Boing Boing 

Epic dumps, recalled

A Reddit thread called "Did you ever think you were going to die from a shit?" sparked a lyrical/scatological series of reminisces of epic dumps, including a two part series by ErikPDX recalling a storied moment of colonic glory following a period of post-surgical bedrest during which he consumed enormous amounts of painkillers and protein shakes without bestirring himself to relieve himself, until such time as his body could stand no more. Mr PDX included a picture of the result. I beg you not to click the link in his post which leads to it.

My entire body tingled. I felt lighter. I was covered in sweat, and breathing heavily. I felt high, delirious, in shock and awe. Great waves of increasing euphoria washed over me. Feelings of amazing pleasure I simply cannot describe. I felt as if I was bathing in a golden light of goodness. This was a transcending event. I felt like I had just touched the universe itself.

Did you ever think you were going to die from a shit? (self.AskReddit)

Zookeeper reportedly licks baby monkey's anus for over an hour

A rather implausible report in Chinasmack (translated from the Chinese journal 163) says that a zookeeper saved a rare, born-in-captivity baby Francois Leaf Monkey from surgery by licking its anus until it passed the whole peanut it ate after a thoughtless patron tossed it to him. Reportedly, the anus-licking proceeded for over an hour.

50-year-old Zhang Bangsheng used warm water to clean a small Francois’ Leaf Monkey’s buttocks, then began using his mouth to lick it, not stopping for over an hour, until the little monkey defecated a single peanut. Only after the peanut was defecated did Zhang Bangsheng laugh with satisfaction.

As it is understood, this small Francois’ langur is only 3 months old, and is the first Francois’ Leaf Monkey to be born in nearly 10 years at this animal park. The Francois’ langur is a rare primate from Guangxi and Guizhou and is amongst the nation’s most protected animals. Because it is so precious, the zoo gave it to model worker and high-level expert Zhang Bangsheng to care for and raise.

The accompanying photo is rather ambiguous.

Zoo Caretaker Licks Monkey’s Butt To Help It Defecate (via JWZ)

How to: Make a unicorn

At Popperfont, the great David Ng discusses the biological and/or evolutionary steps necessary to produce a theoretical real-life unicorn. I find it delightfully ironic that his first possible route involves something that, if I were to show you pictures of it*, you would probably request a unicorn chaser.

Basically, some kinds of tumors can produce little horn-like protrusions from the surface of the skin. (Sometimes these tumors are malignant, sometimes not.) If the tumor formed right in the middle of a horse's forehead ... et voila! You've got a unicorn.

This is not as unlikely as it sounds, by the way. The Mutter Museum has a wax model of the head of a French woman, Madame Dimanche, who had one of these tumor horns removed from the middle of her forehead when she was 82 years old. This happened sometime around the beginning of the 19th century. At the time of removal, the horn was 9.8 inches long.

And, yes, this would be roughly the same way that you get a jackalope.

Read David Ng's full discussion of several possible ways to produce a real-life unicorn

*Needless to say, all links shall be followed at the viewer's own risk. I am not responsible for lost appetites.

Image: Unicorn, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from robboudon's photostream

Tokyo reporter orders 2.7kg bacon Whopper with 1050 slices of bacon


When the Tokyo Burger King stores announced a "15 strips of bacon on your burger for ¥100 (~$1.25)" promotion, Mr Sato, a reporter for Rocket News 24 ordered 105 slices of bacon on his burger. Apparently, Mr Sato ate the "grotesque agglomeration of ketchup-soaked meat about 3 times the size of the regular whopper" and then rushed home to recuperate.

To see how far they could push it, the newsroom sent Mr Sato back to order a burger with 1,050 slices of bacon. 2 hours later, the 2.7kg treat was presented to him, with an estimated caloric load of 14,300.

Before going to work on the burger, Mr. Sato once again began his primal ritual of psyching himself up, shouting: “This is what real hamburger lovers eat! 10 strips? 100 strips? Like that’s enough! A real man needs 1050 strips of bacon!”

