Category: Diseases, Injuries, & Other Ailments

Got Wrinkles? Smear on the Hottest New Fashion Toxin…Snake Venom!

By Douglas Main | December 14, 2011 8:54 am

Worried about wrinkles, laugh lines, or crow’s-feet adding years to your wizened countenance? Worry no longer, friend—now you can apply synthetic viper venom to your face… for a price. The product, called  Syn-Ake, contains a peptide that mimics the effects of Waglerin-1, a toxin found in the venom of the temple pit viper. It works by temporarily paralyzing facial muscles, binding to receptors (called nicotinic acetylcholine receptors) on the muscles and preventing them from being stimulated and contracting. This has the effect of reducing certain small wrinkles in the short term, according to the sole available study on Syn-Ake, performed by the company that markets it, Switzerland-based Pentapharm. And now, according to the Daily Mail, you can buy a tiny bottle of it for only $60 to gingerly bless your wrinkly visage.

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The App That Looks Both Ways for You

By Veronique Greenwood | November 30, 2011 1:50 pm

The average city street these days sports quite a number of people gazing down into their phones as they walk, unable to tear their eyes from a text or email, or gabbing away to their second cousin while checking their manicure. If you are among those who prefer to walk upright, watching for oncoming semis, you may have noticed that these people don’t look at walk signals to tell when to cross; instead, they wait until their peripheral vision picks up a phoneless pedestrian making a move for it. I am frequently in that pedestrian, and am not above making occasional false starts to watch people jerk like fish on a line. Sorry, folks.

But! A day is coming when these phone addicts may no longer need to watch you from the corner of their eyes to gauge when it’s safe to cross. Scientists at Dartmouth and University of Bologna have built an app that will alert these pedestrians when collision with an oncoming vehicle is imminent with a helpful series of vibrations and chirrups.

The app, called WalkSafe, uses the phone’s built-in camera to watch traffic and apply vision learning algorithms to identify car-like objects, going on to identify the object’s direction of movement and current speed. It can pick up cars as far away as 160 feet, and if the vehicle is moving at more than 30 mph, the phone will ring and buzz in warning.

However, the camera on the front of the phone does have to be facing traffic. If you’re gazing down into your screen to trade lulz with your bestie, even WalkSafe can’t save you.

[via Technology Review]

What Batman's Medical Case History Would Look Like

By Veronique Greenwood | November 18, 2011 12:18 pm


When you watch Batman plummet 20 stories and somehow drag himself upright, you know there’s going to be a doozy of a doctor’s visit later. And what, the curious fan might wonder, would the doctor say in the face of the massive, persistent injuries of billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne? If some GPs want to test for weird genetic diseases just on the strength of mouth dryness and occasional fatigue, who knows what they’d say to frostbite in August or bizarre allergic reactions to plants. Or rather, now we know, thanks to a physician’s case history of Patient BW over at Ordinary Gentlemen:

By far the greatest contributor to patient’s ongoing morbidity are his multiple and seemingly ceaseless musculoskeletal injuries…Patient explained most of these (and most subsequent) injuries as being the result of membership in a private and apparently quite intense mixed martial arts club.  Patient has denied being the victim of domestic abuse by Mr. Grayson following indirect and direct questioning on numerous occasions.

Patient was advised to consider recreational activities that carry less risk of ongoing physical injury, or at very least allow himself to heal fully from previous trauma before returning to participation.  Given the apparently quite aggressive tendencies of patient’s MMA club, advised him that almost any other activity he might choose is likely to confer less risk of ongoing morbidity (or even mortality).  Patient responded to this advice with his usual polite indifference…

For much (much) more (doctors take a lot of notes, man!), head over to the League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

Image courtesy of Airin / flickr

Say No to Chicken Pops—Buying Infected Lollipops Online Is Most Likely a Bad Idea

By Douglas Main | November 8, 2011 9:42 am

Don’t lie. Don’t steal. And don’t buy lollipops allegedly mouthed by infected children peddled over the internets. Apparently the third piece of advice doesn’t go without saying; parents who don’t want to give their kids vaccines in several states have turned to Facebook to find lollipops, spit, or rags from chickenpox-ridden youngsters, according to the Associated Press. Federal prosecutor Jerry Martin warns that the practice is dangerous and illegal—it’s a federal crime to ship known pathogens across state lines. It’s also likely to fail at spreading the virus since chicken pox needs to be inhaled to infect children, according to doctors, and is dangerous, since it could spread other diseases that more readily persist in saliva like hepatitis.

