Wednesday, 11th July 2012
Q. Pop-quiz on one of your favorite subjects: your body. Who was Gluteus Maximus? Who has more bones, you or that baby next door? Ever stuck your finger into your nares? Have you used your glossal organ lately? Is your pollex or your hallux more within reach? More embarrassingly, has anyone ever had to ostercog you to a taxi?
A. Your ancient-Roman-general-sounding gluteus maximus is actually the largest muscle of your body, that you're likely sitting on right now, says Anu Garg in "Another Word a Day."
Babies naturally have more bones than you do, starting out with more than 300, but after many fusings end with more like 206 in adulthood.
Meanwhile, out of politeness, please don't stick your finger up your "nares,"Latin for "nostrils." Of the same root (nas-) are nose, nuzzle, nostril, nasal and pince-nez.
Your "glossal"organ is your tongue, from the Greek "glossa." (Chameleons capture creatures with their huge glossal appendages.) Nearer at hand is your "pollex,"Latin for "thumb"; "hallux"is the "big toe."
Finally, "oxter"is from Old English "oxta,"for "armpit." While in some locales around England oxter has fallen into disuse, the verb "ostercog"can still be heard in Ireland, meaning "to drag somebody along by their armpits." "People often need to be ostercogged to a taxi after they have had one drink too many"(Wesley Johnson of N. Ireland).
Q. When two people set forth to have a child, genetics can be quite kind or quite unkind, depending on the luck of the draw. What's a colorful way to express this idea, assuming both Mum and Dad are well-educated, accomplished, and happy people?
A. "Mum may be holding a full house while Dad has a straight flush, yet when Junior gets a random half of each of their cards, his poker hand may be a loser,"as characterized by Dr. David T. Lykken in "Psychology: Tent Edition"by David G. Myers.
Q. What might well have been the costliest "meal"in history?
A. According to Pliny the Elder in his "Natural History,"ancient Egyptian Queen Cleopatra wagered Marc Antony that she could consume, at a single entertainment, the value of ten million sesterces. Marc Antony considered this quite impossible. But Cleopatra was said to have an extensive knowledge of chemistry (she wrote a book on cosmetics) and understood that vinegar was a pretty good solvent. Though the actual details are unclear, sometime before the banquet she dropped a pearl worth ten million sesterces into a solution of vinegar and water, then set it aside. "When the time came to fulfill her wager, she simply drank the dissolved pearl,"says Emily Thacker in "The Vinegar Book."
Q. It was only the fifth time that cataracts had been removed from such a blind patient and only the first time that a handheld spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (OCT) system figured in the procedure. Yet the operation was declared "successful,"and life improved immediately for this nontraditional middle-aged patient. Do you know the patient's name?
A. C'sar the elephant, who lived at the North Carolina Zoo since his birth, then in 2011 developed cataracts that robbed him of his vision and confined him to a small barn and paddock, says Lynn Savage in "BioPhotonics"magazine.
As his handlers reported, following surgery C'sar's behavior "improved dramatically"and now he can once more graze freely within the 3.5-acre savannah on the zoo grounds.
Said the operating veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Richard J. McMullen Jr.: "The biggest difference between OCT and ultrasound is the amount of detail you can see in the cornea.... As a surgeon, it was very interesting and useful to have that degree of magnification."
Q. "In my dream, I couldn't find my wheelchair but it didn't matter, I was walking to the night club anyway, getting ready to go dancing,"reported a born paraplegic. What's so remarkable about such dreams by people with physical impairments, and what do they say about the classic "continuity hypothesis"?
A. The continuity idea holds that dreams are linked to our waking reality, that they incorporate the thoughts, feelings and events that we experience while awake, says Anil Ananthaswamy in "New Scientist"magazine. (Obviously there are limits to this, as when people fly in their dreams.) Challenging this dominant idea are studies by Alan Hobson of Harvard Medical School and Ursula Voss of the University of Bonn in Germany, who collected dream reports of paraplegic subjects and of those born deaf and unable to speak. The team was startled to find that 80% of the dream narratives of the deaf gave no indication of the impairment, with many able to speak and others hearing and understanding dream talk. For people born paralyzed, their dreams often had them walking, running or swimming, none of which they had ever done in their waking lives.
As Hobson and Voss theorize, "Our brain has the genetically determined ability to generate experiences that mimic life."In other words, underscores Ananthaswamy, "Dreams could be laying the groundwork for real life, and without them our brain may not be prepared for waking experiences. But, Hobson admits, 'that's an intuition' that needs to be empirically tested."
Q. Whether it's the economy or other factors, anxiety disorders are turning up more and more these days. What's the flip side of anxiety?
A. Anxiety and fear are not quite the same. Fear results from an immediate and present danger of some sort, such as a car barreling toward you, says Jordan Smoller of the Harvard Medical School in "The Other Side of Normal." But anxiety is subtler: In this uniquely human response, the imagination engages in a mulling of the world to come and the problems it may bring. The flip side of this is hope, as the imagination directs its energies to envision a future filled with good things, such as a new relationship or a coveted job. Now the fantasizing, imagining mind casts out the host of possible negatives and seizes upon the potential joys ahead.
Letters to the Editor
- Editorialread more »
Google AlertWhen a company which has it's European Headquarters here in Ireland is called 'evil' and 'immoral' by M.P.s in The House of Commons you tend to sit up and take notice. The particular company that was being referred to was Google and the reason it had enraged M.P.s in London was because even though it has a big operation there and conducts a lot of business there it pays no corporate tax. It does this by having all of its financial transactions finished here in Ireland. And the company here is …
We're delighted to announce the launch of the new-look Waterford Today website. Tell us what you think of the new site design?
Total votes: 44 Refresh results