Mr. Sato then plunges his face into the top of the burger, holding on to the top bun and a layer of bacon below the beef patty for support. Eventually he runs out of burger to supplement his bacon and simply begins stuffing bacon into his mouth by the fistful, all the while ranting: “Delicious! This is what meat is all about! This is the taste of a real hamburger!”

But you’re only eating bacon…

In any case, thanks to Mr. Sato’s gluttony, we have learned that there is seemingly no limit to the amount of bacon you can add to a Whopper. Or maybe it’s because this is Japan and they’re just that dedicated to their customers; we’re not sure if we could walk into a Burger King in America and expect the same level of service…

Burger King Japan Offering 15 Bacon Strips for $1 So We Order Whopper With 105 Bacon Strips

We Order Whopper With 1050 Bacon Strips, Struggle to Level Comically Huge Burger

(via Geekologie)

On the history of books bound in human flesh

From "the chirurgeon's apprentice," a fascinating and squick-inducing blog/website devoted to chronicling "the horrors of pre-anaesthetic surgery," an entry about the history of books bound in tanned human skin. Snip from details about the image shown above:

And then there were books which claimed to be made from the human flesh but were, in fact, not. One example comes from the Wellcome Collection in London [left]. It is a curious little notebook which professes to be ‘made of Tanned skin of the Negro whose Execution caused the War of Independence’. Presumably, this refers to Crispus Attucks, a dockworker of Wampanoag who was the first person killed by the British during the Boston Massacre. Immediately following his death, Attucks was held up as an American martyr. As a consequence of its alleged origins, this notebook has become a symbol of the American Revolution.

More. And if you enjoy tweets about 17th-century surgery, you'll want to follow Lindsey Fitzharris, the medical historian behind the "Chirurgeon’s Apprentice" website. (via Vaughan Bell)

Taste-test: 22-year-old Batman cereal


FoodJunk, whose blog details the flavors and sensations to be had from junk food, bought a 22-year-old unopened package of Batman cereal on eBay and tried it. The results weren't good. Bad news for anyone with a superhero-themed apocalypse stockpile, and something to remember for the next time you're telling a story about someone poking through the rubble of a fallen civilization for scraps and happening upon a mint-in-package box of sugary cereal.

I was hoping for some kind of honey nut aroma remnants upon opening the bag. Sadly, the villain in this issue is The Plastic. He has taken over virtually all of Gotham. The thick plastic inner bag held up perfectly (take that Earth!) and did a great job of keeping the cereal dry and crisp, but the air inside was thick with chemicals. And not the kind that would put a cool maniacal smile on your face.

The Plastic co-opted the cereal’s taste as well. It laid waste to all of the little yellow multigrain bat symbols.

You can taste the sweetness, but the original honey nut flavor is barely recognizable. It’s there, but it’s not worth diving into this vat of toxins to get to. The plastic tang is quite powerful and lingered in my mouth for quite a while until I was able to defeat it with a little help from the always helpful sidekick, A Spoonful of Peanut Butter (Jif Wonder?).

I added a little milk and things only got worse. Giving The Plastic a liquid assault vehicle with which to wreak havoc was a bad idea. It sort of felt like suckling on the end of a caulking gun. I stopped after a few bites, as I was convinced I could feel the bat days being torn from the end of my bat life.

22-Year-Old Batman Cereal: A Review

Pink slime in the context of history

I haven't written much about pink slime—that creamy mixture of meat and animal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of industrial meat processing.

Most of what's being written about this lately comes from a place of outrage. And I'm really not sure I can get outraged about pink slime. Why not? After all, we're talking about a finely ground goo made up of trimmings, tallow, connective tissue, intestinal linings, and other gross-sounding stuff. They make this goo out of leftover cow parts and then, sneakily, they mix it into regular old ground beef. Plus, it's treated with ammonia first, to kill off any bacteria. Clearly, all of this is bad.

Or, maybe not.

There are some legit critiques here. I need to learn a little more about the specific ammonia treatment process before I can really comment on that. And because pink slime comes from industrially raised cattle and ends up in hamburgers, it's a part of some systems that aren't functioning very well or very sustainably.

