peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)

A helicopter pilot here in the Northwest gets caught in thick fog. His instruments are on the fritz. He has no idea where he is. Luckily, he sees through a break in the fog an expanse of grass, and lands safely.

He is on a lawn in one of the "campuses" found in the 'burbs around here, businesses that surround themselves with lawns to avoid looking like businesses. Curious workers peek out at the pilot through their office windows. In a hurry, the pilot grabs a piece of paper and a marker and writes, "Where am I?" in the hopes that someone in the office park will give him an address so he can dead reckon his course back to the airport.

Someone does scrawl a note with an answer, but it says, "In a helicopter."

At first, he is a bit pissed, but then smiles. He gives his "helpers" thumbs up, revs the rotors, and takes off. He sets a compass course due South and manages to find Renton Airport with no problem.

When he gets to Renton, he tells them the story. They ask how he knew to plot the course without knowing where he was. "I did know where I was," he answers. "They gave me completely accurate but ultimately useless information. That's when I knew I had landed squarely in the middle of Microsoft headquarters."

I've done this before. I've read something posted by an LJ friend and found something… lacking. I did that here most recently, in response to a series [ profile] tacit was doing on GMO myths. I just re-read that response simply because [ profile] tacit has recently added to his GMO series with a post concerning Monsanto, creators of Roundup™ ready corn seed.

After reading my post again—which concerned aspects of GMO farming one might label "meta"—I realized I failed. I should not have questioned the specifics of (for example) separating farms with cows and farms without them. I should not have noted the economic impact of the new farms that do separate cows from corn.

Instead, I should have taken the tack opposite [ profile] tacit's. Instead of digging into the scientifically-relevant reasons surrounding myths about genetically modified organisms (as he did), perhaps I should focus instead on why people gravitate toward these myths.

I used to regard such people as willfully deluded for wanting a simple Good v. Evil explanation for why they don't like GMOs, and then crafting the rumors into the Myths of Evil, the "they create disease in people" and other such beliefs without evidence. I don't regard them as completely deluded, not anymore. No, I can't embrace their fallacies. Rather, I see that they are just a bit off-step on their vision quest, grasping at pieces of the world around them, frantically groping, if you will, looking for a future that, though they cannot articulate it well, "looks" right.

What looks right is difficult to explain; hence the fallacies. But what looks wrong? That is very, very easy to identify. Let's take a look at the picture I used to open this post. It's recognizable, to be sure. It's the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz meeting Dorothy. It is a movie set, to be sure. Movie set designers are probably the best people to get when you want something to look "right."

Okay, quiz time. Can you tell me specifically what in that movie set above you will not find in a "normal" farm today? Hint: think the Bible. )
peristaltor: (Orson "Approves")
Many, many years ago I noted that the hyper-sanitary paradigm of health, the mantra that Cleaner is Always Better, might be making us sicker. Specifically, researchers have been doing things that totally trigger the Icky! factor in us, notably administering feces to patients as a cure for their conditions.

I first heard about this on the Scientific American podcast Science Talk, which now seems to be transcripted. As journalist Mary McKenna explained back then on the topic of poop chute infusions to combat C diff:

It's better than any drug we have. And yet what's so interesting about it is that it works, just unquestionably works in a clinical sense—there is case series after case series that now shows this; a couple of dozen case series—but it doesn't work in a regulatory sense. It hasn't been approved by the FDA and because it hasn't been approved by the FDA, NIH can't figure out a way to fund further research, because feces are not any of the things that the FDA licenses. They're not a device, they're not a drug, they're not what we call a tissue, really—they're not something like a replacement joint or replacement tendon or the replacement lens of an eye. So they're caught in this kind of regulatory no man's land.

Well, that paradigm is happily changing, and fast!

SEATTLE — Conventional wisdom says it takes 15 years for a medical therapy, once proven safe and effective, to be widely accepted by the medical profession.

In the case of one particular treatment, however, a growing cadre of doctors and patients turned conventional wisdom on its head, enthusiastically adopting a procedure before the evidence was in — so enthusiastically, in fact, that the Food and Drug Administration was recently forced to rescind its restrictions.

The treatment, now widely employed against recurrent attacks by a nasty intestinal bug known as Clostridium difficile and tested on Crohn’s disease and colitis, is one you’ll likely never see advertised on TV: the fecal microbiota transplant, politely known as the FMT.

