Archive for January, 2011


Posted by on Sunday, 23 January, 2011

"Is it my imagination or is this one kinda restless?"


Although it’s UNUSUAL to wake up in the middle of an operation, it isn’t that rare, either.

Not to scare you or nothin’, but I’m lookin at a report in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International by Petra Bischoff and Ingrid Rundshagen. The report states that as many as one in 500 patients experience “unintended awareness” in the middle of an operation. For Massachusetts General, which does about 34,000 surgical procedures a year, that could be 78 people.

Worse for kids. Could be as much as one in 50.

Pop quiz. How many lawyers are there in the United States and what do they do for a living? (Answer: more lawyers than surgeons. More than all the doctors in the country put together. As for what they do for a living, care to guess how some of them are spending their time?)

Anesthesia isn’t just one thing. It consist of

unconsciousness (being asleep)
analgesia (doesn’t hurt)
amnesia (not being able to remember anything bad)
and temporary paralysis (can’t move)
reversibility’s good, too

All this stuff’s supposed to happen simulaneously. In fact, it’s really important that it does.

What happens when things go wrong? One possibility is that you might not be asleep when you’re sposed to be; you might feel what’s going on; you might be unable to move and,  therefore, be unable to let anyone know AND you might remember every horrible moment, later. That’s a really bad combo.

Another possibility: you might experience the pain but not recall the infinitely crappy experience. Does suffering count if you can’t remember it?

So many issues. So few trained philosophers.

Bischoff and and Rundshagen provide some suggestions to anesthesiologists and surgeons about possible steps to avoid unintended consciousness among their patients and MISTER ScienceAintSoBad fervently hopes their suggestions are heeded and lead to more tranquil surgical experiences but, all in all, MISTER ScienceAintSoBad would be a lot happier if he had never reviewed this darn paper.

Some things you just don’t want to know.


I don’t want to scare the pants off of you.

Anesthesiologists sometimes describe patients as being “light”. Doesn’t mean they’re fully awake. There’s an entire spectrum of wakefulness. Bischoff/Rundshagen describe “awareness” but don’t appear to distinguish how awake the patients are. It may well be that many of them are a little more aware than they should be but well south of  being tortured. It’s good to understand some of the things that  can happen during surgery, No need to walk around with a ripe appendix though.


Credits for the above image (which show an operation on a US Navy ship) Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Posted by on Saturday, 22 January, 2011



There’s more plastic floating in the ocean then plankton.

More than seaweed.

Take all the dumb ideas in the world, put ‘em on a scale and weigh them. Well there’s more plastic floating in the oceans than THAT.

Actually, they ARE oceans of plastic.

A little water here and there.

We’re doomed!

Aren’t we?


Not this week.

Professor Angelicque White (Oregon State University)  navigated around the oceans on a National Science Foundation funded study, surveying the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. After analyzing the data that was collected, as well as digging through the accumulating and sometimes over-the-top literature on the subject of humans strangling in oceans of plastic, the professor concluded “huh?”

Well, she didn’t actually, say “huh”. But, for sure, she thought it.

Because  we’re NOT actually strangling in plastic. There ISN’T more plastic than plankton. There’s STILL room for a row boat or two amongst the orange running shoes and plastic toys that are tossing around on the crests of the waves.


Dr. White’s not HAPPY with all the crapola in the oceans of the only planet we inhabit. It’s bad enough.

Plenty bad.

A scandal.

But, she says, the increase isn’t “exponential” and, in fact, if you take the worst of the worst estimates of the amount of plastic it’s STILL less than the size of the state of Texas.


And it really hasn’t increased since the 1980’s. So we might be doing better. Unless, of course, it’s just sinking to the bottom.

Anyway, Dr. White’s not making light of the problem. (nor, hopefully, is MISTER ScienceAintSoBad ). Dr White’s point is that it’s bad enough without exaggerating it to the point that nobody believes a durn thing you say.


Credit for above photo: This is Alvin and her support ship Atlantis and the photo is from the NOAA photo library.


Posted by on Friday, 14 January, 2011



You wouldn’t remember Esperanto.

Idealistic project.

The idea was to just make up a language. a good one with a logical grammar and no history behind it to piss anyone off who thinks that the Esperants exploited his people and enslaved his great grandparents. With no “baggage”, it could be introduced around the world and become the new common language for all.

Good idea, right?

What happened?

It wasn’t spoken in enough colonies so it got ignored.

Today, English is the global language. Maybe Chinese’ll be the next one.

But Google’s got an app for that all right.  It just announced that it’s cracked the “impossible” problem of rapid automated voice translation. Still a little rough. It’s available “for now” to converse in Spanish to English/ English to Spanish. Other languages will follow as the technology matures.

This is amazing. It was thought to be way beyond what could be done with present technology.

ScienceAintSoBadRating on this one?



Speaking of Google (aren’t we always?). Google’s announced a Science Fair. It’s for kids 13 to 18 years old. First prize: $50,000 and a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Lot of other prizes. This is worldwide although certain “pariah” countries like North Korea and Syria are off the list for, I suspect, legal reasons.

So THAT’S Why I Talk With My Hands!

Posted by on Saturday, 8 January, 2011



The guy in the green Toyota? I guess he’s on his car phone or something. Either that or he fergot to take his meds.

Anyway, he’s chattering away like crazy. And his hands are waving in the air. First one hand steers, then the other. Meanwhile, he’s grabbing air and talking.

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Is he driving with his knee and waving BOTH hands?

Oh boy.

You know what he’s doing?

Same thing YOU do when you’re blabbin’. Talking with his hands.

You’ve heard that Italians do it. Or Greeks. Or New Yorkers? Or.. It really doesn’t matter. EVERYBODY seems to wave his.her silly digits around in the air when talking.


Which is the funny part. What’s THAT about? Why wave yer hands around to make a point when you’re all by yourself?

Two studies looked at this ” gesture” stuff. One was in Psychological Science and another was in Perspectives in Psychological Science. Conclusion? According to Beilock and Goldin-Meadow (authors), all that waving around? It’s as much for you as it is for the other guy. It helps the brain figure out what it wants to remember and how to remember it.

You learn better if you use your hands to describe things. You learn worse if you don’t. Isn’t that funny?

Teachers and others who specialize in learning may not be grabbing air but they’re certainly scratching their heads about this.


Great science? Change the world? Important?

Probably not.

But if scientists weren’t so quirky, if they didn’t investigate silly crap like what makes the particles in a fluid jigger around, we might have missed out on a few things.

Like atomic theory.

I dunno how to rate this one precisely. A hand waver? I’ll say ScienceAintSoBadRating = 6.


No credits for the drawing. Just the author doodling.