That said, the actual existence of pink slime—in and of itself—is not something I find offensive. In fact, I think it's a good thing. If I talked about humans who use every part of the animals they kill, you'd probably assume I was talking about some 19th-century plains tribe of Native Americans, or an off-the-grid farm family. But that virtue is something that's true of industrial meat processing, as well. Given the massive amounts of energy it takes to raise a cow, I'd rather have us use all the cow, rather than waste the gross parts. And, when it comes down to it, I'm not convinced that pink slime is any more gross than, say, what goes on in 3/4 of French Provencal cooking. Or authentic Chinese cuisine. Or, really, any cooking tradition that hasn't bought into the uniquely American belief that only the nicest parts of the muscle are edible and everything else is gross and unsanitary.

Historian Maureen Ogle has a similar perspective. At her blog, she talks about the history of meat consumption and why pink slime made its way into our food supply to begin with.

In the BEEF industry, its use dates back to the mid-1970s, although poultry and fish processors were already using the technique. Beef packers began using in the in mid-seventies because, at the time, all meat prices, but especially beef, were in the stratosphere. A host of factors pushed those prices up (you can read all about this in Chapter Five of my forthcoming --- 2013 --- book Meat: An American History), including a global food famine, inflation, rising fuel costs, unemployment, etc.

Meatpackers were having a tough time turning out meat products at a price consumers would pay. Consumers were outraged; they organized boycotts; the White House imposed price controls. Etc. (Five years of research for this new book taught me one thing: American consumers demand cheap food, and especially cheap meat, and when they don’t get it, there’s hell to pay.)

So pushed by consumers on one side, and soaring costs on the other, meatpackers asked for, and got, permission from the USDA to use a “mechanical deboning” process that allowed them scrape meat off carcasses so that what had been waste could be eaten.

...Only someone who has never wanted for food would equate "pink slime" with dog food. Only in the extraordinarily affluent U.S. would people attack an industry for trying to make use of rather than waste food.

Read Maureen Ogle on the history of pink slime in our food supply.

Read Maureen Ogle on gross food, and decontamination of food.

UPDATE: The picture that was on this story wasn't actually pink slime. My apologies for grabbing a photo that I should have known didn't make sense. I've replaced it now with a photo from Reuters of the real pink slime.

IMAGE: The beef product known as pink slime or lean finely textured beef is frozen on large drums as part of the manufacturing process at the Beef Products Inc. plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska March 29, 2012. The governors of Iowa, Texas and Kansas and lieutenant governors of Nebraska and South Dakota toured the plant to show their support for the company and the several thousand jobs it creates in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas. REUTERS/Nati Harnik/Pool

Ride out the apocalypse with tinned sammiches

Why would you buy a Candwich-brand sandwich in a can? Helpfully, the site lists three value propositions: "Healthy fast food," "Great for vending," and, of course, "Disaster preparedness."

With an extended shelf-life, Candwich™ is ideal for emergency food storage needs in the event of a natural disaster. Candwich™ tastes great, and because of the special Army formulated recipe, the bread stays as soft and sweet after one-year in storage as it did the day it was made (If you can ever keep them around that long)!

It comes in 24-packs, too.

Candwich - The Go Anywhere Sandwich (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Gross and tantalizing menu from the Explorer's Club dinner

Last week's 108th annual Explorer's Club dinner at NYC's Waldorf-Astoria featured the customary assortment of weird, gross and tantalizing food, starting with cow eyeball martinis (see Paul Adams's photo, below, of the eyeballs). Popular Science has the whole menu. Here's what the canapes were like:

Pineapple towers with scorpion, pea pods, strawberry slices, melon balls and green grapes

Sweet cherry peppers, cucumber flowerets and cherry tomatoes filled with assorted creamed fillings: durian paste, herbed and spiced cream cheeses, and garnished with crickets, mealworms and scorpions

Two varieties of seaweed with mild spices and olive oil

Sautéed and deep-fried earthworms

Orchids (edible) with a honey-sweetened creamed dipping sauce

Chon and Kopi Luwak coffees, made from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of small mammals

A Taste of Exotic Meats at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner (via JWZ)

HOWTO mix a grody-looking Alien Brain Hemorrhage cocktail


This revolting thing is a cocktail called an "Alien Brain Hemorrhage": "To make an alien brain hemorrhage cocktail, fill a shot glass halfway with peach schnapps. Gently pour Bailey's Irish Cream on top. After the shot is almost full, carefully add a small amount of blue curacao. After it settles, add a few drops of grenadine syrup." Looks like it could be improved with a couple lumps of dry ice.