No more bowing to the Icky! Observation has trumped!
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)

These suckers weigh 5 kilos.

I have no way to know if this is a gag or not, but working for two decades on the waterfront where the wharf rats are legendary, and seeing this monster at double their size, that's impressive.
peristaltor: (Default)
I recently heard of a few data points I found interesting. The first, from Mother Jones Magazine, presents a strong case linking violent crime with earlier exposure to tetraethyl lead, "the gasoline additive invented by General Motors in the 1920s to prevent knocking and pinging in high-performance engines." As automotive use increased, so increased the lead flowing from the tailpipes; in cities, the concentration of cars increased each city dweller's exposure. As lead was phased out, the exposure likewise phased out. Researcher Rick Nevin made the first connection:

The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn't paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline consumption, you get a pretty simple upside-down U: Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early '40s through the early '70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.

Intriguingly, violent crime rates followed the same upside-down U pattern. The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the '60s through the '80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early '90s. The two curves looked eerily identical, but were offset by about 20 years.

So Nevin dove in further, digging up detailed data on lead emissions and crime rates to see if the similarity of the curves was as good as it seemed. It turned out to be even better: In a 2000 paper (PDF) he concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the '40s and '50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the '60s, '70s, and '80s.

(I emboldened.)

Ah, but that was only one data point, and I did promise two! )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
Remember this guy?

I used him recently to give a face to my rant about how cows are not to blame for global warming, no matter what the vegan jihadists claim. I'll accept some criticism from activists bent on reducing or eliminating meat from our human diet; yes, there is a lot of disease being spread in meat and milk, much of it harmful. Head over to the Centers for Disease Control and a list of Escherichia coli outbreaks over the last 5 years alone should give you a reason to pause before biting that burger.

Ah, but here's a question: Lots of us eat the meat brought from the wild during and after hunting season. Deer, elk, moose; it's all pretty darned tasty, and those wild critters are similar to cows. Why do our domestic cows seem to produce more disease-bearing meat than those beasts grazing in the wild? The answer really, really sucks. )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
Waaay back in 2008, I came up with a theory of conservatism I called the Deist Miasma, an attempt to understand for myself why the religious in general and conservatives in particular have such violent reactions against theories that challenge traditional interpretations of reality (specifically in that post, Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection vs. Creation). In Part II, I further delved into the why of the conservative reaction by tying their rejection to the more emotional parts of the brain that irrationally reject concepts that create a sense of disgust. I got that concept from Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, a fascinating book that chronicled the 1848-49 cholera outbreak and how a new germ theory of disease challenged the prevailing miasma theory.

Never heard of the miasma theory? I'm not surprised. Here are the essentials: "There were practically as many theories about cholera as there were cases of the disease. But in 1848, the dispute was largely divided between two camps: the contagionists and the miasmists. Either cholera was some kind of agent that passed from person to person, like the flu, or it somehow lingered in the 'miasma' of unsanitary spaces." (Johnson, The Ghost Map, Riverhead, 2007, pp. 68.) "Miasmas" are detected by the nose; if it smells bad, it likely causes disease.

Miasma theory has been largely discredited since the perfection of ever more powerful microscopes and research into the efficacy of hand washing, especially when done by doctors before surgery and assisting births. Essentially, the theory lived long after the evidence mounted against it simply because of the disgust bad smells can raise in the brains of the smeller. This disgust overwhelms the smeller's desire to examine a problem intellectually and rationally. This strong disgust emotion trumps and overrides the rational brain, short-circuiting our ability to problem solve.

I hadn't considered it before, but econ blogger Asymptosis has: isn't neo-classical economics itself a form of the same flawed, disgust-based thinking that kept the miasma theory alive? He makes excellent points, points that follow almost to the letter my association between the creationist camp and the progress supporting natural selection. I would add that disgust against Marxist economics might have been the founding event for the neo-classical thinkers, and that all their complex theorizing stems not from the desire to craft rigorous and disciplined empirical modeling of reality, but to reject the fairly sound observations Marx made in Das Kapital. After all, creation "science" wasn't around before Darwin; there was no need, since the creation "science" was science.

