Breathing: A Sigh of Relief (medical report)

December 3rd, 2018

A cough led to a cast—a bronchial cast—for (or rather from) the patient described in this medical report.

Cast of the Right Bronchial Tree,” Gavitt A. Woodard and Georg M. Wieselthaler, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 379, November 29, 2018, p. 2151. (Thanks to Emily Willingham for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of California, San Francisco, explain:

“A 36-year-old man was admitted to the intensive care unit with an acute exacerbation of chronic heart failure. His medical history included heart failure with an ejection fraction of 20%, bioprosthetic aortic-valve replacement for bicuspid aortic stenosis, endovascular stenting of an aortic aneurysm, and placement of a permanent pacemaker for complete heart block. An Impella ventricular assist device was placed for management of acute heart failure, and a continuous heparin infusion was initiated for systemic anticoagulation. During the next week, the patient had episodes of small-volume hemoptysis, increasing respiratory distress, and increasing use of supplemental oxygen (up to 20 liters delivered through a high-flow nasal cannula). During an extreme bout of coughing, the patient spontaneously expectorated an intact cast of the right bronchial tree.”

The relief did not last long. The patient died a week later.

Why don’t ice skaters get swollen hands? An hypothesis

December 3rd, 2018

If you were to take part in a prolonged inline roller-skate street journey involving the rhythmic swaying and waving of your outstretched arms in a circular arc, you might end up suffering from oedema (a.k.a. edema). As did Doctor Sody Naimer [pictured] of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Neve Dekalim, Goosh Katif, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. 

Leading the doctor to wonder, en passant, why ice skaters – who are also prone to a lot of arm rotation – don’t as a rule seem to get oedema as a result. His hypothesis is :

“Possible reasons why this problem does not occur during ice skating are the fact that long distances without any stops are uncommon and the cold environment may provide protection through peripheral vasoconstriction.”

See: Centripetal skater’s manual oedema, British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol 36, issue 4.

“This question may be found in the weak chicken robot”

December 2nd, 2018

“The imagination in the Japanese head is really infinite. The Japanese have won awards for 12 consecutive years from the Ig Nobel Prize, which was founded in 1991. They are also the largest winners after the United Kingdom and the United States. The country, why is it that in such a seemingly orderly and somewhat boring nationality, how can these Japanese people have such ‘abnormal’ thoughts? This question may be found in the weak chicken robot made by a university professor….”

Joel Fukuzawa writes this, and related thoughts, in an article in Medium.

Dickey’s gander at a quibble about pitch: 432 Hz for orchestras?

November 30th, 2018

Colin Dicky takes a gander at a cocked quibble, in the essay “Pitch Battles—HOW A PARANOID FRINGE GROUP MADE MUSICAL TUNING AN INTERNATIONAL ISSUE“:

“In 1988, more than a dozen of opera’s greatest superstars—including Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and Birgit Nilsson [pictured here]—added their names to a petition before the Italian government, asking it to lower the standard pitch at which all orchestras are tuned. At the time, international standard pitch was set at 440 Hz, which is to say that the A above middle C should be tuned to resonate at 440 cycles per second. The petition asked the government to lower this to 432 Hz, claiming that “the continual raising of pitch for orchestras provokes serious damage to singers, who are forced to adapt to different tunings from one concert hall or opera to the next,” and that “the high standard pitch is one of the main reasons for the crisis in singing, that has given rise to ‘hybrid’ voices unable to perform the repertoire assigned to them….”

Here’s more detail (from the Schiller Institute) about the petition, with added commentary that says:

“This campaign had been originally inspired by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. [pictured here], whose collaborators uncovered the historical evidence that Giuseppe Verdi, Italy’s great composer and nation-builder, had successfully battled to impose a diapason of A=432, based on Middle C=256, as the official tuning of the Italian armed forces in 1884.”

Here’s a video that’s mostly audio, of an orchestra tuning up—trying to become in pitch. See if you can hear what pitch—exactly what pitch—they are trying to attain:

A news dump, about taking a dump: The Stool Stool

November 30th, 2018

Alex Blasdel, writing in The Guardian, waxes eloquent about methods old and new: “Bowel movement: the push to change the way you poo— Are you sitting comfortably? Many people are not – and they insist that the way we’ve been going to the toilet is all wrong.” Blasdel describes in depth the commercial rise of a simple product:

The Squatty Potty is a wildly popular seven-inch-high plastic stool, designed by a devout Mormon and her son, which curves around the base of your loo. By propping your feet on it while you crap, you raise your knees above your hips. From this semi-squat position, the centuries-old seated toilet is transformed into something more primordial, like a hole in the ground.

The Blonsky centrifugal birthing device

The family that makes the Squatty Potty says this posture unfurls your colon and gives your faecal matter a clear run from your gut to the bowl, reducing bloating, constipation and the straining that causes haemorrhoids.

The logic behind this invention—the inventor named it the “Squatty Potty”, but let’s call it “the Stool Stool”—is reminiscent of the logic that led to the Blonsky centrifugal birthing device. The idea, in each case, is that:

  1. ancient people learned a biologically-best way; but, but, butt…
  2. civilized, modern people have forgotten what works optimally, and now do things unnaturally.

Blasdel’s essay celebrates not only the stool stool, but especially the video ad that popularized the product:

BONUS (only tangentially related): The power of a name: Dr. Shit Fun Chew. Related to this is what may be the quintessential Twitter tweet.

BONUS (not even tangentially related): The four-legged Periodic Table Table


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