Sunday 30 November 2014

Wave particle duality and ferrets

If quantum theory doesn't bedazzle your intellect and have you scratching your bonce in frank bewilderment then you have failed to understand its fundamental tenets. But therein lies the problem. Reality at the quantum level is so bizarre and fantastically weird that it defies coherent contemplation. Very smart physicists gape in wonder at their experimental results. It is as if the human brain is not wired to fully appreciate the workings of nature at the infinitesimal level. The world of the subatomic eludes logical appreciation and appears forever counter to our model of reality. This may explain why sub-atomic particle physicists, more than any other group of scientists, are prone to mysticism.

Take light for example. Light is the visible form of electromagnetic radiation. Up until the turn of the last century, light seemed well behaved and could be described as a wave. However, disturbing experiments began to suggest that light under certain circumstances behaved as a 'quanta package', a particle called a photon. But how can this be? Light is either a particle or a wave, how can it be both? In fact it seems that all sub-atomic particles can be described this way. Depending on how the experiment is designed light can be observed as a wave or a particle. But even more strange, it appears that light behaves as a particle or a wave depending on whether it is being 'observed' or not. It is as if the particle/wave knows it is being watched. For those who would like to know more about nature's absurdity I've embedded a short video which explains this phenomenon simply and elegantly.

Life at the macroscopic level is never so strange, or is it? After all we are composed of a near infinite number of particles which if they prefer, transform to waves. How does all this impact on the real macro world we inhabit? This happens to be a highly controversial subject, and not just confined to the world of science. The implications of quantum physics delves deep into our core reality. Counterintuitive it may be, but the quantum world can be readily demonstrated and underpins all existence. The philosophical implications are profound and even impinge on ancient philosophical conundrums traditionally relegated to the realm of pure speculative thought. Thus, the notion of whether we are able to exercise 'free will' or whether we are deterministic automata has engaged minds for over two millennia. If anything quantum physics has added an extra layer of complexity to an already intellectually dense and troubling debate. It seem that quantum theory can be used to support either standpoint and every subtlety in between. It would be interesting to return to this fascinating topic at a later juncture. I feel a series coming on.........                 

 Big Albert gets the last word:

 "It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do."   

No one likes a smart arse (big fat arse)

Thursday 27 November 2014

Turned out nice again

                                                             George, stop being a twat......

George Formby was born in abject poverty in North Tipton circa 1904, next to the ill famed ‘Ferret Factory of fun’, a bawdy house of ill repute. His formative years were spent cleaning windows and when not gainfully employed he would often be found leaning on a lamp post. His big break came in 1932 when he invented the ‘George Formby grilling banjo.’ His great insight was to tilt a hot banjo at a jaunty angle of 45 degrees. In this way the molten lard rolled clean orf the food and wended its way to the adjacent midden pit. Inventions thereafter came thick and fast. Who can forget the ukulele that doubled as a cheese slicer?

Still a twat
In 1940 ‘Fulsome Toothed George’ married a shrew of a woman called Agnes, although from some angles Agnes resembled a ferret and this association was somewhat reinforced by her penchant for gnawing through electric cables. Under her baleful gaze George ascended to new dizzy heights of culinary genius and invented an electric guitar which doubled as a deep fat fryer. But in 1948 Agnes was electrocuted during an ill advised mastication session involving a 240 volt transformer. This was an all too common occurrence in the Formby household, however on this occasion the transformer happened to be plugged into the electric supply. 
Agnes before the accident

George was never quite the same and began frequenting the local hostelries thereabouts. It was during an ill fated night of inebriation that George had an epiphany. He awoke, stark bollock naked, on a park bench, at 4am in the morning, with a Chinaman sucking his toes. The Chinaman with the toe fetish turned out to be none other than Mr Wu (it could be no other) and they decided there and then to go into the laundry business together...........Arse bucket. 
                                                                         To be continued............ 

Sunday 23 November 2014

Vagina Dentata

An image from my private collection
A vagina replete with teeth is a folk myth common to many cultures. It is meant as a cautionary tale and a warning for those who practise unprotected sex with wanton and reckless abandon. But how are we to protect ourselves from misplaced dentition? Condoms are notoriously thin to provoke the ultimate sexual experience. Chain mail condoms have never caught on and chafe something awful.

