No. That’s Just Wrong.

I was happily lost in The Public Domain Review the other day, and came across High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry from 1910. I know there was great excitement over electricity, and there were phases of “miracle cures” where it was concerned, but in this case, it was the photos which got my attention, including one which just about had me screaming, and I’m not even a parent:

The text reads:

Plate XXII. – This beautiful picture (as exquisite as Manet’s “Boy with the Sword” which is one of the classics of the Painting Art), sets forth this boy bringing his pocket “Tesla” for the enjoyment of his beloved tonic. His sturdy strength at the age of three is a tribute to the efficacy of high frequency currents, for at the age of three days, when his treatment with them was begun, he was an illy-thriving and frail infant with but the feeblest hold on life. Look at him well, and think how many myriads of pallid children – of all ages – need the same remedy.

There is So. Much. Wrong. there, it just leaves me sputtering. Applying electrical currents to a three day old infant? All I can think is how very easily that could kill said infant. As for the photo being as exquisite as Boy with a Sword, let’s see:

L'Enfant à l'épée'' par Edouard Manet, 1861.

L’Enfant à l’épée’ par Edouard Manet, 1861.

Yeah, I don’t think there’s any honest comparison there at all. There are other questionable and frightening photos to be seen with the magical Tesla wand, but have a care, there’s some nudity, so NSFW.

“Going to the Dogs?”, Workshop.

“Going to the Dogs” Workshop #2 brought together scholars from England, Scotland, and Poland to discuss the various and complex intersections of disability- and animal-studies research. Discussions centred on talks delivered by Rachael Gillibrand (Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds), Dr Ryan Sweet (School of English, University of Leeds), Dr Andy Flack (Department of History, University of Bristol), Dr Neil Pemberton (Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester), and Dr Justyna Włodarczyk (Department of American Literature, University of Warsaw). The talks covered topics including the animal assistants of disabled people in the late-medieval West; nineteenth-century representations of animals with prostheses; connections between historical understandings of animals that live in darkness and vision-impaired people; the role of the caress in 1930s America human-guide-dog partnerships; and current controversies surrounding emotional-support animals in the US.

-Via Medievalists.

The full set of workshop videos.

The Smithsonian Presents Interactive Androids.

Pepper saying hello to staff at the Smithsonian Castle. (all photos courtesy Smithsonian).

Pepper saying hello to staff at the Smithsonian Castle. (all photos courtesy Smithsonian).

The next time you visit a Smithsonian museum, the first greeting you get may come from a gleaming, four-foot-tall android extending their hand. This would be Pepper, one of 25 humanoid robots that were introduced two days ago to six Smithsonian spaces, from the Hirshhorn Museum to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Donated by their engineers at Softbank Robotics, the platoon of Peppers is intended to enhance the visitor experience and ensure that daily operations run smoothly.

Pepper, which was designed to interact with humans, is the first bot capable of recognizing our emotions. These models already work in an array of industries around the world, serving as receptionists in Belgian hospitals and even as priests in Japan that lead funerary rituals. While the robot has been on display in museums, the Smithsonian now represents the first museum complex to actually use these wide-eyed automata for their services.

“We see them as a new tool for the docents to use, especially since they are always paired with a person,” a spokesperson for Smithsonian told Hyperallergic, noting that the Peppers are “absolutely not replacing docents.”

Softbank Robotics donated the Peppers for an experimental, pilot program intended to help the Smithsonian solve problems, from boosting visitorship to “under-attended galleries” and encouraging greater engagement with artworks. While the robots can provide helpful information by answering commonly asked questions, they can also indulge in more lighthearted activities for which human docents do not always have the time (or patience); visitors can ask Pepper to dance, play games, and even pose for a selfie. While the robots currently do not have captioned speech, the Smithsonian said that it is working to caption images that appear on their screens and “will continue with our software partners to make Pepper as accessible as possible.”

Very cool! I’d like to meet Pepper. You can read and see much more at Hyperallergic.

Saving A Tree, One Drip At A Time.

IV treatment helps Pillalamarri live another day. Courtesy of District Administration, Mahabubnagar.

IV treatment helps Pillalamarri live another day. Courtesy of District Administration, Mahabubnagar.

An amazing story, this.

If the roughly 800-year-old banyan tree in Mahabubnagar, India, could talk, it would probably tell you the IV inserted in its branches is saving its life. Termites infested the tree, reportedly one of the oldest in India, and gradually chipped away at its wood until the poor banyan was near the brink of death. Last December, some of the tree’s branches fell down because of the infestation, resulting in officials closing the attraction to the public.