Alien Brain Hemorrhage Cocktail Recipe 2012 Drink Pic (via Neatorama)

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": Where exhibits come from

Earlier this week, I challenged readers to send me photos of their favorite museum exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. Over the next few days, I'll be posting some of these submissions, under the heading, "My Favorite Museum Exhibit". Want to see them all? Check the "Previously" links at the bottom of this post.

This is actually a behind-the-scenes thing, submitted by Larry Clark, an editor at Washington State University's magazine. Clark made some videos about how curators at WSU’s Conner Museum prepare specimens for display.

In this video, curator Kelly Cassidy prepares a screech owl specimen. It is worth noting that this process involves flesh-eating beetles. Yes. Really.

Previously in this series:



"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": Two nuclear bombs, slightly dented

NSFA: extracting a gauze-pack from a broken nose

Don't click this if you're at all squeamish, but there's something terrific (in ever sense) about the extraction of a gauze-pack from a healing broken nose, like watching a kind of horrible stillborn mouse being birthed from a cringing man's sinus cavity. (Thanks Fipi Lele!)

What is snot? And why do some people eat it?

 

The Stranger's "Ask Science" column offers a detailed explanation of just what, exactly, boogers are. It is simultaneously gross and mesmerizing:

Mucus, chemically, is quite fascinating. Sugar chains are attached to a protein backbone in mucus cells, with the contraption released out into the open. These glycoprotein molecules rapidly and aggressively suck up water until they are plump, slick, and slimy. To an invader, this is a nightmare to navigate: tangled chains of protein and sugar, with every nook and cranny crammed with water molecules. (Boogers are when these chains become ever more tangled, finally resulting in a rubbery ball of partially dried-out snot. Neat!) The body adds antimicrobial enzymes to this mix, which digest the invading organisms as they slowly attempt to chew through this barrier and reach the thin underlying lining of cells.

Which reminds me: Over the years, I've stumbled across some interesting discussions about whether picking your nose and/or eating boogers is a psychological or biological phenomenon. That is, when people do this, does it reflect some kind of psychological or socio-cultural issue; or is there a biological reason why booger-eating could be beneficial? 

The truth is, there's not been a great deal of research done on this subject, at least from the biology angle. We know about booger-eating as a function of human behavioral development. There's been some research into it from the perspective of evolutionary psychology (i.e., why do people think this is gross?). But analysis of whether or not there is a biological reason people engage in booger eating has been lacking. Perhaps unsurprisingly. It would be interesting to see the responses you'd get if you tried to recruit volunteers for that study. Especially considering the fact that, as I think about it, you'd probably want your test subjects to eat both their own boogers, and those of other people, to see whether that had any impact on any presumed immune system response. 

But I digress. If you are not totally grossed out yet, I'd recommend reading "Eating Snot – Socially Unacceptable but Common: Why?", a chapter in the book Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice. You can read most of that chapter on Google Books. Author Maria Jesus Portalatin focuses mainly on the better documented socio-cultural implications, but gets into a bit of the biology. One thing she points out, nasal mucus is about 95% water, so there's a possibility that you might expect more mucus eating in arid places. But nobody has ever done the studies necessary to test that hypothesis out. Her main hypothesis—also untested—is that eating mucus might help prime the body's immune system, allowing it to have more contact with weakened forms of potential pathogens so it can better detect and destroy those pathogens later. In other words, she thinks that eating your boogers is sort of like self-immunization.

Blame Tim Lloyd for sending me down this train of thought.

Image: BOOGER KING, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from aroundtheway's photostream

 

The problem with fecal transplants

Over the past few years, we've linked to a couple of stories about fecal transplants—a real medical procedure where doctors take a donor stool sample, dilute it, and inject it into the colon of a patient. It sounds gross. But it appears to be incredibly effective at treating certain intestinal issues.