Like most myths there is a germ of truth lurking within. There exists a rare tumour called a teratoma. Teratomas contain highly differentiated tissue and are capable of forming fully formed dentition, and even hair. It is not inconceivable that a woman could be afflicted with a vaginal teratoma. This lamentable malignancy, if not excised, could result in the development of teeth.

On two occasions,  I have dissected teratomas as part of my professional duties, and can vouch personally that teratomas contain teeth. They are perfect in every regard and resemble a child's first dentition. The teeth make an exotic addition to my rare artefact collection and reside on my mantelpiece as if in repose.


                                                                Watch and weep

Saturday 22 November 2014

Darwin and Evolutionary Thought: Preamble, part I

I have given a great deal of thought of how to start my much anticipated series on the 'The Theory of Evolution' (a trilogy in twelve parts) and after considerable contemplation  have decided to go back to the origins (no pun intended), and to the man who initiated modern biological thought, Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

From our perspective of a 160 years of established evolutionary theory it is easy to forget the profound affect Darwin's book of 1859, 'The Origin of the Species' had on staid, Victorian society. Intellectually it took time to percolate but theologically, the reaction from the first, was fierce and overwhelmingly negative. Once the seminal message of the book insinuated thoroughly, the reaction from the intellectual establishment was mixed. In science we talk of paradigm shifts. Rarely in science are we confronted with such a fundamental lurch in our knowledge base that we have to catch our intellectual breath and resume our scientific journey anew. Although probably not recognised as such at the time, Darwin's core insight was one of those occasions. Scientists are often, although they shouldn't be, resistant to change and especially to new concepts which challenge long held and cherished beliefs. Scientists are human after all, and are trained according to the standing truths of their time. If there is one feature that comes with age, of which we should be ashamed, is the stolid uncritical acceptance of what we have been previously taught (Flaxen lowers his head/arse in shame). Our core knowledge is like a comfy chair. It fits all our nooks and crannies but intellectually it is bad posture. There is a conceptual atrophy that comes with age and science is often advanced by one funeral at a time.
Thoughtful biologists, of the time, were struck by Darwin's fundamental insight into the natural world and how deceptively simple his notion appeared. Indeed, many clever men wondered why they hadn't thought of it themselves and gaped open mouthed at the man with the theology degree, who did.

Darwin's ideas did not materialise out of an intellectual vacuum. The Victorian era was a time of great intellectual, scientific and technical achievement and before passing on to a discussion of evolutionary theory itself it is instructive to examine the intellectual milieu of the time which influenced and shaped Darwin's ideas. This will be the basis of my next post on evolutionary theory, unless I become distracted......     

Thursday 20 November 2014

Itchy and Scratchy

I preferred their earlier stuff

Is there nothing more exquisitely divine than scratching an itch? Especially if the time from initiation to abrasive consummation is delayed for what seems an eternity……. Delayed gratification is always the purest and most delectable of sensory fulfilment.

For you and me this most esoteric of pursuits is just a hedonistic distraction on a slow Sunday afternoon. However, there are folk out there who study the itch/scratch phenomenon for a living. The scratch reflex makes sound evolutionary and adaptive behavioural sense. Foreign objects alighting on our skin such as insects and potential parasites elicit the characteristic itch and are subsequently whisked orf with a deft rake of the finger nails, or paw if you happen to be a ferret.

The skin represents our largest organ and the average person sports about 20 square feet. However, if you are endowed with a big fat arse (ARSE), the coverage may be substantially higher. Like most things in life, the itch-scratch reflex is complex. Whilst it is true the nerve conduction pathway to the cerebral cortex is the same for the transmission of an itch or pain, the underlying chemicals which mediate each response is different. In fact it was originally proposed that the distinction between the itch and pain sensation was just a matter of degree. Hence minor stimuli would evoke an itch, whilst more profound sensations produced pain. Although conducted through the same nerve conduit, pain and itching clearly elicit divergent reactions in the human organism. When in pain we withdraw the affected limb, or region, away from the stimuli in order to protect the endangered part of the body, with an itch, a reflex commands us to scratch. For the most part we react automatically/autonomically to the itch reflex and act as if in an unconscious delirium. I wax lyrical and digress. 

Like beauty, the itch reflex is only skin deep. Muscle and brain tissue never itch and consequently never need to be scratched.

