nature-related myths. I feel like while I often suspect a myth, I have no idea what the actual truth is. Here are 5 debunked myths, in order of relevancy.

Myth #1: LEMMINGS COMMIT MASS SUICIDE

leapin' lemmings (screen shot from "White Wilderness)

leapin’ lemmings (screen shot from “White Wilderness”)

That lemmings follow each other over cliffs to their deaths has been a myth since the 1500s. Shockingly, they don’t. What does happen is about every four years certain lemming populations explode. Predators flock in for the buffet until numbers go back down again. This isn’t like a slight increase either, this is a boom of cicada-like proportions. Snowy owl parents have been known to bring back 50 lemmings a DAY to feed their young during these times. Anyway, numbers plummet, the now fat predators leave, and the few surviving lemmings start the whole cycle again.

During the boom, populations do expand, and lemmings have been known to attempt river crossings where many may drown. But it would be like saying that the wildebeest in the Great Migration commit mass suicide crossing the river cuz some get eaten by crocodiles. Stuff just dies when trying to do stuff.

White_WildernessWhat’s REALLY interesting about this is that the lemming myth was strengthened in the 1950s when Disney made a “documentary” called “White Wilderness,” in which lemmings are shown leaping off of cliffs into the ocean (clip here). The narrator doesn’t call it suicide, but implies that they are taken by a sort of “frenzy” that nature uses to control their numbers.

shocked Eskimo child never intended for this to happen to Lui and Lois Lemming

shocked Eskimo child never intended for this to happen

But in the 1980s a Canadian show called “Cruel Camera” reported that clever angles were used to obscure lemmings being actually herded off a cliff into the water (actually a river, not the ocean) using a lazy susan-like device. The species used weren’t even native to the area, and were asserted to have been purchased from local Eskimo children.

"Lemmings." Game of lies.

Game of lies.

In 2003, the Disney spokeswoman did not deny these claims, ”We have done extensive research into what happened more than 40 years ago,” she said, ”but have been unable to determine exactly what techniques were used in producing ‘White Wilderness.’ The standards and techniques were certainly different then than they are now.”

Well that’s true. But Disney is not alone. Video game “Lemmings” used pixelated images to further perpetuate the myth. Can nothing be trusted?

jack
Myth #2: DOG YEARS

A common myth (whose origin is so elusive it appears to be genetically instinctive since the 1960s) is that a year in a dog’s life is equivalent to 7 human years. To be fair, this is sort of barely true ish. It’s an extreme average (though 6 years might be a more accurate inaccuracy). But really the first two years of the dog and size of the dog changes this number substantially.

Small dogs live longer than large dogs, but reach sexual maturity faster. So, weirdly, a smaller dog is “older” in its first two years and “younger” at five. This is a unique phenomenon, and may be because no other animal has as much size diversity within its own species (i.e no other animal has been so jovially messed with by humans).

nnnnoooo.

nnnooooo.

Scientists speculate that if we made a 20lb cow (Hey China, do us a favor?) we would see the same aging discrepancy compared to the 2000lb ones.

Yeah whatever, so how old is my dog? You can enter your dog’s breed and age in the BBC dog calculator, or refer to this chart:


For first two years

  • 12.5 years per human year for small dogs
  • 10.5 years per human year for medium-sized dogs
  • 9 years per human year for large dogs

For years 3+:

  • Small:
    Dachshund (Miniature) 4.32,
    Border Terrier 4.47,
    Lhasa Apso 4.49,
    Shih Tzu 4.78,
    Whippet Medium 5.30,
    Chihuahua 4.87,
    West Highland White Terrier 4.96,
    Beagle 5.20,
    Miniature Schnauzer 5.46,
    Spaniel (Cocker) 5.55,
    Cavalier King Charles 5.77,
    Pug 5.95,
    French Bulldog 7.65
  • chow chow panda

    chow chow pandas change nothing

    Medium:
    Spaniel 5.46,
    Retriever (Labrador) 5.74,
    Golden Retriever 5.74,
    Staffordshire Bull Terrier 5.33,
    Bulldog 13.42

  • Large:
    German Shepherd 7.84,
    Boxer 8.90

NOTE: dying your dog to look like a Panda will not increase its life expectancy.

Erwin Schrodinger. Not helpful.

Erwin Schrodinger. Not helpful.

