Archive for April, 2010


Posted by on Thursday, 29 April, 2010



Brian Saunders and Tony Freemont (University of Manchester) would inject a new kind of substance into aging spines to restore them to almost their “original” condition. Which we will discuss shortly. But first..

BACKS (According to MISTERScienceAintSoBad)

Your spine’s an upright column of bones (vertebrae) and disks. The disks are there to make things flexible and to absorb the shock from impact. The outer shell of the disk is fibrous. The inside’s pulpy.

It’s not a specially good design as it rarely outlasts the nose.

Long before your first midlife crisis, the disks are already drying up and cracking. Under considerable pressure, the pulp can squeeze out of the disks. Also, the disks, themselves, can become distorted or can start to fall apart (herniate). This can cause pressure against a nerve “root” where the nerve enters/leaves the spinal column.

That’s when you find yerself reading your emails on your side in bed.

If you lay around long enough and take anti-inflammatories, good chance you’ll be back to not getting enough exercise soon. Worst case, you’ll cycle through MRI’s, pills, injections, physical therapy, surgery, and prayer. Not necessarily that order.

A few months, and you get to repeat everything. This time, as an expert on the subject of back pain.

The crappy “intervertebral disk” is a constant annoyance to those who would argue that we got here from “Intelligent Design”. If this is intelligent design, what’s Dopey Design?


Kinda obvious that pressure against a nerve would cause pain.

Except for one thing.

Nerves CONDUCT sensations around the body. They don’t have pain sensors of their own. So why pain from pressure on a nerve?

Hey. Maybe it’s not really there! HUGE MISTERScienceAintSoBad breakthrough in orthopedics!! My first Nobel.

Back me out of the textbooks please. What’s going on: If you put constant pressure on a nerve, its blood supply (microvasculature) may get pinched, its outer cover (myelin sheath) may get scarred, causing a short circuit, or the nerve fibers may get stretched (constricted). All this stuff makes the nerve kinda hinkey, causing it to send bogus signals when it shouldn’t. The pain you feel isn’t from the site of the pressure, itself. It’s from the areas that are served by the  malfunctioning nerve.

NASA Mission Control would call this a “bad sensor”. A patient would call this a “bad day”.


Now, back to the guys from the University of Manchester.

MISTERScienceAintSoBad isn’t going to beat up on them. Their claims are reasonable. They say that their research is unfinished and they aren’t talking about a miracle cure.

Fair enough.

They are currently refining a fluid that they hope can be injected into a bad intervertebral disk. After being injected, the fluid will transform itself into a suitable substitute for the dehydrated nuceleus poposa, giving the spine a whole new life contract. If it works.


Something along these lines was  tried a few years ago, using a natural product (an extract from the papaya fruit called Chymopapain),  but, luckily for fruit lovers, it was abandoned when it turned out to have unacceptable side effects;   Saunders/Freemont get to study what went wrong there.

EverVigilant9 writes: What’re you NUTS? I had a back injection three weeks ago. No bigee! My doc says she’s been doing this a long time! So where’s the cheese, Big Boy?

OK. Good catch, EverVigilant.

Wrong ball though.

You’re getting steroidal injections (image guided), an accepted treatment for acute back pain. MISTERScienceAintSoBad knows this from personal experience. The difference is that those injections are intended to ease the inflammation of irritated tissue. Not as ambitious as the project we’re describing here. On the other hand, it’s real and in the clinic now. The Saunders/Freeman stuff is still a work-in-progress.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 4. One of those exciting ideas that’re full of potential and full of pitfalls.

Credit for top image (sans syringe):


Posted by on Sunday, 25 April, 2010

Don't Let This Happen To YOUR Earth!


The year is 2015.  Discarded cell phones cover everything.   The “layer”  varies in thickness from a few inches to as much as three feet. Mostly, it consists of iPhones, IPads, ITouches, and IPods.

Newer layers have Android stuff.

Apple cultists fight  against calling it the ICrap layer. Too disrespectful. Look what Apple’s DONE for the human race. Why not call it gCrap? What’s GOOGLE ever done?

Looking Out

People crunch around looking for edible plants which seem to thrive on the crumbled carcasses of  HTC products while a defeated looking MISTERScienceAintSoBad, stands, looking out at the ocean, and listening to the waves clank together.


Is this our destiny? Can we duck it?

A new web site, calling itself, Ifixit, says it’s bad to “landfill” our devices when they become unreliable. Devices are getting more and more capable. Toss our smartphones when they fail and what do you suppose THEY will do to US when THEY’RE in charge?

IFixit offers, humbly, to “fix the planet”. It wants to be THE place for free repair manuals as well as parts and info that can keep your devices out of the junk yard for longer.


Besides. The world’s gone nuts.

You gotta have two Phd’s to set yer alarm clock. Complexity INSIDE’S sposed to result in simplicity outside. Maybe that’ll happen eventually. But, for now, if you DO wanna set your alarm clock, you do need some good resources to turn to.

MISTERScienceAintSoBad wishes Ifixit all the luck in the world with its overarching ambitions. We hope it succeeds.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 7 for Ifixit’s early efforts. Watch our rating needle climb as Ifixit proves itself. :)

attribution for the top photo:

Teen Angst: Cure For Acne? Cure For Backpacks?

Posted by on Saturday, 17 April, 2010



We were once beautiful. Even Fink. Once, we were healthy. supple and unblemished.