Some folk are possessed of a caste iron will and are not to be beseeched by a powerful and dictatorial itch. There is pleasure in abundance to the adamant soul who can resist and saviour this most vehement of provocations. And there are those, equally possessed (by what, you ask?), who allow the itch to build to a crescendo of white heat sensation before satiating with the inevitable chafe. Tis no wonder then that the itch-scratch cycle tracks to the region of the brain associated with pleasure and addiction. There is also a powerful psychological element to itching. Whilst reading this nonsense I bet you have felt the urge to scratch at least once? If I'm any judge (which I'm not), most will be scraping their bodily areas with unashamed and unrestrained abandon. I counsel prudence in your pruritus, otherwise madness will insinuate itself to the very core of your being and loved ones will seek refuge in the arms of one less afflicted and probably less scaly.......    

Shagger having a scratch

Sunday 16 November 2014

Flaxen spouting bollocks, once again......

Another fucking Venn diagram

What is knowledge and more importantly how do we know whether something is true as opposed to total bollocks? For those who are interested there is a an accepted method which helps us to distinguish between these often bewildering concepts. It has a fancy name, epistemology. Essentially, it defines the methodology involved in deciding whether something should enter the accepted pantheon of 'true' knowledge or whether it should be rejected and discarded into the deep recesses of detritus which litter our imaginative landscape.

Over eons, very clever men (for it is they) have forged the concept which underpins our core knowledge basis. Often this sounds like sound common sense. But we only perceive this as such due to the brave intellectual pioneers who carved out the fundamentals. I'm talking a mere four centuries ago when the intellectual world existed on the cusp of reason and religious dogma. Luckily for the Western world, reason prevailed. Although the church did not go down without a fight. True to form, the church, transcendent at the time, tried to influence the debate through intimidation. If the intrepid could not be beaten down with the old refrain of 'hell fire' they risked being physically broken on the wheel, ouch. Predictable, I know. For those who could, and have power, violence to 'change minds' is an easy option.  But the march of reason was unstoppable. Once sensible men found confidence in their principles, religious dogma went on the run. Today, fundamentalist religious belief is resplendent in the ignorant third world and the ignorant bible belt of America. I digress.

And so, coming back to my original question, what constitutes the wherewithal for obtaining knowledge? Again the solution is relatively simple and gives scant evidence to the hard earned intellectual cost suffered by the likes of Galileo.  There are only two paths to knowledge; induction and deduction. Deduction proffers true, absolute knowledge, and is represented by the facts garnered by mathematics and logic. Once established, these truths hold for an intellectual eternity. Induction is knowledge obtained from the senses. It is the basis of the scientific method and is the 'mainstream' method by which most folk obtain their knowledge base- unless they are logicians or mathematicians. The observable world gives us evidence. It is not true knowledge like mathematics, but after calculus it is the only method available for obtaining verity about the world. To be fair, induction gives us probabilities about whether something is true, but never absolutes.

There are some who would argue the contrary, and state with zeal that there are alternative methods to obtain knowledge. To those who proselytise thusly, I leave the onus of proof upon their unrepentant and irrational bonces. If they believe that faith offers a pathway to true knowledge, then they should offer sound judgement and reasoning (which they never do), otherwise they are just pissing in the wind and contributing bugger all to this most important of debates......   

A pongid contenplating the cosmic awe (arse)
                                                                                                    Arse bucket on a stick

Friday 14 November 2014

Mermaid spotted in the Dudley canal (cut)

Mr Mugumbo on the way to pub
Breaking news from the beautiful and majestic spa town of Dudley West, incorporating North Tipton and environs there about. This reporter can conclusively report a confirmed sighting of the legendary aquatic mammal, ‘The Mermaid’ frolicking in the Dudley canal at closing time. Mr Eli Mugumbo (who else?) relates the story with habitual poise: “I had just left the ‘Felching Ferret’ hostelry after a particularly heavy session of imbibing alcoholic beverages. On this particular occasion I had consumed 15 pints of Tipton Best bitter, 12 malt whiskies, a sweet sherry and a magnum of babysham. As I lurched down the tow path of the Dudley canal, wending my way home precariously after imbibing large amounts of alcoholic beverages which comprised………I digress. Although the light was poor and my vision befouled and be speckled, I discerned out of the corner of my good eye, a splishing and a splashing emanating from said canal. On further inspection I distinctly saw a mermaid reclining on a fiat uno. It had the lower body of a fish and the upper body of a ferret (surely some mistake). As I approached it transfixed my visage with steely blue eyes, and rasped. “Fancy a good time sailor?” Although taken aback I recovered my composure and retorted with fortitude born of extreme inebriation: “Yer my bessie mate, I love ya, can ya lend me 20 quid for a case of Special Brew Extra, burrrrrrrrp".  