Ah, but some of Asymptosis' conclusions resonated with some recent reading. James Howard Kunstler closes his most recent book with this observation about Barack Obama's first term:

He came along at a very difficult time in our national history. The economy is wobbling again for reasons this president has never adequately articulated (and which are the subject of this book), despite his renown for eloquence. And despite his genial disposition and adult demeanor he can be faulted for failing on many issues, including botched health care reform, a dumb energy policy, keeping two of the longest wars in our history going, and not reestablishing the rule of law in banking in the face of arrant misconduct.

(James Howard Kunstler, Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011, p. 240, I emboldened.)

In our President's defense, he studied law, not economics. For his economic expertise, he hired the brains behind Pres. Clinton's cabinet. Sadly, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin shared the same neo-classical tradition in their assumptions about our economic functioning, enough to pressure Mr. Clinton into signing the official repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a repeal that got us into this mess. Back to Asymptosis:

[There] are many valid and semi-valid ideas, theories, and constructs floating around in the world of textbook economics. But they are so intertwined with, caught up in the miasma . . . theories that today constitute mainstream economics . . . that it’s hard for even the clearest-eyed economist — much less the everyday person or Washington staffer, legislator, or policy wonk — to tell the shit from the shinola.

(I again emboldened.)

The result? Yes, we can judge the President for his actions; but we should also realize that no one person has a sufficient grasp of the arcane minutia to not have advisers, and that given sufficient acceptance, even bad theories can prove widespread enough to taint said advisers. Translation: yes, Jim Kunstler may have a better understanding of our economy to avoid, as Asymptosis put it, "emptying the cesspools into the water supply" just like the Londoners in the grip of the miasma theory of disease; that doesn't mean a clear-eyed appraisal of our economy is wide-spread enough to reach the halls of power.

And judging by our current economic situation, I'd say it well and truly isn't.

Addendum: The Next Day: This TED video gives a good introduction into how disgust warps our opinions.

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
Many years ago, I heard a tidbit passed as fact that sounded about as full of, well, bullshit as anything I'd heard in my life. Just google "cows as methane sources" and see the citations of this phenomenon pop up. Don't get me wrong; I'm not anti-science, and the scientists who have done these studies need to know that I mean them no harm. Their data is valuable, but only if it is applied in ways that don't get hijacked by philosophical forces on a crusade against the cow itself.

Mooo-ve to the rant proper! )

X-posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
In his latest book, The Ecotechnic Future, John Michael Greer notes the problem of increasing yields in organic crops using the most obvious fertilizer source, one that literally falls out of farmers' asses:

So why has the world been unable to get its fertilizer together on this issue? What keeps composted humanure and urine from being a primary resource base for farmers struggling to replace dwindling inorganic sources of plant nutrients? Much of the reason reaches deep into the crawl spaces of the industrial world's imagination. People who object to composting human waste very often cite concerns about pathogens or odors, but it rarely takes long to reach the emotional level of a five-year-old clenching his eyes shut and squealing, "Ewww, ick!"

C.S. Lewis pointed out . . . that modern attitudes about dirt and biological waste have their source in what might be called biophobia -- a pathological fear of the realities of biological life, coupled with an obsessive fascination with the sterile, the mechanical and the lifeless. Biophobia guides the creation of human environments so sterile that, according to recent research, many currently widespread illnesses may be caused by excessive cleanliness. The same attitude, I'm convinced, drives the horror many people feel when faced with the prospect of eating food fertilized with composted (human waste).

(John Michael Greer, The Ecotechnic Future, New Society Publishers, 2009, p. 114.)

Biophobia. At last, I have a dismissive descriptive to pepper my missives.
peristaltor: (Default)
Are the intestinal flora that have evolved to symbiotically keep us healthy going extinct?

The human body has some 10 trillion human cells — but 10 times that number of microbial cells. So what happens when such an important part of our bodies goes missing?

With rapid changes in sanitation, medicine and lifestyle in the past century, some of these indigenous species are facing decline, displacement and possibly even extinction. In many of the world's larger ecosystems, scientists can predict what might happen when one of the central species is lost, but in the human microbial environment — which is still largely uncharacterized — most of these rapid changes are not yet understood. "This is the next frontier and has real significance for human health, public health and medicine," says Betsy Foxman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan (U.M.) School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.

