I missed this Ask Me Anything when it was live back in February, but it's definitely worth going back and reading. It features Eva Mozes Kor
, who was chosen at age 10, along with her twin sister, for experiments performed by Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. Really an amazing AMA. — Maggie
Arunachalam Muruganantham is an inventor who came up with a way to make sanitary pads available to women in rural India (and give local village women a source income in the process). We take them for granted in the West, but pads can be life-saving, writes Emily Bazelon at Slate. That's because without sanitary pads, women use whatever absorbent material they have handy and they don't often have a great way to disinfect that material when they reuse it.
Muruganantham's story of invention took more than four years and, at one point, got him branded as a pervert when neighbors caught him wandering around the village with a football bladder full of goat's blood under his clothes (part of an attempt to test the absorption rate of different materials).
You can read about him on Slate, or watch him tell his own tale in a talk at TEDxBangalore. Here, truly, is a man with a good attitude towards menstruation.
If a paleontologist breaks her leg three days' travel from the nearest hospital, what happens? One thing she might do is call Matt Lewin — a doctor who specializes in treating scientists who get sick or injured in the field. He's the subject of a profile in the latest issue of Discover magazine
. Sadly, the full story is only available in print, but it's a fascinating topic and a job I'd never really given much thought to before, so I wanted to share it. — Maggie
From the journal Science China: Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy, February 2014.
The CIA did not invent the concept of coming up with ludicrous, flaw-filled ways to kill someone. Around 1530, artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne wrote a treatise on gunpowder-enhanced warfare that featured suggestions for (and illustrations of) bombs and rockets carried on the backs of birds or cats. Scholars generally agree none of these ideas ever came to fruition. If, for no other reason, than an animal-carried bomb is liable to set your own camp on fire, rather than that of the enemy.
From the Helm document: "Create a small sack like a fire-arrow. If you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."
Robotic, Department-of-Defense funded, and power performance enhanced — high-tech replacement limbs make for great photos and video clips. And the people who wear them — often veterans, or well-off patients going through an inspirational recovery after an eye-popping accident — make for great media storytelling. But those stories don't represent the vast majority of amputees, writes Rose Eveleth at NOVA Next, and the high-tech prosthetics that get all the attention aren't always the best option to meet everyday needs.
In one study that explored the needs of amputee farmers, the researchers interviewed a man who was given a myoelectric arm—something that is not only expensive, but also completely unsuited for farm work. Myoelectric devices cannot get wet or dirty, two things that are nearly guaranteed during a day of farming. The farmer in question simply kept the arm in his closet—a $100,000 device sitting there gathering dust.Radocy’s body-powered hand can outperform even the most advanced myoelectric hands. It’s not just farmers for whom specialty electric devices aren’t quite right either. When it comes to everyday users, myoelectric arms or microprocessor knees, for all their amazing technology, are sometimes not the best option. Radocy, an upper limb amputee, is an advocate for what are called body-powered prostheses. Rather than being controlled by a computer or sensors, a body-powered arm is far more like a series of bicycle brakes—the arm is strapped to the users body, and connected to a series of cables. By twisting his body one way or another, Radocy can open and close his hand. The system may seem low-tech, but Radocy argues that when it comes to performance, his body-powered hand can outperform even the most advanced myoelectric hands.
Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, is offering a Summer biology field research program
designed for a diverse mix of able-bodied students and students with ambulatory disabilities. Eight students will spend a month in the trees, studying water bears and learning that being in a wheelchair doesn't have to be an impediment to doing biological field research. — Maggie
Science journalist Colin Schultz writes about how boys who know next to nothing about menstruation become men who are uncomfortable with and/or dismissive about the normal bodily functions of their friends, lovers, and wives ... and why that's a problem education can solve. — Maggie
The Guardian reports
that the Phillips Island Penguin Foundation in Australia is asking volunteers to knit sweaters for penguins being rehabilitated after oil spills. Back in 2011, Dean wrote here
about a similar request. The catch: That earlier plea for penguin sweaters (in fact, every
earlier plea for penguin sweaters) has produced far, far more penguin sweaters than penguins actually need. For instance, in 2000, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust requested 100 sweaters and received 15,000
. Yes, penguins wearing sweaters are cute, but it may be a good idea to contact the Phillips Island Penguin Foundation
you get started knitting. — Maggie
It's not an exercise bike for your nose. Instead, the nasal cycle is the biological cycle that automatically switches the bulk of your breathing from one nostril to another throughout the course of the day. It's the reason why you usually feel more stuffed up on one side when you have a cold but, as Matt Soniak explains at mental_floss, it's got some benefits, too.
One, it makes our sense of smell more complete. Different scent molecules degrade at different rates, and our scent receptors pick up on them accordingly. Some smells are easier to detect and process in a fast-moving airstream like the decongested nostril, while others are better detected in the slower airstream of the congested nostril. Nasal cycling also seems to keep the nose maintained for its function as an air filter and humidifier. The alternating congestion gives the mucous and cilia (the tiny hairs up in your nose) in each nostril a well-deserved break from the onslaught of air and prevents the insides of your nostrils from drying out, cracking and bleeding.
Image: Some rights reserved by sapienssolutions
For the first time, some researchers studied the long-term impacts of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding in American children by comparing breastfed vs. formula fed siblings — a distinction meant to help distinguish the effects of breastfeeding from the effects of, say, family education levels, social dynamics, and income. It's a really interesting study, though not without its own flaws, so it's worth reading both this Slate piece by Jessica Gross and a rebuttal of that piece posted on the Mammals Suck blog by anthropologist Melanie Martin.
I think Martin's rebuttal makes some good points — particularly pointing out that it would be more interesting, and important, for research to focus on really understanding what breastmilk is made of and what the different components do. That research could not only give us a better starting point for knowing what differences we should and shouldn't expect to see between breastfed and formula fed kids, it would also put us in a better position to create better formula.
That said, I did think one of the arguments made in the Mammals Suck piece was kind of off.
Read the rest
Apply by April 11 to be one of the 54 lucky/gifted high school juniors and seniors chosen to attend the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Disease Detective Camp
this summer. There are two week-long sessions of the day camp, both of which give kids hands-on exposure to public health and epidemiology. Freaking. Awesome. Application details are in the FAQ
. — Maggie
An interesting look at how political tensions on Earth affect relationships on the International Space Station
. Spoiler: They officially do not have any effect and there's a long history of compartmentalizing what happens on the planet from what happens in space. — Maggie
This story about the recent loss of a millions-of-years-old dinosaur footprint
uses the word "vandals" to describe the criminals, but I think that's misleading. Yes, the perpetrators destroyed the footprint, but they did so accidentally in the process of trying to steal a piece of public, shared natural history to sell on the private market. It seems like "fossil poachers" might be a better label for what's going on and what the Bureau of Land Management is trying to fight. — Maggie