By the way, somehow the dog years formula has transferred over to cats. I really wanted to give a chart for that too, but unfortunately I could find no reputable sources, and I tried medium hard! Everyone is using a chart that says the first year equals 15 human years, and then you basically add 4 years for each year after that. But again, couldn’t find a scientific source for this. Because scientists hate cats.

brains! the organ that let you believe in lemming suicide

Brains!  The  organ  that  let  you  believe  in lemming  suicide

Myth #3: WE ONLY USE 10% OF OUR BRAINS

I kinda think most people have figured out that this is a dumb. Turns out there are times like when we’re resting that we may only be using 10% of our brain, but “Evidence would show over a day you use 100 percent of the brain,” says John Henley, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic. So if you trust the folks who specialize in egg-based condiments, and I know I do, it’s definitely a myth.

Neurologists-- Real experts.  Real Mayo.

Neurologists–    Real experts.    Real Mayo.

If you’re just fond of 10 percents of things, only 10% of the brain is made up of neurons, the cells that fire and do stuff and make us layfolk nod because we’ve definitely heard that word before. The other 90% are glial cells, which are the mechanics/handymen/storage units that maintain the neurons, but we’re a little peach fuzzy on them. So really, we only understand 10% of our brains, and even that is probably an overestimation.

Myth #4: NASA’S SPACE PEN

How could I have doubted you??

How could I have doubted you??

This is one of my favorite myths, that NASA spent millions of dollars engineering a pen that would work in space when Russia solved the same problem by using a pencil. I bought into this one for awhile, until one day I used 3% of my brain to think: NASA got rovers to Mars, should I really believe they sank to such duh-itude over writing tools?

Of course no. Both NASA and Russian cosmonauts used pencils originally.  NASA was guilty of buying mechanical pencils at 130 dollars a pop in 1965, provoking outrage in Congress and the public at the time, forcing NASA to go back to common-man, back-to-school-sales pencils.

But then in 1967, the Apollo 1 test run went horribly wrong. A wire sparked and caused a fire, aided by a pure Oxygen atmosphere and multiple flammable materials within the shuttle.  Three astronauts were tragically killed.

This may or may not be why I doubted you...

This may have been why I doubted you…

NASA then changed their shuttles to be a tad less of a fire waiting to happen. They reduced the Oxygen in the atmosphere to 34% instead of 100%, and they removed velcro and other flammable materials from the interior. But pencils were a problem because of the flammable wood and the graphite bits that could be inhaled by astronauts or infiltrate equipment.

fisher price shuttle of death

Not to be confused with Fisher Price’s shuttle of death

Meanwhile, Paul Fisher of Fisher Pen Co. decided to invest his own money (about 1 million) to design a pen that was pressure-based instead of gravity-based, and would work from -50F to 400F (though the blue ink will turn green when too hot, which is cool. Moral = blue pens are superior to black because NASA). Both Russia and NASA buy these pens for a few dollars each (bulk price). There, everyone wins.  So get off their backs, you don’t know.space pen case

Mini-Myth #5:
HUMANS ARE (insert number here)%  WATER

Another victim of over-averaging and people’s inability to remember statistics (guilty). I had to add this one because it was bothering me hearing anything from 40 – 95% water (95, really? come on people).

USGS. Taking a break from predicting devastating earthquakes to settle your inane curiousity

USGS. Taking a break from predicting devastating earthquakes to settle your inane curiosity

According to the US Geological Survey, babies are 78% water, male adults 60%, and female adults 55% (because fat cells have less water in them and women have more fat cells than men). Also subject to the physical fitness of the person, age, and other factors, and no one really cares cuz even cavemen knew water’s important and don’t remind us of how we’re never drinking enough of it.

Well, that’s all the myths there are. Everything else is true.  Drink water!

Molasses Disastess

Happy Halloween everyone!!

refined death

message in a death

This year I would like to dedicate my blog to one of the oddest forms of death: drowning.

In Molasses.

actually 21 dead and 150 injured all told

actually 21 dead and 150 injured all told

The most famous account of which is of course the Great Molasses Flood (aka Boston Molasses Disaster) of January, 1919. An enormous vat of molasses five stories high split open, spilling 2.3 million gallons of molasses and dangerous debris into the streets.

no sir, i don't like it

no sir, i don’t like it

A wave 22 feet high surged through town at 35 miles an hour, killing 21 people and injuring 150. Twenty horses also perished.