Afterwards whilst encapsulated in a brief moment of sobriety, Mr Mugumbo admitted that he might have seen half a bloater cunningly nailed to a rusty perambulator.
I threw this one back

But kept this one........
Are mermaids a product of our atavistic and overwrought imagination? A mere fevered wraith of fancy. Or are there creatures lurking in our canals (dead tramps excepted) unknown to science waiting to be flung flapping into the light of day by brave and intrepid researchers, boldly ferreting (steady Shagger) into the dark, dank, slimy, ordure at the bottom of the recesses of our………. (Arse).   
Artist impression of the 'creature' from the cut

Wednesday 12 November 2014

The Tipton Journal of Intellectual Research

Tip. J. Int. Res: 52 (3) 102-104. 2014

A systematic approach to assess the impact of non-standard names on intelligence quotients (IQ): A retrospective study

Dr Saxon, F. and Prof Mugumbo, L. Tipton Institute of Difficult Shit and Stuff, UK.

Intellectual disability (fuckwittus maximus) is characterised by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and learning profiles (FM). The aetiology of FM is often unknown, although genetic and compounding environmental factors have been implicated. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a positive correlation between non-standard names and mental retardation (spakkers). We suggest a systematic formalisation of non-standard names (actually this was Mugumbos' idea, I couldn't be aaarrrssed) and using retrospective data culled from the Tipton census (1900 to 2013 inclusive) we attempt to provide data to support the null hypothesis: shit names =  thick folk.

Research into this valuable area has often been hampered by the lack of a systematic and widely accepted definition of non-standard names. For our purposes a non-standard, or shit name, is one which incites lip curling derision in any reasonable research professor. We acknowledge that names that were once considered 'piss poor' have now entered main stream status (eg Wayne and Sharon- call me Shazza), nonetheless, anyone with an ounce of taste would still consider the recipients of such names as below contempt. Having established a formal definition it is necessary to delineate the research population under consideration. The Tipton census (c 1900-2013) was plundered for succulent data. Cohorts were established according to decade. One hundred randomly picked names were assigned to two discrete categories: 1. Nice middle class names which you would be happy to assign to the fruit of your loins; 2. Be woeful appendages that you would not call your pet hamster (or ferret). The names Kevin and Tracy were excluded from the study based on arbitrary taste.     

The data was subject to a non-parametric meta analysis.


Fig. 1

The data shows a clear statistical and valid correlation between fucking diabolical first names and intellectual deficit. Of particular note, the following names were associated with profound intellectual retardation: Paris, Devon, Tipton and Brittany. In fact any name associated with a piece of real estate automatically rendered the owner as 'brain fucked'. Likewise, any name that really should have been a last name, showed similar 'tardation tendencies. For instance, Lucas, Spencer, Evan and anything starting with Mac should have been strangled at birth.

Our study unequivocally supports the contention that shit names are positively correlated with  low IQs and frank intellectual deficit. Furthermore, individuals called Flint, Loshandra and Donatello are more likely to end up in a correctional institution or a home for the terminally befuddled than someone called Frank or Emma. In conclusion: Anyone with a non-standard first name should be sequestered at birth and quietly smothered. Their parents should be imbued with the illusion that their offspring (for it is they) have been taken orf by a wandering band of Spanish gypos and are fated to dance the flamenco for an eternity......

Potential Future Studies
It has not gone unnoticed by the authors that this trait may have a genetic component. Therefore, it is suggested that further studies be directed at measuring parental IQs in order to establish whether there is a hereditary component to this phenomenon. It is strongly suspected that 'arse brain' is inherited as an autosomal codominant factor. Although maternal/paternal uniparental disomy cannot be ruled out.

This study was carried out under the auspices and funded by the charity for the 'fucked up' and after advisement from Professor Kath Lissenden.            

          References and Citations
Available on request

Prof. Lighthouse Mugumbo in repose


Tuesday 11 November 2014


On the 11th hour of the 11th month, 1918, hostilities ceased on the Western Front

Does my ARSE look big in this?

Is there anything more terrible than poison gas? There is something particularly chilling about stealing a man’s breath, searing his lungs, blistering his skin and leaving him to linger in agony before expiring. 