Yes, this is the hygiene hypothesis yet again. Love the hundred trillion happy campers in your body. Put down the stinky hand sanitizer. Get dirty. Live, and live longer.
peristaltor: (Default)
I'll first make an up-front declaration of bias: I hate the anti-vaccination crowd.

For those of you unfamiliar with actress, comedianne and centerfold model Jenny McCarthy's hobbies, she has been probably the most visible and outspoken celebrity to endorse the vile lies that childhood vaccines, especially those containing mercury-based preservatives like Thimerisol, cause autism.

I call her positions on vaccine "vile lies" for good reason: At least four peer-reviewed studies have failed to show a connection. That doesn't stop folks -- including celebs like McCarthy and her boyfriend Jim Carrey, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Bill Mahr and a raft of others -- from flogging the Thimerisol horse corpse.

Ms. McCarthy, of course, has reason to be angry at autism; her son suffers from the condition. In this case, though, she has gone completely off the deep end attacking vaccines, even going so far as to suggest that the inevitable preventable deaths that follow people refusing to immunize their own children are a price worth paying to avoid an autism connection that (once again) has been debunked.

Let's really add to evidence of her dissonance. Though she has on more than one occasion likened vaccines to "poison," take a gander at what she had to say about one of the most deadly poisons known to man:

“I love Botox, I absolutely love it. I get it minimally so I can still move my face. But I really do think it’s a savior.”

Anyhoo, I'm not posting this just to rant. I was responding to [ profile] alobar the other day. I think the Hygienic Hypothesis might be a more likely culprit, and said so. He asked a good question: Why now? Why are we facing an explosion of autism? )

Edit: Link and floppy verbiage corrected October 8, 2009.
peristaltor: (Default)
I'm stoked. Radiolab has covered the parasite thing! They did a darn fine job, too, interviewing (among others) Carl Zimmer from The Loom, one of my fave blogs and author of the definitive introduction to parasitism, Parasite Rex. I've convinced two doctors and my own mother to read that book.

They also interviewed David Pritchard, someone I mentioned here, who cured own his allergies with a dose of worms.

There was also a guy who infected himself and thus shed his allergies, but who is going one step further; he's selling his worms to anyone who wants them. I'm sick of sneezing, sick of drugs which, if strong enough to dampen the sneezes, make it illegal for me to drive and thus work.

I'm on board with the Hygenic Hypothesis. I might wait until spring when the fun usually begins, but I'm ready. I am so ready.

Worm me.

Addendum, some minutes later: Here's Jasper Lawrence's website. He's the one who's selling the fruits of his butt. He also demonstrates the value of associating any business with a hot chick in pearls and furs.
peristaltor: (Default)
So, years ago The Wife and I win a new paper shredder at a picnic raffle, a "cross cut" shredder. It was much nicer than the old $10 special, but cut differently; instead of just slicing the paper into full-length ribbons, it both ribboned the paper and cut the ribbons lengthwise every few inches. I further noticed something on the recycling bin -- no cross cut paper allowed. Long cut, yes; but cross cut paper fibers, I read, were too small, on average, to be of much use when the paper is re-pulped, mixed and pressed.

So I thought of this the other night during one of The Wife's commercial TV bouts when some product or another comes out with the promise of "fiber." Thing is, they showed the fiber being added to the product (a clear beverage, IIRC) with a spoon. Fine, seemingly granulated stuff hit the surface of the product and was stirred into the mix only to disappear. No visible strands!

Ah, but . . . years ago, I was told the benefit of fiber in one's diet was biomechanical, not chemical. The long fibers in fibrous foods kept their length, more or less, through the digestive process. Imagine the intestines. Peristalsis squeezes food downwards like fingers squeezing a toothpaste tube. Many foods, especially rich, doughy foods like cheeses and breads, tend to both stick together and stretch, thus confounding the peristaltic process. Blobs of these foods stretch under peristalsis only to rebound when pressure relaxes, at least until the foods chemically break down. Extreme cases can cause constipation.

One therefore had to eat "roughage," as it was called back then by folks like my parents and grandparents. Think of bits of hempen rope added to the intestinal Silly Putty that used to be a cheese pizza. The fibers don't stretch. When mixed with the pizza-esque goo, that added structural cohesion forms globs of mixed digesting foods that don't stretch and rebound, and thus do move along when the rings of intestinal muscle squeeze them on down the line.