The thing about molasses is that it flows nothing like water. It is a non-Newtonian fluid (see “Quick, Sand” blog) and according to Scientific American, can be significantly more devastating than a tsunami. Molasses is 5000-10,000 times more viscous than water (depending on its production), making it impossible to survive an encounter of such freakish proportions especially if you might be feeling at all panicked.

Why did the tank explode?  Maybe because it was filled to the brink 6 months earlier, leaving little room for the carbon dioxide gas released by likely fermentation. The courts also blamed the owners of the tank for turning a blind eye to structural instability. Rumors say they even painted the entire thing brown to hide the leak stains.  It was also an unusually warm day that January, causing a dramatic shift in temperature inside the tank.  But no pressure, tank.

the horror of whatever this was!

the horror of whatever this was!

The memory of the deceased will never be forgotten. There are dozens of photos of confusing wreckage where you can’t really see any molasses or know what the scale is but it’s no doubt tragecal.  Those who lost their lives are also commemorated on the following tiny, tiny plaque for all carrying a magnifying glass to see.

tiny plaque

Freak as the whole incident seems, it’s apparently not that uncommon. We humans just can’t get a handle on molasses, and tend to drop a few hundred thousand gallons here and there.

hawaiiLike just last month when a faulty pipe transferring molasses to a California-bound ship leaked 1400 tons (230,000 gallons) of molasses into the waters near Waikiki, killing 26,000 fish and wreaking as yet unknown extents of havoc on coral reefs.

Don’t worry hundreds of species of little fish. There’s plenty of fish in the s—…well.

oh, is that how it works? woops!

oh, is that how it works? woops!

And then in 2004, when Purina Mills (of dog food fame) hired a company to dispose of their 50,000 gallons of spoiled molasses. But instead of taking it to a treatment plant, the guy dumped it all into a sinkhole, which he did not realize would filter down into the pristine Ozark water supply and flow out of two springs which lead into the nearby, and ironically named, Clear Creek. Many fish were killed and citizens were outraged.

mMolasses struck again in July of this year when a small village in Jalisco, Mexico was the victim of molasses dumping from an industrial cattle farm 12 kilometers away. Villagers and restaurant owners depend on fish and tourism for their livelihoods, so 500 tons worth of dead, molasses soaked fish aren’t so much helpful.

So, molasses, what a hoot!  But there’s more!  If you’re like me, and I know I am, when you think horrifically odd tragedy you think, Children’s book!

further reading

further reading

Follow Patrick as his craving for molasses leads him to take the family molasses pail (was that a thing?) to the market, when boom! A wacky explosion covers him head to toe with molasses. When he gets home, his mother, who apparently lives in a hole in the ground at the edge of town, doesn’t believe him and sends him to bed with a scolding until father comes home looking the same way.

What a caper! In the sequels, Patrick can look forward to years of therapy dealing with the trauma of the town’s death toll and the self-confidence shattering of his own mother’s Molasses-Holocaust denial.denial

BBC won, BBC two

Reliability doesn't mean not hilarious

Reliability doesn’t mean not hilarious

by chelsea schuyler

As I scan the BBC World News for ideas for blogs, sometimes I can barely get past the title for laughing. Some days are complete gems. For example, one single day and one single click to the Science and Environment page, gave me these results:

First headline: “Earth’s Core far hotter than thought.”

flippin hot.  eggs over sidewalk?

flippin hot, basically. eggs over sidewalk?

I love these kind of statements. Hey everyone, something we really can’t imagine is even more unimaginable than we’d ever imagined! Before, everyone disagreed about how hot the earth’s core was, though it was thought to be about 5000 degrees Celsius. How hot is that? Well, I’m all about the metric system, but let’s face it, in terms of boggling an American’s mind, you had us at Celsius. So what can we relate it to?

core of the matter

core of the matter

The all-time highest temperature on Earth’s surface is 56.7C (134F) in Death Valley, California in 1913. We almost broke the record this summer as you may recall hearing, the same time Las Vegas apparently thought, “what better time for an outdoor concert in the afternoon?’  34 people were hospitalized for heat exhaustion, 200 more treated on the spot with shade and water. Shade? There wasn’t even shade?? Vegas, little comin to Jesus here. Be ye not experts on scorching, body-filleting temperatures? I guess you just really haven’t experienced the Vans unless your inner fluids are at a boiling point.

ANYWAY, now we estimate the Earth’s core at 6000C (11,oooF, ish), which is about the temperature on the surface of the sun. This is enormously helpful if you’re a scientist working with magnetic fields and earthquakes and things. For the lay person, it’s still just more friggin hot than whatever we thought friggin hot was. Who’s up for a Doors show??