It is generally held that the Germans initiated the release of poison gas in the Great War. As a point of fact, the French fired tear gas grenades against the Germans during the first month of the war in 1914. However, the quantities used caused the Germans little distress and it is unlikely that the troops registered the assault. If they had I am sure they would have shed a tear.

The first major release of gas occurred on the Eastern Front in January 1915. On this occasion the Germans fired 18,000 artillery shells containing a non lethal tear gas into the Russian positions on the Rawka River during the battle of Bolimov. Due to the extreme cold the gas failed to vapourise and froze into the ground. Even the stones wept during this battle.

Chlorine gas was first deployed by the Germans on the Western Front in April 1915. The gas was released from 5,730 cylinders and the light breeze prevailing along the front propelled the green pall into the allied lines occupied by French Colonial troops. The troops abandoned their positions causing an 8,000 yard rent in the lines.  However, the Germans failed to exploit their initial success and the line was rapidly plugged by Canadian, British  and French troops.

The April gas attack caught the allies completely off guard and make shift gas masks had to be hastily assembled. Gauze pads soaked in bicarbonate solution proved useful. If desperate the pad could be soaked in urine. As the war progressed sophisticated gas masks were issued to all combatants. A full faced mask incorporating eye protecting goggles became the norm. 

The Allies quickly followed suit and the British released chlorine gas during the battle of Loos, 25th September, 1915. Due to an unfavourable wind some of the gas blew back into the British trenches causing causalities. Clearly, release by cylinder was not the best medium for delivering death and subsequently combatants dispensed gas exclusively by artillery; shells provided a more effective and precise delivery.

More deadly gases were soon developed. Phosgene, a colourless gas with the odour of new mown hay was particularly potent. Unlike chlorine, its effects were not immediately apparent as it didn’t, initially at least,  cause coughing. Phosgene often had a delayed action and apparently healthy soldiers would sometimes succumb two days after initial exposure. In fact this was considered the main disadvantage of the gas, as soldiers could continue to fight long after receiving a lethal dose. The Germans introduced mustard gas to the battlefield in 1917. Mustard  gas is an almost odourless, blistering agent. Again, like phosgene its effects are not immediately apparent. Mustard gas was more difficult to protect against than chlorine or phosgene as it not only attacked the respiratory system but caused severe blistering to exposed areas of the skin. It is also persistent and relatively dense and therefore lingered on the battlefield for weeks after release.

Gas was never a major battlefield killer. It has been estimated that less than 10% of all British casualties were caused by gas, and only 3% of these were actually fatal. Of the million Britsh and Commonwealth troops killed in the war, 8,000 died of gas poisoning. Artillery in the Great War was the major harvester of souls. If the war had continued into 1919 it is estimated that up to 50% of allied shells would have contained gas. Although not a great killer of men, gas had a debilitating affect during battle. Men had to wear and fight  for hours on end confined in hot, sweaty and uncomfortable masks. Gas attacks reduced morale, terrified the recipients and severely reduced fighting efficiency.

The use of poison gas was prohibited by the 1899 Hague declaration concerning 'Asphyxiating Gases'. Technically, all the belligerants should have been indited as war criminals. The expediency of war makes men wretched.

I'll leave the last word to Wilfred Owen who died on the 4th November 1918, six days before the end of the war ......... 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

A soldier of the Great War

Sunday 9 November 2014

What lurks within: The part after the last part

Say hello to your intimate friend

Do you have a parasite? I'm not talking about the 180 pound lump sitting on your sofa eating chips and drinking your beer. That's your son. I'm talking about organisms that have made a tidy home within you. Parasite infestation is inevitable. By definition a parasite is an organism which feeds on its host and gives nothing in return (your/my son). Indeed the consequences are not always ill health. The well evolved parasite is wise and prudent if it makes its presence unknown. Makes no sense to destroy your home and livelihood.  Many organisms reside in the human body but not all are parasitic. In fact many of them are beneficial and would be difficult to live without. Consider the many species of intestinal bacteria, for instance.

Most folk associate parasite infestation with third world countries. If you are of this frame of mind you need to think again. Indeed, beasties within are quite common in the civilised West. Thirty percent of Americans harbour one, or in some instances, more than one intestinal parasite from a list of 19 species.