Known as Pillalamarri because of its many interweaving branches, the banyan tree measures 405 feet from east to west and 408 feet from north to south, according to Mahabubnagar District Forest Officer Chukka Ganga Reddy. The crown of Pillalamarri extends to 1,263 feet and the tree is spread across nearly four acres. Underneath the tree stands a small shrine that supposedly dates back to the year 1200, but the tree’s exact age is unclear. Nevertheless, calling the Ficus benghalensis a great banyan tree would be an understatement.

Pillalamarri’s branches bend close to the soil. Courtesy of District Administration, Mahabubnagar.

Pillalamarri’s branches bend close to the soil. Courtesy of District Administration, Mahabubnagar.

Such greatness attracts 12,000 tourists per year from every corner of the country to awe at its sheer vastness, but this tourism has also caused some troubles for the tree. According to Telangana Today, when Pillalamarri turned into a tourist attraction nearly a decade ago, the state government cut down branches and built concrete sitting areas around the tree for tourists. Tourists picked at the leaves, climbed on the branches, and carved names into the bark. Furthermore, to keep the area clean, the grounds team burned fallen leaves, which was bad for the soil. A recently installed dam on a neighboring stream restricted water flow to the tree.

I will never understand the pointless destructiveness humans indulge in. A 700 year old living being should, at the very least, garner some respect.

…Officials initially injected the trunk with the pesticide chlorpyrifos, but saw no improvement. So they tried another method to prevent decay: hundreds of saline bottles filled with chlorpyrifos, inserted into Pillalamarri’s branches.

“This process has been effective,” Reddy told the Times of India. “Secondly, we are watering the roots with the diluted solution to kill the termites. And in a physical method, we are building concrete structures to support the collapsing heavy branches.”

…Despite the tree’s stable prospects, the public won’t be seeing Pillalamarri any time soon. When they do visit in the future, “this time people have to see it from a distance away from the barricades,” said Reddy. For now, drip-by-drip, the banyan tree’s health is returning to its former glory.

What a shame that all those who would show proper respect won’t be able to do so anymore. I’m impressed and happy that a way to treat Pillalamarri has been found, and profoundly sad and disappointed by the people who were so damn destructive. It doesn’t speak well of humans at all.

Atlas Obscura has the full story, and lots of links.

Anatomy Atlas Part 2 – Lower Limb Skeleton

Colloquial Czech does not distinguish between a foot and a leg. The word “noha” normally refers to the whole limb from the hips down. Medical terminology differs from this and the word “noha” means only the foot, and “dolní končetina” is used for the whole limb. Professor Kos has hammered this point home throughout multiple lectures and we were suspecting that if someone were to use the term “noha” in its colloquial sense during an exam, it would be an insta-fail.

Lower Limb Skeleton

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Legs and feet are our means of movement, so they are very important. It is therefore important to look after them. Which, regarding the bones, means adequate exercise and not more than the body can handle.

What ordinary people do not usually know is that bones are not fixed structures. They are consumed from within and regrown throughout our lives. That way they can heal, but also change shape. That way they can also get injured in a rather peculiar fashion.

One of the stories Professor Kos was telling was a story of “march fractures”. Fresh army recruits, especially those from cities who were not accustomed to walking a lot, were often complaining about pains in their legs and feet bones after long marches. Initially they were deemed as pretenders becaue the x-rays looked normal, but some of them broke their legs when forced to go on. Then someone took a magnifying glass to an x-ray of the alleged pretenders legs and feet and noticed microscopic fractures developing before a clearly visible fracture occurred.

These are so-called fatigue fractures and they happen when a bone is deprived of nutrients. The bone continues to be consumed at a normal rate, but it does not manage to regrow back fast enough. Over time these tiny deficits accumulate and the bone starts to hurt and can even break.

A colleague of mine has developed just that in her foot during nordic walking strolls that were just a bit too much, too sudden and too long for her. It took a few weeks to develop and over a year to heal, with a surgery and a very long rehab being necessary.

Too much exercise is just as bad as none.

I Cannot Tell a Lie – I Chopped Down The Cherry Tree

But I really did not enjoy the task.

Cherry_Tree_2012

©Charly, all rights reserved.

My father has planted this tree for me when I was about 10 years old. I liked cherries back then. Now I cannot eat cherries any more, because for some reason they cause me hypoglycemia which is really unpleasant. But I enjoyed the blossoms in the spring nevertheless, I always looked forward to them and I did not mind the birds eating all the fruit at all.

I did not take any pictures with my new camera last year, so I can only share pictures that I made with the old one in 2012.

Cherry Blossoms

©Charly, all rights reserved, click for full size.

