Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Medical assessment of comedians poking each other in the eye

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

poke_aIn many old movies, slapstick comedians would poke other comedians in the eye. A Dutch medical team, writing in a Scottish medical journal, calculated the physical damage this would have done if the eye-poking had been real eye-poking, not just pretend, poking-fun poking:

Eye trauma in Laurel and Hardy movies – another nice mess,” Lara D.A. Zegers and Richard H.C. Zegers, Scottish Medical Journal, epub November 17, 2016. The authors are respectively at Gerrit Rietveld College in Utrecht, and Diakonessenhuis Utrecht/Zeist. They explain:

One of the characteristics in Laurel and Hardy films is a lot of physical violence. The present study examines the occurrence of eye trauma in Laurel and Hardy movies and discusses the impact they could have been had if the films were set in reality.

All 92 movies starring Laurel and Hardy as a pair in leading roles were watched together by the authors and were scored for any eye trauma. Eighty-eight eye traumas happened, of which 48% were directed at Hardy. The eye poke was the most frequently occurring eye trauma and the traumatic corneal abrasion was very likely the most frequently occurring injury. Among the most serious causes of eye trauma were the pin of a door handle, a stick, a champagne cork, a tree branch and tacks.

Conclusion: Without a doubt, if their films had been reality, especially Hardy but also Laurel and several other people, would have suffered from serious eye injuries caused by the 88 eye traumas.

Here are Laurel and Hardy performing in the eye-opening film called “Hog Wild”:

RTV Utrecht wrote up an appreciation of the medical team: “Utrechtse oogarts onderzoekt de dikke en de dunne“.

Poo: It came from the Bishop

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Danes identify Aalborg bishop’s 300-year-old poo” is the BBC News headline. The report begins:


A lump of faeces stored in the back of a Danish museum has been traced back to a bishop who lived in the city of Aalborg at the end of the 17th Century.

Researchers discovered the lump in a broken bottle. Analysis revealed remnants of an exotic diet of fig, grapes, pepper and buckwheat.

The faeces were found when the old bishop’s manor was excavated in 1937.

The team then decided it had belonged to Bishop Jens Bircherod, from an island whose residents ate buckwheat.

“It all fits nicely with the bishop who lived in that house from 1694 to 1708,” says Jette Linaa, from Moesgaard Museum in the Danish city of Aarhus….

(Thanks to Jonathan Fisk for bringing this to our attention.)

Museums are good places to view treasures that come from bishops. The Hunterian Museum, in London, proudly displays the rectum of the Bishop of Durham. We discussed this in a report in The Guardian.

The importance of dung, to an eventual writing career

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Gorilla dung matters. This came to mind today, when I saw the news about a particular gorilla: “Famous Dian Fossey Gorilla Presumed Dead at 38“. 

In ninth grade biology class, I wrote a report about a book about gorillas and about Dian Fossey and other scientists who studied those gorillas.

Being a ninth grader, I was impressed at how dung had played such a central role in Fossey’s work and in the book, so that was a major theme in my book report.

The teacher, who I now realize was probably not the very best teacher, gave me an F (the lowest possible grade — F for failure, or flunk, or whatever) because, she said, I had concocted the facts. The book could not have said what I said it said, she said. When I then brought the book to her, she refused to look at it. 


The most famous book about Dian Fossey, one she wrote herself. This is not the book that got me into minor trouble.

(This was a “choose a book, read it, and write a report about it” assignment. I no longer remember the name of the book. Fossey later wrote a book called Gorillas in the Midst, which became very well known and was made into a movie that became even better known.)

I did not realize that, in a way, this foreshadowed my eventual career (writing about things that make people laugh, then think). When I write about something that seems “unbelievable”, I usually include citations or links, so that people can go see for themselves. But some people already know what they think about a thing, before they know anything about it.

Gorilla dung continued, and continues, to inform and fascinate some of the scientists who study gorillas. Here’s one of many gorilla-dung-centric studies. I rather hope it will get some current ninth grade student into trouble:

Using Dung to Estimate Gorilla Density: Modeling Dung Production Rate,” Angelique F. Todd, Hjalmar S. Kuehl, Chloé Cipolletta, and Peter D. Walsh, International Journal of Primatology, vol. 29, 2008, pp. 549-563.

Show this — “Bullshit” — to two friends…

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

In this short video, Harry Frankfurt tells you what bullshit is, and how to recognize it.

If you want to do some genuine good for the world: show the video to two friends, and ask each of them to show it to two friends.

Report of the scientific investigation: Can farts be lit on fire by a laser?

Friday, November 4th, 2016

There was indeed a scientific investigation after the (widely reported) fire that ignited during a patient’s cervical conization procedure at the University of Tokyo Hospital, causing “a wide range of burns [to the] thighs [and] rear” to the patient. That scientific report is lavishly illustrated with photographs.

To determine whether the accident could have been caused by an ill-timed fart from the patient combined with a high power laser — rather than negligence by the doctors or equipment failure — researchers conducted tests, then issued a report.

After reviewing the surgery video and testimony of the surgeon, it was clear that the fire did not start on any coverings or drapes the patient had on, nor on any alcohol based antiseptic. This left but one option for the researchers: recreate the conditions using a “test doll”, laser, and bucket of lean beef with intestinal gasses.

Seen here, the test doll and laser

Shown here, from top left to bottom left, test smoke leaving from below, and getting sucked into the test doll vagina.A potential problem with the fart lighting hypothesis was figuring out how the fart could have gotten to the vaginal area, since intestinal gases are released by the butt, located on the opposite side of the surgical field. The scientists set up the test doll in a position to replicate the event, and used a test gas to track the direction the fart may have flowed in. By following smoke fumes fed through a tube, as seen in the pictures here starting from the top going down, it could be shown that gasses emitted from the rear could get sucked up towards the vagina. It is thought that this trapped intestinal gas (the patient’s fart) could begin the combustion process once the energy from the laser interacted with the flesh and gas.

To add even more fiber to the experiment, the researchers took lean beef, placed the lean beef in a bucket, and filled that bucket with intestinal gasses of various concentrations. By firing a laser at the lean beef, a very small explosion could ignite the experimental farts, as shown below.


The researches conclude that: (1) farts can be lit on fire by using a laser, and that (2) those farts could possibly be lit on fire if those farts are sucked into a vagina while a laser is aimed at that vagina.

BONUS: A music video that perhaps expresses the doctors’ reaction when the incident occurred:
“We Didn’t Start The Fire”, by Billy Joel:

BONUS (distantly related topic): Someone’s video explanation of a different way to light a fart (using a lighter):

BONUS (extension of that distantly related topic): Fart lighting compilation: