Apparently, some segments of the media are just catching up to The Great Duck Penis Meme of 2007
and the video-enhanced version from 2009
. If you've somehow managed to erase this from your memory (and lucky you), it turns out that duck penises are pretty freaky looking and can teach us a lot about how evolution works. Like a lot of basic research — the stuff that isn't directly about creating new products — duck penis studies have been funded by federal science grants. And this has put science writer Carl Zimmer in the awkward position of sticking up for duck erections
. In a great piece at The Loom, he explains why silly-sounding research matters and why duck penises are not a waste of your tax dollars. — Maggie
Reader iainmclean works in research and development, which means iainmclean reads a lot of patent-ese. Via the new, awesomer Submitterator, iainmclean sent us an excellent example of how the language used in a patent application can make it very difficult to tell what, exactly, is being patented.
Here's how the game is played. First, read the paragraph below:
An apparatus, comprising: a flexible elongate member that defines at least one lumen and is configured to be inserted within a body passageway of a patient, wherein the flexible elongate member includes a proximal portion, a distal portion, and a medial portion disposed between the proximal portion and the distal portion, and wherein the distal portion is movable between a substantially linear configuration and a curved configuration; and a stiffening member coupled to the flexible elongate member, the stiffening member being movable to a selected location along a length of the flexible elongate member to modify the flexibility of the selected location of the flexible elongate member, and wherein the stiffening member includes a first portion and a second portion, the first portion having a first stiffness and the second portion having a second stiffness different than the first stiffness.
Next, check out the attached image and see if it matches up with what you imagined. Hint: The image is much more safe for work than I guessed it would be.