Last fall mushrooms sprouted on the trunk and that is a really bad sign. There are two kinds of wood in a tree – sapwood, which delivers nutrients from roots to the crown, and heartwood, which is usually more dry and dark and is essentially blocked off and completely dead. Accordingly, there are two types of fungi that can attack wood on a living tree – ones that attack the sapwood, and ones that attack the heartwood. Have a guess at which of these two is more dangerous.

If you like me during my studies guessed those that attack sapwood, you guessed wrong. Fungi that attack sapwood will cause the tree to wither and eventually die, but the tree remains standing relatively intact afterwards for long enough to be felled safely. However fungi that attack heartwood are more insidious – the tree can grow for many more years at absolutely normal rate without anything really visible on the outside. And then, when enough heartwood has rotten away, a branch will suddenly snap, or a the trunk will spit or break. And this of course is dangerous, because to an untrained eye the apparently healthy tree is essentially a ticking bomb that can kill someone at any time – which is something that has happened in CZ a few years ago and it has made the headlines. Heartwood is dead and dry, but it still has a function – it is the scaffolding that holds the tree upright and together.

This tree has developed a split in the trunk at about 10 years  age. We were doing our best to keep fungal infections away, but the split never closed off and we were evidently unsuccessful in the end. I was not able to take a good picture of the mushroom, because it lasted only a few days, none of which was on a weekend. I was unable to determine the exact species too. But I was confident enough in assessing that it is a heartwood eating fungus. So I decided to fell the tree before it becomes dangerous to do so. The tree was huge, so all winter I have cut branches when I could. They were all still healthy and I started to have doubts. But this friday I have finally cut the trunk right above the ground and my assessment of the situation was confirmed. The fungus has already invaded the inner 10 years growth and was spreading. The tree would probably live a few more years, maybe even a decade, but I do not think it was worth the risk, since I do not know how fast the fungus spreads.

Cherry trunk - cut

©Charly, all rights reserved, click for full size.

I have felt real connection with that tree. I was hoping for it to live longer and age with me. If I ever feel something that could be described as a spiritual experience, it is in the presence of a tree in the spring.

I will plant a new cherry tree on the spot as soon as possible.

Anatomy Atlas Part 1 – Spine

This first in a series of human anatomy sheets that I have drawn during my studies.  As future biology teacher I had to acquire some basic knowledge about most of biology – sort of  jack of all trades, master of none. However our class was one of the last where human anatomy was taught by a prominent Czech physician and scientist Profesor MuDr. Jaroslav Kos. He was eighty years old at that time and it was showing, however he still was formidable and very strict. I failed my first exam miserably, I do not even remember what the theme of the examination was. I think brain stem? Nevermind, it took me two attempts to pass and for the second attempt I really sat and learned latin like my life depended on it. He did not even let me finish on my second attempt  and waved me away with top grade after I described how  nervus olfactorius consists of multiple separated fila going straight through lamina cribosa directly into the bulbus olfactorius of the brain. I forgot most of my medical latin over time, but I still remember this.

Spine Drawing

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

A fun fact about spine – the “S” shape of our spine and all accompanying problems it brings stem from the fact that it originally evolved for movement in water and later on land with lateral undulations, which was later yet modified for movement on land on all four with vertical undulations, which was even later modified for upright movement on hind limbs only. The spine was definitively not intelligently designed for vertical posture and load bearing. Evolution has done its best, but that is always “just enough”.

Stephen Hawking, Demon Puppet.

Naberius, most valiant Marquess of Hell, and has nineteen legions of demons under his command. He makes men cunning in all arts (and sciences, according to most authors), but especially in rhetoric, speaking with a hoarse voice. He also restores lost dignities and honors.

Naberius, most valiant Marquess of Hell, and has nineteen legions of demons under his command. He makes men cunning in all arts (and sciences, according to most authors), but especially in rhetoric, speaking with a hoarse voice. He also restores lost dignities and honors.

Mike Shoesmith, of chemical assault fame, has taken a break from whinging on about the evils of women. Apparently, Mr. Shoesmith sees the late Stephen Hawking as being a demon puppet, nothing more, because Billy Graham.

…“[Graham] is a hundred percent devoted,” Shoesmith said. “The Lord sees his heart, gives him a tremendous ministry, and who do you think is sitting in the background going, ‘I have to do something about this, this guy is sold out, I have to do something’? Who do you think is sitting in the background doing that? The devil, right?”

No.