The favoured route of entry is by mouth. Although some enter through the skin. Undercooked meat is an obvious source. But parasites are canny beasties and infestation may occur through contaminated water or faeces. But you don't usually eat shit, or do you? Incidentally, eating poo is called copraphagia and is the legitimate form of nutrition in some species of animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. I digress. Unfortunately some folk are not particularly fastidious when it comes to toilet behaviour. Infected individuals, if not careful about washing their hands, can leave parasite eggs on door handles or even the phone. When your mom said you couldn't catch stuff from toilet seats- she lied.

So how do you know whether you are infected? Tis often difficult to tell. Nasty intestinal parasites may make their presence known by unpleasant symptoms. Do you suffer from intestinal gas? Do you have trouble falling asleep or wake up multiple times in the night crying out for your favourite Teddy bear; Pandy Loo, where are you? Do your muscles inexplicably ache? If you are on statins discount this symptom. Are you fatigued and depressed? Does your arse itch, especially at night? Itching can be such a distraction. To combat itchy arse syndrome (Arse) I usually give the itching an intensity number from 1 to 10. This sometimes helps. Where 1 is a mild tingling and 10 an overwhelming urge to rake the region until the area is red raw and proffering blood. If you really can't help yourself, wear surgical gloves and use a medium grade of sandpaper. The relief is exquisite and the pleasure engendered is enough to transform a man into a god.  

To be honest an obsession with parasite infestation is one of my many quirks and foibles. Let's be frank, I am not easy to live with. Ask Mrs Saxon (not much of a life/wife). Anyway, I have a routine. Every month I examine my own shit. I take note of it's form and odour. Usually this states: 'torpedo shaped, brown and smelly'. Now the real fun begins.  Select a firm member from the collection, you can discard the rest in the conventional manner. Take a vertical slice. I recommend not using your regular cutlery. Examine said portion using a high power lens. You are looking for parasite eggs. Sweet corn is an unnecessary distraction. Resist the urge to pick them out and recycle. No profit will come from this bizarre and ultimately disgusting behaviour- please, get a grip! Look for small, pale, ovoid objects. These are the likely suspects. If found try to count as per the area under investigation. This will give you an estimate of the your likely level of infestation. There are numerous guides online which will help you identify the species from the gross morphology of the egg. Occasionally, you may be flattered by finding an actual parasite itself. This is a cause for celebration. Gather said item, carefully wash and pickle in cheap gin. This is an item worthy of  wonderment.

Obviously there are other tests that can be performed. I am privileged in this regard as I have access to a modern and well equipped laboratory. Perk of the job, I suppose.

Am I to be pitied or exalted- you be the judge.           

Perhaps the ultimate and best evolved parasite

Saturday 8 November 2014

Death becomes you

Bugger, that reminds me. I think I've left the oven on.
Once breath leaves our living bodies, what next? At room temperature, without oxygen, the brain will die in six minutes. Doctors record this as the point of death. Without brain function we are no longer alive (ain't that the sad truth). Now, this is where the great mystery begins, according to some. But what happens after bodily death?  For the prosaic observer the depredation and ultimate decomposition of the body is well recorded. Upon death there are two reinforcing processes. Initially, the enzymes within the cells which compose/decompose the organism become released from the cells, a process called lysis. These proteins (for it is they) dissolve tissue until they in turn are destroyed by the ultimate component of decomposition, bacteria. This is where serious degradation begins. Bacteria are an essential part of the human organism. Up to 5% of our physical mass is comprised of bacterial matter- I shit you not, ask Shagger. Not only are we devoured from within but bacteria present in our environment opportunistically devour from without. This is not the whole story. Few folk, in the civilised world, progress to this form of frank/rank decomposition. We die in bed alone or in a sanitised hospital bed, alone. And when I mean alone it doesn't mean relatives are not present. When we die we are whisked of to another place, very cold. Bacteria become subdued at low temperatures. For some, an embalming process can begin. Vitriolic infusion of formalin can keep a body 'fresh', although after a while the livid rubbery flesh and the 'catch at the throat' stink makes you gag, ask any anatomy or medical student, or geneticist for that matter.

For most, at least, the chilling is brief and infusion with environmentally unfriendly eye watering chemicals does not occur. Burn the corpse. Render the body into component parts through the medium of extreme heat. What remains in the box is crunchy ash. Most of our humanity goes up and out of the flue.