Except for the nasty zits which would lie dormant until a few days before something important like a first date, a prom, or a bar mitzvah when they would BURST into glorious Technicolor blotches, humiliating and depressing us.

And obliterating our dreams of becoming ex-virgins.


Well thank YOU, Dissaya “Nu” Pornpattananangkul, for coming up with a zit-killer DECADES too late.  I don’t believe ther’re any virgins left  in high school to benefit from this work  but Pornpattananangkul  (am I pronouncing that right?) has developed a drug delivery system based on gold nanoparticles which deliver  lauric acid directly to the (very) offending lesions.


Pornpa.. Pornpatt.. WHATEVER! .. is gonna be a terrific engineer. But there’s some science yet to be done. Will it REALLY work? Side effects? Cost?

A great first step and the article says human testing may follow soon.

ScienceAintSoBadEngineeringRating = 10

ScienceAintSoBadScienceRating? Let’s hope we hear more.


I can ONLY ride the Nostalgia Dunebuggy so far. MISERABLE and PATHETIC  as our young lives were, we didn’t walk to school leaning forward.

School books have gotten so heavy in the last five years, that obesity’s become the only REMEDY for the struggling future generations that we call kids or (sometimes) just annoying. In fact, their parents are EGGING THEM ON to gain a few pounds. “Hey. EAT that! You wanna get pulled over backwards by your books and lie there like a DOPE with yer arms and legs wavin’ around?”


Eric v.d. Luft, PhD (Syracuse) did a little research on WHY the books are so engorged.


Fat margins, fat paper, and lots of jazzy color illustrations.

You know fer SURE some kid’s gonna be too loaded up to dodge a runaway foreign car.

Too much backpack mass. This is all just a GIFT to pediatric orthopedic surgeons.

‘course the ultimate solution is a digital child. Did I say “child?”. I MEANT, of course, BOOK.  An eBook.

Not a specially  original thought.  Electronic book readers are catching on among adults.  There’re a LOT of choices. Kindle, Sony’s E-reader, The Nook (Barnes and Noble), ALL kinda smart phones, netbooks,  the Ipad (and it’s soon-to-be competitors), and so on. There’re way more “initiatives” then MisterScienceAintSoBad is in the mood to discuss. (Example).

The technology’s there. It’s even affordable. Text book publishing, parents, and teaching institutions are trying to catch up with  it.


According to the IEEE Spectrum, the world’s robot population’s about 8.6 million souls.

Well. Not souls, exactly.

You know what I mean.


Posted by on Tuesday, 13 April, 2010



Remember Hal Finkelstein?

The glasses? The awful red sneakers?

Remember how he breathed through his mouth all the time? The way his nostrils seemed welded together? “Ngh! Gimme BANNNK my BOOK!”

Hey Finkelstein. You still out there? Maybe you should see a dentist. There’s a study in General Dentistry by Yosh Jefferson, DMD. Breathing through your mouth? It isn’t good for you.  You get a bad look, okay?

Your face gets longer and narrower (like you, Finkelstien, now that I think about it). Your teeth get crooked, your gums go bad, and you could even get ADD, high blood pressure, heart problems, and other stuff.

If Finkelstein’s any example, it doesn’t do much for your personality neither.  (Sorry Fink.)

I wouldn’t be so mean if there wasn’t stuff a mouth breather can do. But there is. Dr. Jefferson says a good place to start would be a dentist. You don’t like dentists? See your GP.  The problem could be caused by tonsils, adenoids, allergies, narrow passages (that can be expanded). Other stuff.

By the way, I  also wouldn’t be so mean if Finkelstien didn’t happen to be a figment of my silly imagination. You can be sure I’ll be hearing from SOME Hal Finkelstien anyway. He’ll turn out to be a mouth breather. And he’s gonna read this and and send me hate mail.

I’ll probably send some to myself.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 0 to myself and my cold indifference to the Hal Finkelstein’s of the world.

But ScienceAintSoBadRating  = 8 for a useful study, bringing to light an unexpected and troubling condition which can be remedied if caught.

My Blog’s 100th Anniversary & A Plug-in Domestic

Posted by on Thursday, 8 April, 2010



A hundred posts ago, in the first article on this blog, I said: Science has gotten beaten up in the past few years. It’s not just that it’s been starved for funds; there’s the feeling that it’s a crappy pursuit – opaque, dangerous, and inconsistent with the things that real people care about. I hope, with this blog, I can strike a small blow for the idea that science, though it most certainly CAN be complicated, is really a warm and lovely wind blowing us toward our destiny.

(My GOD I love my own writing!)

That was January, 2009. The Dow was crashing and The Nasdaq was evaporating. We were gonna have The Great(er) Depression.

George W Bush had just handed over the garage door opener and he was he glad to be rid of it. Couldn’t BELIEVE they found someone to take the job.

Since then, I’ve written articles about diseases and cures, earthquakes, animal behavior, pirates, inventions, astronomy, cosmology, robots, the search for intelligent non-earthians, alternative energy, headaches, backaches, runaway Toyotas and plenty more. Drew pictures too!

100 articles.

Not the bloody Wikipedia. But nobody gets paid here.

So 100 articles – that’s a lot.

Maybe you remember the  scary robots from Boston Dynamics.  I was trying to say  that robotics is quietly getting good. In the meantime, Jeremy Maitin – Shepherd (University of California, Berkeley) and team’s getting its towels folded.