Next headline: “UK shale gas bonanza ‘not assured’ ”

freak gasoline accident

freak gasoline accident

I love picturing the author of this article, environmental analyst Roger Harrabin, deciding on the word “bonanza” for this piece. I mean, I suppose it’s effective, the last thing anyone wants is their bonanza not being assured. …So many birthday parties. And can you really have a gas bonanza that doesn’t imply some impeding horrible accident a la Zoolander gas fight explosion?

Next headline: “ ‘Urgent need’ to remove space debris”

brain peeAgain with the word choice, I mean don’t you just feel like “urgent need” is limited to either really needing to pee, or fixing world wide problems like Darfur scale genocide? No spectrum, just those two. But this is actually pretty interesting in the nerdverse, and I think justifies the new association with the phrase.

An international nerd meeting has concluded that there is way too much useless man made stuff in earth’s orbit. Really? We’ve been up there like 10 times, how bad could it be? But oh yeah, all those tv, radio broadcasting, weather, communications, and global positioning satellites, space stations, rocket experiments, and human waste (including NASA’s armoire-sized ammonia container that comfortingly wasn’t safe enough to dispose of on Earth, and the epic thermal glove lost by space-walker Ed White in 1965).

I think I know who got the glove in the end...

I think I know what happened to that glove…

There are 30,000 pieces over 10cm and tens of thousands more smaller ones like screws and bolts and flecks of paint. The more space debris, the more they collide, break apart, and create even more pieces to potentially collide, a scenario called the Kessler effect. Concern is increasing, as they’re all traveling at hypervelocity (17,000mph) in different directions around low-Earth orbit, and won’t be pulled down by gravity for generations.

doubtfire The worry is, if we wait too long to do something about it, our Earth with be so surrounded that we won’t be able to take our evening walks into space anymore for fear of being run-by-debried.

I don’t know why we can’t just make like Saturn and organize some top notch rings, but the high nerds at the meeting suggested various other solutions, including the use of “harpoons, tentacles, ion thrusters and lasers” to fix the problem.  Okay, okay, all we need is  Captain Ahab, the squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Enterprise, and Dr. Evil to save the world from flying death pellets of our own creation.

from...plus...equals Right??

this…                                               plus this…                       equals this!
Right??

Last and definitely least, the headline:
“ ‘Big cat’ was on loose in UK in 1903”

Nothing says breaking news like centuries old, long dead, escaped wild animals. And can we define big?  Because I think LION, I think TIGER, but no.  Cougar? Cheetah at least? No. The menacing, gargantuan 24 pound  Canadian lynx.  This isn’t your default Eurasian lynx, which is a good 70 pounds, this Canadian version is  “two to three times the size of a domestic cat.”  Two to three times people, hide your children. This cat of Ulster was terrorizing the green fields of equal-sized foxes in the English countryside until it was finally shot and stashed in a museum, to be uncovered this year. (Not really a) mystery solved!

Fantastic day BBC, capital indeed.

Canadian lynx not shown due to diminutive negligibility

Canadian lynx not shown due to diminutive negligibility

Made With Insects

by chelsea schuyler

New Ingredients in My Favorite Candy?

Happy belated Halloween everyone! Apologies for the lack of blog, allow me to retroactively disgust you as a posthumous October tribute.

Skittles candies have gone vegetarian! Wait, was Skittles not vegetarian? And how has mega corporation Mars not advertised this fact to bring in the raids of plant-eating heathens to their Skittles-purchasing domain?

Perhaps Mars was hoping not to bring any attention to their past ingredient list, no doubt still located in several warehouses around the country. In these bags, you’ll notice three things: Gelatin, E120, and Shellac.

How do I live without this??

Gelatin is probably no surprise, it’s the slightly unsettling binder made from the boiled down remnants of pig and cow cartilage. A common annoyance for vegetarians, it constantly prevents us from enjoying treats that could so easily not have gelatin, and suffering us to endure such questions as “wait,…you can’t have Jello??”, which makes me ponder this person’s age vis a vis the implied daily Jello consumption. Regardless, it is not gelatin that would have shocked most consumers. It’s the insects.

white stuff = congregations of cochineal

Soylent Green is People, E120 is Insects

E120, also known as Carmine or Carminic Acid, is a dye that comes from the brutal squishing of the cochineal beetle, which happen to have bright red guts because of its diet of red cactus.

lick my finger…

This little insect has been used for hundreds of years by the Aztecs, Spaniards, and now the world to dye clothing. Okay, clothing is one thing, but dripped into my candy nubbin is crossing a line.