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From "Freedom!" to "Brains!": Shift In Zombie Narrative Reflects Zombie-fication of Society

By Douglas Main | October 28, 2011 3:01 pm

Life is pretty simple for a zombie. You just wander around and try to eat people’s brains. But it wasn’t always so. In the uncorrupted early years of zombie narratives, zombies were typically the undead slaves of voodoo priests, and their primary motivation was to cast off the yoke of dark magic and rebel against their leaders. For example, the first feature-length zombie film, White Zombie (1932), features a heroine who’s bewitched by a voodoo master (ominously named Murder). When she finally triumphs over him and he is pushed off a cliff, she reverts to her normal, non-zombie self.

No longer. Nowadays zombies have no real motivation. (When polled as to their life purpose, nine out of 10 zombies replied, “Braaaaaiiiiinnnns!!!”)

At least one researcher thinks the shift in the zombie story, beginning in the late 1960s, reflects a greater change in society. “With no voodoo master, today’s zombies have no clear controller to turn against and free themselves from,” says researcher Nick Pearce. “That means there are no effective plans for resistance and no hope for the future. Zombies may well be popular today because they speak to a similar feeling of powerlessness shared by many members of our society.” Whoa. Maybe we’re all zombies!

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Why Men Get Sick And Must Lie On The Couch Whenever The Game Is On

By Douglas Main | October 21, 2011 3:25 pm

He may be smiling, but it’s no laughing matter: he’s got the man-flu the game is on.

Either British women are, uh, kind of slow, or English guys are more persuasive than we realized. According to Reuters, a survey found that one in five British ladies believe that “man-flu” is real, a condition which leaves afflicted gentlemen laid up  on the couch watching sports. If I had known this could work, I would have caught this fictional bug long ago. This silly survey of 2,000 British adults found that many believed in a surprising amount of myths and old wive’s tales—although perhaps the “man-flu” would be better described as an “old husband’s tale.”

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Improving the Health of the Homeless—That's the Gooooooooaaaaaallll!

By Douglas Main | October 4, 2011 12:13 pm

A small study has found that homeless men in Copenhagen, Denmark, who took part in 2-3 soccer games per week for three months showed significant improvements in measures of physical health afterward compared with those who continued their normal routines. While the results aren’t exactly surprising, given the known benefits of the kind of intense physical exercise involved in soccer, they provide some hard evidence that sport can have concrete benefits for the homeless. Part of the motivation for the study was the success of the Homeless World Cup, an annual soccer tournament started eight years ago that has involved 100,000 people and participants from 64 countries around the world, according to the organization (in case you were wondering, Scotland won this year’s tourney). Men who played “street football” for 12 weeks had decreased body weight and levels of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol. The study also found the men who played soccer had an 11 percent increase in peak oxygen uptake, a good measure of overall fitness closely linked with the risk of heart disease.

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Dizzy Discus Throwers, Horny Beer-Bottle Beetles, and the Wasabi Alarm Clock: the 2011 Ig Nobels

By Veronique Greenwood | September 30, 2011 12:07 pm

Those classy folks at the Annals of Improbable Research are at it again. Last night, they announced the 2011 winners of some of the most coveted awards in science: the Ig Nobels.

You should watch last night’s ceremony in its entirety, but here are (drumroll) the winners:

After One Colon-Embedded Bread Clip Too Many, Doctors Provide Design Analysis, Call for Reform

By Veronique Greenwood | September 23, 2011 1:07 pm

bread clips

If you swallowed pony beads when you were a kid, you are not alone. So many teeny plastic dooboppies are just crying out to be ingested…and frankly, doctors are tired of all those irresponsible designs. After finding a bread clip in the colon of a patient, several docs have outlined the clips’ “evolutionary heritage” and “species” classification in a new article in BMJ Case Reports, in hopes of prompting someone, anyone, to make one that isn’t the perfect shape for lodging in the digestive nether regions.

The researchers, drawing on several members’ longstanding membership in the illustrious Holotypic Occlupanid Research Group, have given each type of bread clip a handy-dandy Latin name. The bread clip genus (?) is Occlupanidae, presumably for its occluding capabilities, while the species names refer to the relative toothiness—one-toothed, two-toothed, etc.—of the types. They also provide a detailed phylogenetic chart showing the evolution from the smooth proto-bread clip to the many-tined versions adorning our bags today. Read More

WiFi Giving You a Rash? Move to West Virginia.

By Veronique Greenwood | September 14, 2011 5:00 pm

Green Bank, WV: Home to a giant telescope and a bunch of people who think they’re allergic to electromagnetic waves.

There’s a quiet, hilly place in West Virginia that’s home to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as radio arrays belonging to Navy intelligence and, purportedly, the NSA. And in one of those weird geographic quirks that you just can’t make up, the isolated area has also attracted a band of people who are convinced that radiation from WiFi and cell phone signals, forbidden there so as not to interfere with the arrays, is giving them rashes, splitting headaches, and chronic pain that make life in the outside world unlivable. It’s there, in the National Radio Quiet Zone, that these folks can find relief.

You might think of them as the WiFi refugees.

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