Oransky's Thoughts That Won't Go Elsewhere
Epistemological rupture? Release about paper claiming to explain origin of life disappears

Yesterday on Twitter, Sarah Kavassalis pointed me in the direction of a paper that seemed to befuddle her. Published last month in the journal Life by Case Western’s Erik D. Andrulis, “Theory of the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life" purports to solve "the puzzle of the origin and evolution of cellular life in the universe."

The paper is 105 pages, which includes a whopping 800 references. It depends heavily on the gyre:

Read More

Water-breaking research: Woman gives birth to a scientific paper — and a baby —in an MRI

"Push!" Image copyright AJOG

It’s the obvious next step in the distinguished line of scientific inquiry that had author Kayt Sukel orgasm in an MRI by herself and scanned a couple having sex in such a device: German researchers have reported on what happens when a woman gives birth in an MRI.

The scientists were standing on the shoulders of giants, they note in their report in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Read More

Resources: Organizations for women and minority scientists

This afternoon, a college friend of mine asked me for tips on finding organizations for minority scientists. I told her I knew of a few, but decided it would be better to broaden the question to include groups for women scientists, and ask Twitter. As usual, I was overwhelmed with the helpful responses, so I figured I’d capture them here in case anyone wanted them all in one place. They’re in no particular order, and I’ll keep adding/reorganizing as I hear about more:

Read More

Not a close shave: Schick Quattro’s PR firm asks journalists to tweet promos

File this under “Say, PR firm, does your client know you’re doing that?”

An email this afternoon from the Lippe Taylor PR firm:

Read More

Beer: It’s good for burns, too

Well, not really.

But a case report last year in Emergency Medicine Australasia describes how one man — presumably in Hong Kong, where most of the report’s authors are based — recovered as well as might be expected after a self-devised treatment:

Read More

Broken penis? It’s OK, you can wait a week before getting surgery

If you’ve broken your penis, you might think that you should get treatment right away. But the authors of a recent study suggest that you can wait several days and have the same outcomes — you know, if you have other priorities, or errands to run, anything like that.

The authors, urologists at Mansoura University in Egypt, treated 180 men for broken penises between January 1986 and May 2010. After dividing them into groups according to whether they showed up in the emergency room within 24 hours of their injury, they concluded in Urology:

Read More

Did Paleolithic men pierce and tattoo their penises?

If you haven’t found yourself wondering how a Paleolithic man would decorate his penis, well, neither have I. But a group of French and Spanish urologists were apparently curious about that very question.

In a Journal of Urology paper called “Phallic Decoration in Paleolithic Art: Genital Scarification, Piercing and Tattoos,” they review art objects from the Paleolithic period, finding dozens of what they call “phallic pieces.”

Archaeological evidence that has survived to our day includes 42 phallic pieces, of which 30 (71.4%) show intentional marks to a different extent with a probable decorative purpose. Of these ornamental elements 18 (60%) were recovered from the upper Magdalenian period (11,000 to 12,700 years ago) in France and Spain, and 23 (76.7%) belong to the category of perforated batons. Decorations show lines (70% of objects), plaques (26.7%), dots/holes (23.3%) or even human/animal forms (13.3%). These designs most probably represent skin scarification, cutting, piercing and tattooing. Notably there are some technical similarities between the motifs represented and some designs present in symbolic cave wall art. This evidence may show the anthropological origin of current male genital piercing and tattooing.

They conclude:

It is obvious then that deep incisions, concentric lines, protruding surfaces, holes and series of dots in the pieces that we studied faithfully represent precise cutting, scarring, piercing and tattooing on the penile skin and mucosa. These practices could imply group recognition. Similar procedures are known to have been performed by primitive modern humans. Briefly, ritual and/or decorative penile ornamentation is represented in the Paleolithic graphic registry. It could be the anthropological origin of a peculiar habit that has at times reached our days.

I understand that the paper was originally submitted to Prick, a “tattoo, piercing, and lifestyle magazine,” but rejected because the authors didn’t provide enough pictures.

Shot in the balls? We have a study for you

The medical literature is often dry and boring — some might even say clinical — but one study in the BJU International caught my eye today:

Gunshot wounds to the scrotum: a large single-institutional 20-year experience

That single institution was Temple University in Philadelphia, a city that is no stranger to gunshots.

So, how many men were shot in the balls over the course of 20 years?


That’s about five per year, and those are of course only the ones who showed up to Temple.

Apparently, however, Temple is the place to go if you’re shot in the nether regions, according to an editorial accompanying the study:

This 20-year series of scrotal gunshot wounds reflects this centre’ s excellent past work in gunshot injury to the penis [1] and kidney [2].

Surgeons ended up removing about half of the testicles injured by scrotal gunshot wounds.

The pictures accompanying the study are quite something. Let’s just say that maybe it’s a good thing some papers aren’t open-access.

Update: On my Facebook page, Arnon Krongrad demonstrates that this study might have implications for a murder trial in India.

Never mind 150 half-siblings: Try ‘twinblings,’ inadvertent full siblings from different mothers

I’ve heard a fair amount of “woahs” about a story in yesterday’s New York Times noting that one sperm donor seems to have fathered 150 half-siblings. (The Times has trod this ground before.)

The reaction reminded me that I’d come across a paper earlier this summer in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The case report, by fertility doctors in the Bronx and Westchester, begins as follows (emphasis mine):

Read More

Alternatives to Tumblr for beekeepers, Luddites, and drunks

My colleague Vincent Baby, riffing on a post about a new curation tool called Bundlr, tweeted that what the world needed was a new service called Mumblr. That has led to a number of other ideas, which I thought I’d gather here (in parens, the person who suggested the world-changing offering):

Read More