The most environmentally friendly option has always been deep burial. With time, soil organisms and bodies become one with the earth. Flesh is nibbled away leaving in a few thousand years just our teeth. Teeth are the most indestructible parts of the human body, after all. Tis sobering that our lasting legacy after death is our gnashers. Although, there are some folk in Dudley West who die toothless and hence bereft of legacy; hang our heads in indifference. Arse.

Of course you could leave your body to medical science. This is really a pragmatic and cheap option. Best suited for pragmatic and cheap atheists. Have you seen the cost of the average funeral? If you think your cold, formalin infused corpse is going to further the cure for cancer, then you have been beguiled. Your fate is to be despoiled by spotty med students. Your corpse will be dissected and subjected to tawdry off colour  humour. Where is the dignity in that? You could argue that you are beyond caring, being dead an all.

This conveniently brings me back to my original conundrum- what happens after death? To my mind, absolutely nothing. I become as before life, in tune with nothingness. To think otherwise is the fevered  dream bethought by a deranged madmen (surely a tautology). My point being: It is pointless to contemplate non-existence otherwise we are sure to be entangled in logical paradoxes which will cause intellectual headaches for which there is no rational nostrum.
Our ultimate fate?

Personally, I desire a Viking funeral. My body placed on a lusty long boat. A dead wolf at my feet (perhaps Eingar?). Surrounded by much wood, kindling, tow and pitch. Fleet burning arrows will speed my boat into the harbour. My burning pyre silhouetted against the evening sun...... No, fuck it. I leave my bod to some dozy medical student. He or she will defile my body according to whim and place bits in jars. Being dead I will not care a jot and there is the added bonus of not leaving a large funeral bill to those who loved me in life. Is there no finer epitaph?

                                                  I forgot to mention this alternative


Wednesday 5 November 2014

Death is not a part of life

Aubrey de Grey sporting a beard you could lose a ferret in
Is ageing inevitable, are we all doomed to die? Seems like a silly question. Of course we are all going to die. It is part of the biological condition. All living organisms age, senesce and eventually cease to exist. Tis the natural order of things, or is it?

Aubrey de Grey is an English scientist who disagrees. He contemplates the ageing process as a disease and therefore a challenge begging for a cure. For him the problem is best tackled from the perspective of engineering. Examine all the aspects of ageing and fix them. Stated baldly this turns ageing into a technical problem like fixing a car. But of course biological systems are unbelievably complex, unlike the Renault Megane. He argues if we can discover all the individual components of the ageing process, biological engineering can provide a solution. The engineering perspective is critical. Scientists would have to understand all the intricate mechanisms of the ageing process; this approach could take centuries. The engineering approach is much simpler. Identify the problem and fix it. But herein lays the problem. The reason why we age is unclear. There are many theories of why we age but frankly we are still unsure why biological organisms should age and die at all. While it is true that many of the degenerative processes are well understood, this doesn't answer the central question of biological death.

Aubrey de Grey is an optimist. He believes that there are people alive today who will live to be over a thousand. If we can engineer a solution to death then 'we' (notice the quotes) can live forever. He believes that the engineering problem is about to be solved within the next thirty years. A combination of drugs and nanotechnology will keep our bodies rejuvenated and essentially immortal. The only limit to lifespan will be chance accidental causes- or perhaps suicide. Will living a thousand years be too great for anyone to bear?

There are some, like de Grey, who believe we are on the verge of a solution to the ultimate question. All they need to do is stay alive long enough to reap the rewards. They are prepared to undergo extreme privation today in order to live for an infinite tomorrow. They fast, take supplements and subsist on a healthy life style. They hope to buy time now and eventually be part of the immortal club.

I suspect de Grey is a dreamer. I also suspect the problem of ageing wont be 'fixed' soon, if ever. I'm hoping I won't be around when that day arrives. Man has always dreamed of immortality, but when that day comes, will he cease to be man? If nothing else, life is defined by death. Humans are the only sentient creature which contemplate death and understand that we are ultimately doomed. It haunts our waking days and is present when we watch our parents die. In this regard we are all on the great conveyer of life, waiting in turn to drop off at life's terminus.   

And what of the ethical and moral dimensions? Who will benefit and drink from the chalice of immortality, if it is ever found? The child in the slum of Soweto or the urchin in the Glasgow tenement? Whatever the science and engineering involved you can be assured it will come at a cost; the pharmaceutical and nano-tech companies will want their gelt. I suspect the elixir of life will be restricted to the usual suspects- rich, white, old men. With a burgeoning world population, is it morally sound for a select few, the elect, to live for a 1,000 years? Many would answer this question in the negative. But what has morality to do with money and big business.