But what good would tiny bits of non-stretchy foodstuff be? Uninterrupted lengths make a rope; little chunks make a mess. Don't believe me? Try tying a bundle using string cut into 1" bits.

Such chopped fibrous material would, at best, simply mix with the dough and mozarella. It would be like adding sanding grit to taffy, creating an infinitely stretchy blockage-in-the-making with a sandpaper surface.

So what's going on?

I suspect the FDA has allowed use of "fiber" as a beneficial additive without considering the minimum length of any given fiber needed for digestive efficacy. After all, most truly digestive fiber comes from natural sources -- greens, roughly-cut whole grains and brans -- all with random (but mostly longer) lengths. Without being able to quantify those lengths, there must be no body of peer-reviewed medical research showing any quantifiable efficacious qualities (or lack thereof). Therefore, that same fiber that helps truly move the poop train along can be legally cut into useless lengths -- but far smoother, far more tasty and digestible lengths -- and added to foods legally allowed to tout their "Fiber!" as a beneficial supplement.

Then again, I'm not a doctor, medical researcher, nutritionist, or anything professional or medically trained who can render a decision. I'm just some guy who thinks enough about peristalsis to name his LJ handle (and most of his Diablo characters) after the snake-squeeze of digestion. Anyone know if this notion is in the medical reality ballpark or not? [ profile] alobar, got your ears on?
peristaltor: (Default)
Today I need to rant about what an abysmal direction I feel our society is going, specifically when it comes to how we interact with each other and our environment. The "with each other" is pretty easy to codify. Just watch the telly.

A woman wanders through her home at night. A noise from downstairs startles her. She runs up the stairs and hits the panic button, alerting the alarm company. A siren sounds, scaring the prowler in the low-budget balaclava ninja outfit. He takes flight through the window he just smashed and escapes. Though panicked, the woman is safe because of that alarm and the service the company provides. A blanket of 1s and 0s surround the house like a digital shield against intrusion.

Since 9/11, I've noticed several commercials like this one with a simple message: There are people out to get us. We need to protect ourselves against them.

While I cannot disagree that there are indeed people who break into homes and cars for personal gain, how much of a threat does this really pose to the average person? Does it justify the expense this alarm service no doubt incurs?

That's people. It gets much worse. Now our fears of intrusion are getting focused on smaller and smaller critters. )
peristaltor: (Default)
I have a problem. In the last hour, a friend dropped off a load of firewood. I got to chopping this cherry branch from a freshly-pruned tree. Before I chopped, though, I noticed a hole in the wood with hairs on the walls of the hole. Squirrel's nest, I thought.

I guestimated the depth of the hole and let fly with my chop saw. I got really lucky, chopping only the bottom 2 or 3 millimeters of the hole off. Surprise! No squirrel there, but a bunch of nested hair and an egg!

I took the hairs out a bit to see if there were more eggs and -- movement! It turns out the egg is the unhatched sibling to a little guy that is probably going to get pretty hungry pretty soon.

I think it would be cool to raise the little guy. Sadly, I suppose we could replace the branch, but it now has a massive hole in the nest, and my grubby hands inadvertently besmelled the hairs, so I need to find out what he eats to keep him alive.

Here's an egg shot for identification:

Bigger! Bigger!

I live in Seattle proper in the Pacific Northwest of the Continental United States, for those of you scrambling for the bird guides.

If you know a bird expert online, please link. The faster we can get him or her identified the greater his or her chances of growing older!

Much thanks in advance!

Addendum, Later that Day: I'll spare the bird haters of the LJ world and put the rest of this saga under a cut, with a single teaser:

Two of the Three

Bird haters beware: The Kyoot Will Kill. )
peristaltor: (Default)

Mary Roach giggles her way through her TED talk, noting upsuck, Kinsey's ejaculate measurements (and how they affected the carpet), and sow vibrators for pig farmers unwilling to mount the sow themselves.
peristaltor: (Default)
[ profile] 6_bleen_7 turned me on to a great online game, Sneeze. You get one sneeze in each level and must infect a growing percentage of the population to continue.