Shellac is Insect Poop

lac beetle

Shellac, yes, the shellac, of wood resin fame (also used on pill capsules and nail polish), is a waxy substance that comes from the secretions of the female lac beetle.

These little bugs suck the sap of the trees in Asia, constantly excreting a tunnel shaped turd that we then scrape off, melt, and slather onto our beetle roca Skittles to make em shiny. I mean really, secretions? Need I go on?

Beetle Juice! Beetle Juice! Cow Cartilage!! Hmm. Not quite the same effect. Maybe that’s why nobody sees Michael Keaton anymore.

Don’t Worry, Now it’s Just Carcinogenic

“It’s in your food, it’s in your children” -confusing tagline from http://www.red40.com

To replace the beetle innards and outtards, Mars has switched over to Red #40, one of 6 FDA certified fake colors originally derived from coal tar (don’t worry, it’s now derived from family friendly petroleum).

The FDA felt the need to test artificial colors after Halloween 1950, when scads of trick or treaters suffered severe diarrhea and welts due to candies colored with Orange No.1. Later studies (why study before there’s a problem?) showed that 1g/kilo of food killed 2 out of 5 mice in a single day.

Clearly it’s the red 40 that is tainting the purity of these hearty foodstuffs.

Red #40 is an oil derivative that may or may not be carcinogenic and accused of causing hyperactivity (though, could that be the metric ton of candy your child just overdosed on?).

Starting to wonder if beetle juice was a better option? Carmine is still everywhere, but as of 2011 the FDA requires that foods specify if they use carmine (though they are not required to define what carmine is).

Which, to be fair, in this day and age if you don’t know what it is (a red flag in the first place), look it up! Increase your entomological trivia! No one should have to explain every word, if you don’t know that milk is cow teat extract, or that egg is blended chicken fetus, stop shopping.

FDA Regulations on Grossness

Just know that while you mouth-hoover your new kosher candies, you’re still not safe from bug ingestion. The FDA has an entire page defining the maximum limits of various revolting sundries that specific foods may contain. Some examples:

it’s okay, we don’t even know what fig paste is anyway

Fig paste: “13 or more insect heads per 100 grams…” 100 grams is a little less than a cup, by the way.
Freshwater fish: “60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish…” It’s the parasitic cysts that give it that pus-like consistency. Ties it together.
Mushrooms: “Average of over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams…” Wow, of any size? And do you like that “over 20 or more” phrasing there?
Popcorn: “1 or more rodent excreta pellets…in 1 or more subsamples…” Excreta pellet! Glorious. Subsample was not defined in this comforting case.
Pizza sauce: “15 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 100 grams…” There’s that ‘or more’ again. It’s an –ish science. Whatever, free topping!
Asparagus: “10% of spears…6 or more attached asparagus beetle eggs and/or sacs…” Sacs.
Apple Butter: “4 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams…” and “Average of 5 or more whole or equivalent insects per 100 grams…” Whole or equivalent insects. Favorite.

If you were looking for the perfect name for your new punk band, I hope you choose one from this excellent list.

Heeelp meee!

And in case you were wondering (and please do peruse the glossary of terms, it will enlighten you to so many joyous stomach turners) “whole or equivalent insects” is defined as “A whole insect, separate head, or body portions with head attached.” In other words, legs or thorax til Tuesday but once you get a head in the mix, well, let’s just say you’ll never be the head of a major corporation. It’s just no way to get a head in life, being that headstrong.

Rainbow Brite could not be reached for comment.

As a vegetarian I just have to say, suck it vegetarians, we’re all omnivores.

Taste the rainbow!

You pick them because they look good...

by chelsea schuyler

Helping Us Not Miss Produce

It’s about this time of year that I say to myself, remember produce? Delicious summertime wonderfood of berryliciousness. But because there are endless months until the good stuff comes back again, I feel some sour grapes are necessary to help the withdrawal.

WANTED
(artists rendition of cantaloupe in question)

Produce hates us. That’s really all there is to it. Some are just posers who have jumped on the hate-humans bandwagon, transporting deadly pathogens to our table like those Colorado cantaloupes a few months ago. Those melons of mayhem were smuggling Listeria on their rinds, which when cut spread to the meat and then to the digestive tracts of the 9 who died (or 8 or 7 or “as many as 4,” depending on which article you read. I love “as many as” –are they not quite dead yet? are we debating whether old Hubert can be classified as a person?).