Earlier I raised the question of  how this would affect our ultimate humanity. Would our memory fade with time, would we forget what happened 150 years ago? Would reality become a succession of 'lives'? The problem inherent in extreme longevity is enough to make a mortal's head spin.

Underpinning all this is a blithe assumption that most of us would choose life over death. However, when the question is asked, the majority of folk say, nay. A recent survey of 30,000 people found that less than 1%  wanted to live for an eternity. What we do want is to live disease free and healthy for as long as we live. You could argue this view might change on the death bed. If dying and offered a pill conferring immortality, would you take it?

De Grey is an idealist and like many idealists he means well. There is almost a childlike enthusiasm in his proclamations. His fanaticism is also apparent. De Grey is a  man driven and has dedicated the last 10 years of his life perusing the 'dream of gods'. In many respects he resembles the ascetic religious fanatic. Earnest, abstemious (although he is fond of beer) and extremely zealous. It is as if he can transform the world by his will and by the vigorous application of technology. In this respect, he resembles Steve Jobs. We need men like de Grey, men like him often have an impact on society, and often in ways they don't expect. De Grey is a clever man and tis a shame he hasn't harnessed his talents to real life problems rather than shackle his formidable intellect to the unobtainable stars.

No comment necessary


Monday 3 November 2014

What lurks within......

This one is called Malcolm
When lying alone at night, naked, exposed, vulnerable and afraid of the dark, have you ever been tempted to probe the deep recesses of your belly button with diligent digits and retrieve the accumulated detritus gathered therein?

An Austrian researcher has been collecting his own 'navel lint' for years. Not only does he have the world's largest collection, according to the Guinness book of records, but he has also published a seminal work on this topic in a bespoke scientific journal. Dr Steinhauser (for it is none other) has examined over 500 pieces of self garnered lint and has come up with some remarkable conclusions. It will come as no surprise that most of what lies within is cotton fibres, intermixed with dead skin cells, fat, sweat and dust.

Hairy folk collect more lint than the hairless. The swirl of hairs direct fibres into the gaping maw that is the belly button and here it is mixed by rhythmic movements of the solar plexus resulting in a claggy ball. So if you want to maintain a clean, pristine and lint free navel you are advised to shave the immediate environs with pertinacious aplomb.    

I have been collecting my midrif fluff for years. Finally I have enough to start to fashion a rendition of my ferret, 'Shagger'. As you can see, it is work in progress. It may take another year or so before I am able to give Shagger some limbs.

Shagger doing his Arthur Askey impression

Saturday 1 November 2014

Contemplate and weep, once again

Tourettes is a funny old condition. For most folk, it is associated with the loud enunciation of rude words in public by otherwise normal looking adults. This expression of Tourettes is mercifully rare. But the condition itself is relatively common, especially amongst children, although its manifestation is usually mild and could be considered as part of normal childhood behaviour.

Predictable, I know but can't help myself. Arse.

In its least severe form, Tourettes presents as a tic or a repetitive physical behaviour without obscene vocalisation. Although, to be considered as a positive diagnosis, there has to be an element of intermittent utterance, not necessarily offensive or even involving an actual word.

The cause of the condition is unknown, although there appears to be a hereditary component- I would say that, wouldn't I, being a geneticist an all. In addition, environmental factors intervene. This is a cipher for: 'we haven't a bloody clue.' Like most behavioural disorders, the cause(s) is often complex and mysteriously, unknown.

Humans like to compartmentalise and to place things within categories. Behavioural defects often defy neat classification. I propose that Tourettes is another expression of a rather untidy disorder; how inconvenient.

There is a lesser known cousin of Tourettes which is less socially debilitating but can impose severe strictures on those contemplating a career as a writer. Tis often called literary Tourettes, or more formally known as 'writing bollocks.' This concept is totally alien to the golden haired (pert and perfectly formed) one. I pity those afflicted thus and propose annihilation on the third offense. Penis, scrotal appendage and pudenda.   

Again, very predictable....

Arse, cunt bollocks, tit wank, feltching, cum bugger, bucket of frogs and semen. May the force be with you. Bottom sex, cum shots and dwarf porn. Zoophilia, shagging a dog called Rex.Gleet. Alex Guiness was actually a good actor. Don't forget the lube.