What’s killing us, then and now

death 450x328 Whats killing us, then and now

You’re gonna die. (img by New England Journal of Medicine)

The New England Journal of Medicine celebrates its 200th birthday this year with a retrospective on what’s been killing us since they first published under the impressive title New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery, and the Collateral Branches of Science.  The size of the business card necessary to hold that title may have contributed to the mortality rate and you can check that fact by playing with their cool interactive graphic on the Top Ten Causes of Death.

Early reports from the Journal looked at things that are still killing us today, asthma, gunshot wounds, spina bifida but our current understanding medicine makes others rather entertaining to read.

Apoplexy, a syndrome of fainting spells that might mean stroke, seizure, or syncope today, was understood to arise from a “nervous sympathy” by which the stomach influenced the head. Doctors agreed that even a near miss by a cannonball — without contact — could shatter bones, blind people, or even kill them. Reports of spontaneous combustion, especially of “brandy-drinking men and women,” received serious, if skeptical, consideration. And physicians were obsessed with fevers — puerperal, petechial, catarrhal, and even an outbreak of “spotted fever” in which some patients were neither spotted nor febrile. The bill of mortality from 1811 contains both the familiar and the exotic. Consumption, diarrhea, and pneumonia dominated the mortality data, but teething, worms, and drinking cold water apparently killed as well. (more…)

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Food speedbumps make you eat less

WansinkChips 11 450x306 Food speedbumps make you eat less

Imma get my portion on, yeeah! (img by Robyn Wishna, Cornell food and brand lab Brian Wansink)

Fighting food is hard, because food loves us this much, and there’s so much food in food that by the time you fill up, you’ve had too much. But your stomach isn’t the only part of this, as Cornell researchers have found food can shame tell you when you’ve had just enough.

As part of an experiment carried out on two groups of college students (98 students total) while they were watching video clips in class, researchers from Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab served tubes of Lays Stackables, some of which contained chips dyed red.

Unaware of why some of the chips were red, the students who were served those tubes of chips nonetheless consumed about 50 percent less than their peers: 20 and 24 chips on average for the seven-chip and 14-chip segmented tubes, respectively, compared with 45 chips in the control group; 14 and 16 chips for the five-chip and 10-chip segmented tubes, compared with 35 chips in the control group.

“People generally eat what is put in front of them if it is palatable,” said Brian Wansink, Cornell Food and Brand Lab director. “An increasing amount of research suggests that some people use visual indication — such as a clean plate or bottom of a bowl — to tell them when to stop eating.” (more…)

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4 stages of fear

OCTtK 450x606 4 stages of fear

Sadly, Rat Mountain would be forever closed upon the discovery that the rats were actually squirrels in costume. (img by Marcos267)

Your brain does screwy stuff when it’s under stress. As if you really needed to know you do strange and stupid things under pressure. What’s interesting is how. There are actually four stages of fear, all of them instinctual, evelutionary responses to threats and danger.

You probably know that the first thing that happens is a cortisol/adrenaline dump, which causes your heart, lungs, and muscles to ready themselves. When bad shit does happen, parts of your brain shut down while other, more basic parts, start to take over, which is why people sometimes don’t remember what, exactly, they went through; their hippocampus turned off, it wasn’t a priority.


The Mancos River rises in southwestern Colorado and flows through the Ute Mountains on its way to New Mexico, where it empties into the San Juan River three miles shy of the Four Corners intersection. Over millions of years, the river and its tributaries have carved a fanlike rill of dramatic canyons out of the ancient sediments of the Mesa Verde tablelands, a maze of vertiginous stone walls. The rugged, arid landscape of juniper forest proves a rich habitat for wildlife.

At 25, Sue Yellowtail was just a few years out of college, working for the Ute Indian tribe as a water quality specialist. Her job was to travel through remote areas of the Ute reservation, collecting samples from streams, creeks, and rivers. She spent her days crisscrossing remote backcountry, territory closed to visitors and rarely traveled even by locals. It’s the kind of place where, if you got in trouble, you were on your own.

On a clear, cold morning in late December, Yellowtail pulled her pickup over to the side of a little-used dirt double-track, a few yards from a simple truss bridge that spanned a creek. As she collected her gear, she heard a high-pitched scream. Probably a coyote killing a rabbit, she thought. She clambered down two steep embankments to the water’s edge. Wading to the far side of the creek, she stooped to stretch her tape measure the width of the flow. Just then she heard a rustling and looked up. At the top of the bank, not 30 feet away, stood a mountain lion. Tawny against the brown leaves of the riverbank brush, the animal was almost perfectly camouflaged. It stared down at her, motionless.

She stood stock-still.  (more…)

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US Cleared for Giving Guatemalans Syphilis

syphilis postcard 450x301 US Cleared for Giving Guatemalans Syphilis

Not pictured: syphilis, because we love you. Link goes to printable syphilis awareness promo stuff, which is actually kind of cool if you’re into syphilis awareness. We totally are, obviously. (img by CATIE)

tl;dr holy shit we gave a bunch of Guatemalans the siph, and it was legal!

@Courthouse News:

The United States has immunity from a class action related to the gov’t-led infection of hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis, a federal judge ruled, calling the study “a deeply troubling chapter in our nation’s history.”

During the 40 years that the Venereal Disease Research Laboratory within the U.S. Public Health Service conducted limited experiments on black men already infected with syphilis in Tuskegee, Ala., it also secretly infected other human subjects. The agency set its sights on Guatemala after unsuccessfully trying to infect prisoners at a Terre Haute, Ind., federal penitentiary with gonorrhea, according to the March 2011complaint.

A Presidential Commission of the Study of Bioethical Issues, convened by President Barack Obama in 2010, confirmed these claims. (more…)

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Hundreds of pet owls abandoned after Harry Potter craze fades


Hundreds of owls are being abandoned across the country after being bought as pets by Harry Potter fans.

Sanctuaries are full of the birds now the craze has faded after the release of the final Harry Potter film last year.

And it’s feared many more have been illegally released into the wild and will have starved to death or taken over territory inhabited by smaller wild owls.

There was a surge in demand for pet owls from fans who fell in love with Harry’s cute companion ­Hedwig. (more…)

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Swedish zoo worker killed in wolf attack

2058338197 66821ebad7 o Swedish zoo worker killed in wolf attack

Han on, I still hal so zookeepr stu in my toof… (img by SiSter PhotograPher)


A woman zookeeper died after she was savaged in a wolf enclosure, Swedish public radio said Sunday.

The 30-year-old woman was alone with eight wolves at Kolmarden Zoo, one of the largest in northern Europe, when the incident happened but it was unclear what led up to the deadly mauling, the radio network said.

The wolf enclosure is well known because the zoo allows visitors into the area to pet the animals.

“Such an event is very rare, but it can happen. Animals living in zoos aren’t afraid of humans and accidents can happen,” wolf expert Olof Lidberg, told Swedish press agency TT.

Really? Really?

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