Infect wisely!
peristaltor: (Default)
One of the latest podcasts from The Economist had a fascinating interview with Harvard biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham. He maintains that the leap from the big chest cavities of H. habilis to the big brain pans of H. erectus may have been facilitated or even made possible by cooking:

Richard Wrangham has tasted chimp food, and he doesn’t like it. “The typical fruit is very unpleasant. . . . Fibrous, quite bitter. Not a tremendous amount of sugar. Some make your stomach heave.” After a few tastings in western Uganda, where he works part of the year on his 20-year-old project studying wild chimpanzees, Wrangham came to the conclusion that no human could survive long on such a diet. Besides the unpalatable taste, our weak jaws, tiny teeth and small guts would never be able to chomp and process enough calories from the fruits to support our large bodies.

Then, one cool fall evening in 1997, while gazing into his fireplace in Cambridge, Mass., and contemplating a completely different question — “What stimulated human evolution?” — he remembered the chimp food. “I realized what a ridiculously large difference cooking would make,” Wrangham says. Cooking could have made the fibrous fruits, along with the tubers and tough, raw meat that chimps also eat, much more easily digestible, he thought—they could be consumed quickly and digested with less energy. This innovation could have enabled our chimp­like ancestors’ gut size to shrink over evolutionary time; the energy that would have gone to support a larger gut might have instead sparked the evolution of our bigger-brained, larger-bodied, humanlike forebears.

The podcast interview continued this thread, noting that the current rise in obesity corresponds with the rise in eating ever more processed foods, essentially softer and hotter meals. Wrangham notes that heat from cooking changes the available energy content of food in three main ways:

  • Heat gelatinizes starches and collagens, allowing the glucose molecules to dissolve and become available to digestive enzymes;
  • Heat denatures proteins, opening them and likewise exposing them to digestive enzymes; and
  • Heat softens food.

  • Don't discount that last point! The less work the digestive tract has to do to free the nutrients from a meal, the more nutrient doesn't have to be converted into energy to allow the tract to do that work. For an analogy, imagine running into a steady headwind. Cooking food can put the wind to your back, helping you rather than hampering and allowing you more energy to make more speed or distance. Comparing a day's worth of meals identical in caloric value but differing in whether or not they were cooked, Wrangham estimates raw meals require extra energy "probably about the equivalent of running a mile." To support this last claim, he cited a study by Oka in which rats eat meals similar in caloric intake, but different in texture. Even with the same exercise regimen, the rats eating the softer diet gain more weight.

    We digest with both physical and chemical processes, but for decades now, he notes, diet has been the domain of those concentrating almost solely on biochemistry. Hopefully more emphasis can be placed on the biophysics.

    Note: I'm tagging this one in the Worms! category, because though no worms were mentioned, much of what he said reminded me of The Wife's digestive symptoms.
    peristaltor: (Default)
    About a year ago I posted about a link between intestinal auto-immune disease and worms. Turns out some diseases just disappear if you have worms in your gut. Really.

    Well, David Corcoran of the New York Times Science Podcast Science Times just interviewed Dr. David Pritchard about his use of intestinal hookworms to treat hay fever. That's right, worms in your tummy might just suppress your body's overreaction to pollen and dander:

    “The allergic response evolved to help expel parasites, and we think the worms have found a way of switching off the immune system in order to survive,” he said. “That’s why infected people have fewer allergic symptoms.”

    To test his theory, and to see whether he can translate it into therapeutic pay dirt, Dr. Pritchard is recruiting clinical trial participants willing to be infected with 10 hookworms each in hopes of banishing their allergies and asthma.

    Never one to sidestep his own experimental cures, Dr. Pritchard initially used himself as a subject to secure approval from the National Health Services ethics committee in Britain.

    Though he has just finished Phase I of his clinical trials and moving on to Phase II, he is insistent that people wait for his research to run its course before more of them do what many have started doing -- traveling to Tijuana to buy and ingest the worms.

    peristaltor: (Default)

    From the Courier Mail:

    Dr Peter Beaumont, 60, was cooking Thai fish cakes for dinner when he found a fully formed gecko inside an egg shell.

    He believes the discovery may be a world first and may help solve a food poisoning puzzle.

    "I was cracking the eggs into a pan when I noticed one of them was all cloudy.

    "I looked at the shell and saw a tiny gecko."

    Dr Beaumont said the lizard had not got into the shell after he had discarded it because the reptile was embedded between the inner-shell and the egg's membrane.

    He said the gecko may have crawled into the chicken to feast on an embryo – and got stuck.

    The egg then formed around the lizard.


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