“So, in 1942, that is when Billy Graham’s ministry really takes off, and who do you think was born in 1942?” he continued. “Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking comes from a long line of atheists—his father and all these people—so I believe the devil said, ‘OK, this guy was just born and I’m going to use this guy. This guy is already primed to accept my message that there is no God. He is already primed for it, he is going to be awash, immersed in atheism all his years as a child, I’m going to take over this guy’s life.’”

A great many people were born in 1942. I’m sure a fair number of them were not christian, and Graham was just another con artist, nothing more.

“I believe Stephen Hawking was kept alive by demonic forces,” Shoesmith said. “I believe that it was the demonic realm that kept this man alive as a virtual vegetable his entire life just so he could spread this message that there is no God.”

Oh FFS. Do you know what the word virtual means, Mr. Shoesmith? I don’t think you do. Mr. Hawking was not a vegetable, in any sense. To the contrary, he was a very active person, and he spent most of his life spreading the wonders of physics. He really didn’t spend much time on atheism, and he certainly was not the equivalent huckster to Graham. Mr. Hawking was very lucky indeed to have been born in a country with healthcare. If he had been born in Ustates, his life would have most likely been brutal and short, with his grieving parents left under a crushing mountain of debt. So, if this was Lucifer’s doing, rather looks like he’s the good guy, doesn’t it?

Shoesmith went on to assert that if Hawking had simply reached out to God, Jesus would have cast the demons out of him and he would have been completely and miraculously healed.

Thanks to medicine and tech, Mr. Hawking was able to live into his seventies, which is pretty good for someone with such a serious disease, whereas that weak ass god of yours once again displayed a compleat inability to do jack shit. If Jehovah wanted to impress the fuck out of Mr. Hawking, could he not have shown up momentarily and cured him? That seems to be more the way to get a dedicated convert, no?

Anyroad, it’s well beyond shitty of you to run down a brilliant scientist and all around good man, after he’s dead of course, because you would never have the spine to do it when he was alive. Thanks ever for confirming yet again that you asshole christians are truly awful people.

The whole mess is at RWW.

Neanderthals Have Done It Again.

Panel 78 in La Pasiega cave, which includes red horizontal and vertical lines that date to more than 64,000 years ago, long before Homo sapiens arrived in the area (photo by C.D Standish, A.W.G. Pike and D.L. Hoffmann used with permission).

Panel 78 in La Pasiega cave, which includes red horizontal and vertical lines that date to more than 64,000 years ago, long before Homo sapiens arrived in the area (photo by C.D Standish, A.W.G. Pike and D.L. Hoffmann used with permission).

Neanderthals have done it again. They’ve reminded us Homo sapiens that we’re not as creative, original, or special as we’ve thought for the past 150 years. Last week, archaeologists published two astonishing reports that provide the most compelling evidence to date that our evolutionary cousins not only had the cognitive wherewithal to create art — specifically cave paintings — but they also did so well before modern humans entered the European Pleistocene.

In the journal Sciencean international team of archaeologists reported that three caves in southeastern Spain — La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Ardales — contain cave art that’s at least 64,800 years old. These sites are not new or unknown to archaeologists. But pinning down exactly when the cave art was painted has been a problem for decades. (The La Pasiega panel was originally sketched by researchers in 1913.) Dating experts, working in conjunction with archaeologists, developed a new set of techniques, carefully sampling geological material near the art in order to pin down the most likely time of painting.

The results have rocked the archaeological world, because the paintings appear to predate the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years. In other words, the art comes from a time when the area was only occupied by Neanderthals.

Exciting! You can read and see much more, and there’s video at Hyperallergic.

Sunday Facepalm.

Wikimedia Commons.

Someone who bills herself “Montreal Healthy Girl” has some news for us all: “CANCER IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING!!!” Did you get those extra exclamation marks? Obviously all manner of truthy, because serious emphasis. I’d dearly like to give this person one hell of a smack, to say the least.

So what is Cancer exactly and what the hell can we do about it when we are faced with a paralysing fear of death? The following may surprise you, but finding out you have the big C is not as terrifyingly final as we are taught to think. Contrary to popular belief and misinformation, CANCER IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING!!! It is your body’s way of defending itself against a poisonous internal environment and without it, most of us would die long before our diagnosis.