Basically, the fecal transplant is really a bacteria transplant. A fresh set of healthy bacteria can fix problems that aren't reliably treatable any other way. On the other hand, most of this information comes from anecdotal evidence. Fecal transplants haven't gone through any large-scale, randomized clinical trials. Until that happens, most doctors won't offer the procedure and insurance won't cover it. That makes sense. We rely on clinical trials to separate treatments that work from treatments that just appear to work. The problem with fecal transplant, though, is that it doesn't fit into any of the bureaucratic categories necessary to get a trial like that approved.

Over on Scientific American, Maryn McKenna has a great feature about fecal transplants—their promise, what we don't know about them, and what's keeping them from becoming a mainstream treatment.

Marion Browning of North Providence, R.I., was at her wit’s end. The 79-year-old retired nurse had suffered from chronic diarrhea for almost a year. It began after doctors prescribed antibiotics to treat her diverticulitis, a painful infection of small pouches in the wall of the colon. The regimen also killed friendly bacteria that lived in Browning’s intestines, allowing a toxin-producing organism known as Clostridium difficile to take over and begin eating away at the entire lining of her gut ... In the fall of 2009 Browning performed the bowel-cleansing routine that precedes a colonoscopy, while her son took an overnight laxative. Kelly diluted the donation, then used colonoscopy instruments to squirt the solution high up in Browning’s large intestine. The diarrhea resolved in two days and has never recurred.

Browning is not alone in being a success story. In medical journals, about a dozen clinicians in the U.S., Europe and Australia have described performing fecal transplants on about 300 C. difficile patients so far. More than 90 percent of those patients recovered completely, an unheard-of proportion. “There is no drug, for anything, that gets to 95 percent,” Kelly says. Plus, “it is cheap and it is safe,” says Lawrence Brandt, a professor of medicine and surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who has been performing the procedure since 1999.

So far, though, fecal transplants remain a niche therapy, practiced only by gastroenterologists who work for broad-minded institutions and who have overcome the ick factor. To become widely accepted, recommended by professional societies and reimbursed by insurers, the transplants will need to be rigorously studied in a randomized clinical trial, in which people taking a treatment are assessed alongside people who are not. Kelly and several others have drafted a trial design to submit to the National Institutes of Health for grant funding. Yet an unexpected obstacle stands in their way: before the NIH approves any trial, the substance being studied must be granted “investigational” status by the Food and Drug Administration. The main categories under which the FDA considers things to be investigated are drugs, devices, and biological products such as vaccines and tissues. Feces simply do not fit into any of those categories.

Image: Toilet Roll, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from smemon's photostream

Meet the pentastome

At the Thoughtomics blog, Lucas Brouwers has a really nifty post on a recent discovery about the biology of pentastomes. What's a pentastome? Oh, I am SO glad that you asked.

Every animal has its own parasites to worry about, but canivorous reptiles and amphibians have to deal with particularly gruesome ones. They can become infected with small, worm-like creatures called pentastomes that live inside their lungs, where they suck blood from ruptured blood vessels. Reptiles pick up the parasite when they eat infected prey.

Pentastomes are true escape artists. Once they realize they’ve entered a reptile stomach, they use their sharp hooks to claw themselves a way to the victim’s lungs. In an experiment where pentastomes were implanted in a gecko’s stomach, the parasites invaded the lungs in as little as four hours.

Fun!

BTW: The image above, of a pentastome called Kiricephalus coarctatus, comes from a student page on the life and pests of the Western Cottonmouth snake. It's worth poking around that site, too.

That's Disgusting! Awesomely gross picture book

I browsed Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais’s That’s Disgusting! at the Brooklyn Book Festival last weekend, and found myself paging through simple, funny illustrations of a little girl doing absolutely gross things, like eating lollipops covered in sand.

Read the rest

Colonoscopy video (with worm)

Hey look, everybody! It's Ascaris lumbricoides! How you doin'?

Sorry. I'm so sorry. It's fascinating. But I'll find something quick to take the edge off.

Video Link