Franz Listz 1811-1886

No one saw it coming, Listeria is usually associated with deli meats or soft cheeses, which just seem more hateful by nature, but produce?? (Listeria is not to be confused with Lisztomania, named for the crazed fans of 1840’s Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, whose behavior, according to most sources, were not produce related) .

Glass In Your Chardonnay

Another hatred carrier are the 24,000 pounds of frozen peas and carrots recalled in 2010 after several consumers found shards of glass in the bags. Now, you may be thinking, “a few shards of glass, how harmful could that be to my soft tissues?” But just ask the Food and Drug Admniistration who analyzed 190 foreign objects in food and can now tell us that “Hard or sharp foreign objects in food may cause traumatic injury including laceration and perforation of tissues….”

I see nothing wrong with this perfectly good caramel sauce

Wow, thank you FDA, I was just about to sit down to some shattered-window and pea casserole, but now I shall certainly think twice. I wonder, at what point during those 190 trials did you begin to see the final conclusion take shape? Was it that 181st trial of needle soup that it all became clear?

The Naturally Poisonous

Then there’s the produce that is just inherently anti-us. The apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, apples, etc whose pits are packing high levels of Cyanide Satan, clear expressions of our unwelcome.

I only eat Whole Organic Death

It’s normal not to consider pits as a part of a balanced breakfast (unlike Cocoa puffs), but every once in awhile we forget. For example, health food stores were selling 8oz bags of apricot pits imported from Pakistan (like our apricot pits aren’t good enough?) that, if eaten all at once, have twice the lethal dose of cyanide! Supposedly they are a good source of relief from constipation. I suppose death could be argued as a form of relief, so, I guess that’s valid.

Mr. Potato Death

Science Daily has an article about the potato and how evil it is, saying: “The Solanaceae are known for possessing a diverse range of alkaloidal glucosides, or simply alkaloids. As far as humans are concerned, these alkaloids can be desirable, toxic, or both…”

‘or both’?? No, I’m sorry, I think I’m gonna have to call the mutually exclusive police on that one. They never explain that by the way, we’re just left to wonder at the amazing powers of toxic desirability.

there may be something wrong with this potato

Toxic desirability!

Just know that if you find green spots in your potato, it means it has been exposed to the sun, triggering it to release Solanine, a defensive mechanism meant to ward of fungus and pests, but occasionally dabbles in killing small children as well.

Most of the death toll from potatoes in the last 50 years has been from eating green potatoes, or drinking potato leaf tea. Really hippies? There is plenty of diversity in tea land, let this one go. And leave that puffer fish tea on the shelf while you’re at it.

Nobody Suspects the Nutmeg

Nutmeg though, is so evil it has caused TWO deaths in the last hundred years, in 1908 and 2001. Two grams can cause nausea, fever, and headaches. Over 7 grams can cause convulsions and hallucinations! God forbid you eat the whole nutmeg which can lead to an awesome affliction called “nutmeg psychosis,” which includes “feelings of impending doom, confusion, and agitation.” You gotta love anything that causes feelings of impending doom.

Think Death

The sad thing is you just know that in 1908 it was some well-meaning schmuck who just wanted to make especially strong eggnog or something, but in 2001 you know it’s some kid in it for the hallucinations. Sigh. Cool points for the death certificate that says ‘Nutmeg Psychosis’ on it though.

Don’t Listen to Bad Ideas

So people, you don’t need the FDA or the internet to tell you that you shouldn’t eat things that are instinctively inedible, like glass, pits, or entire nutmegs. In fact don’t listen to the internet at all really, or you’ll end up following useless “helpful” tidbits like this aside from Listverse.com:

“Incidentally, if you want to eat an apple and find a worm in it, you can drop it in a bowl of salt water which will kill the worm.”

Yeah, we're done here.

Salt water?? First of all, if I find a worm in my apple I’m gonna be psychologically traumatized and probably burning all apples for months, especially THAT apple. I’d have to be starving (in which case I should be happy for the worm’s protein), but even if I’m feeling particularly unwasteful, bobbing for worm-infested apples in a vat of Atlantic Ocean is not going to “save” the apple for me. Now I just have a salty Braeburn with dead worms rotting in it. Not helpful.

Eat smart. Not even smart, just common sense. Mmm, common sense.

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