Oh for fuck’s sake. It’s obvious this stupid twit does not know one thing about cancer, nor did she bother with actually getting acquainted with anyone who happens to have cancer. Most people are aware that cure rates are up for many types of cancer, and many people with stage IV cancers are living their lives for decades past diagnosis. CANCER IS NOT A GOOD THING. IT’S A BAD THING WHICH REQUIRES PROPER TREATMENT FROM PEOPLE WITH ACTUAL MEDICAL DEGREES.  Cancer does not save you from early death due to a “poisonous internal environment”.  Cancer cells are terrifyingly magnificent, and out of all the things on this planet, they play the game of evolution best. There are so many different types of cancer cells, it’s dizzying, and no, all cancers are not treated the same; they cannot be. For each type of cancer, it’s a different game. If you want a thorough understanding of how cancer cells work, read The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Cancer cells are rogues, and they excel at reproducing and mutating. Some cancers tend to be low aggression, like mine (colorectal cancer), others are incredibly aggressive and scary as fuck. As always, with any cancer, your best bet is early detection, and prevention, like not smoking, which cuts your chances of lung cancer way down. It never hurts to eat healthy and get at least moderate exercise, but those things will not guarantee you’ll never hear “it’s cancer.” The older you get, the more likely there will be an incidence of cancer. Get those screening tests! Cancer is not the result of an “imbalance” or the body being too “acidic”, which is the fucking stupid twit’s answer to cancer and how to get it to “reverse itself”. This sort of crap is incredibly dangerous, and leads to people dying.  Please, if you hear “it’s cancer”, do not fall for this sort of crap. I’m the last person to say that cancer treatment is any sort of fucking fun, it isn’t. It’s a right pain in the ass (literally in my case), and the side effects are nasty. It’s better than death, which is what you’ll get with Ms. Healthy Girl and those like her. In the case of someone like myself, with colon cancer, you might actually live for quite a while without treatment, being that it’s not an overly aggressive cancer. But there will pain. Enormous, bad pain. Pain which will get worse. And by the time you drag your sorry ass to an actual physician, it will likely to be too damn late.

I won’t link you to the idiot’s fucking page, because this infuriates me no end, but I will link you to Jonathan Jarry at McGill, who has plenty to say about this dangerous fucking mess of a person.

Darwin’s Polar Bear.

“Polar Bear”, artist unknown, ca. 1870s — Source.

Musings upon the whys and wherefores of polar bears, particularly in relation to their forest-dwelling cousins, played an important but often overlooked role in the development of evolutionary theory. Michael Engelhard explores.

As any good high school student should know, the beaks of Galápagos “finches” (in fact the islands’ mockingbirds) helped Darwin to develop his ideas about evolution. But few people realize that the polar bear, too, informed his grand theory.

You can read and see much more at The Public Domain Review. The artwork is stunning.

Sylloge Tacticorum.

A scene of Byzantine warfare from the Madrid Skylitzes.

A scene of Byzantine warfare from the Madrid Skylitzes.

Medievalists has some interesting excerpts from the Sylloge Tacticorum, a Byzantine handbook on military tactics.

Besides noting the standard ways of attacking and defending, the author of this manual also includes several methods to cunningly strike at an enemy, although he does not personally approve of them. He writes:

We compiled this book judging that these stratagems and others of the kind should be recorded not in order to be used by us against the enemy (for I believe that they are unworthy even to be mentioned in a Christian context), but so that our generals may be able to guard against them by knowing exactly the cunning plans of the enemy concerning food and drink, especially when they encamp in enemy territory.

However, it should also be noted that the author usually does not give any defence against these schemes, which might indicate that he added them in so they could be used by the Byzantine generals – and that his moral concerns might have been exaggerated. Readers will note that these methods can be considered a form of chemical warfare, which would be targeted at the enemy when they were not expecting it.

Having read the article, I will agree that all the tactics listed are extraordinarily nasty, some with a propensity to bite the hand of those using them. The seven tactics are:

1) Putting the plague into bread loaves.

2) Poisoning the wine.

3) Sabotaging the water supply.

4) Destroying the land.

5) Withering the trees.

6) Attacking the horses with chemicals.

7) Burning weapons without fire.

For all the details of the text, you’ll need to head over to Medievalists.

Other interesting things at Medievalists:

New Game!

Released on 13 February, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an action role-playing game set in the early fifteenth-century Holy Roman Empire that has striven for historically accurate and highly detailed content.

[…]

This fairly unusual method of gameplay has attracted a lot of attention. As another reviewer said: ‘There’s no heroic swordplay here, no wizards casting fireballs, no clerics raising the dead, no orcs or dragons. This is the story of an actual civil war that raged across Bohemia in the first decade of the 15th century. Your part in it is that of a nobody struggling to survive in a land full of noblemen who couldn’t care less if you lived or died, and fellow peasants who would stab you in the back for a crust of bread.’

You can read about the game in detail, with multiple reviews here.

Collection of 3,000 medieval manuscripts now online.

Valhalla Rising: The Construction of Cultural Identity through Norse Myth in Scandinavian and German Pagan Metal.