Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Did Alexander do it?

Skeleton 4,000 Years Old Bears Evidence of Leprosy

Where leprosy came from--and how it entered Europe--has been a mystery. Now, evidence from a bear skeleton points up a possible link with an important historical figure:

...The skeleton, about 4,000 years old, was found at the site of Balathal, near Udaipur in northwestern India. Historians have long considered the Indian subcontinent to be the source of the leprosy that was first reported in Europe in the fourth century B.C., shortly after the armies of Alexander the Great returned from India.

In addition, ancient religious texts now demonstrate some medical significance:

...The authors say their find confirms that a passage in the Atharva Veda, a set of Sanskrit hymns written around 1550 B.C., indeed refers to leprosy, a reading that had been doubted because until now the oldest accepted written accounts of the disease were from the sixth century B.C.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Burn'em all, let Allah sort them out.

Iran arrests 104 "devil worshippers": report

Now, I'm assuming this warrants the death penalty:

...The Islamic Republic, which bans alcohol and narcotics, last year said it would launch a crackdown on "indecent Western-inspired movements" such as rappers and satanists...

One Inquisitor, er, I mean investigator said:

"... a Guards intelligence unit launched an investigation into the all-male group about one year ago, leading to their arrest Sunday evening..."The group's aim was to promote irreligious behavior," Hamedi, adding they had posted footage of their parties on the Internet."

Damn that Internet!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dragons do spit fire!

Chemicals in Dragon’s Glands Stir Venom Debate

As if the Komodo Dragon could not get any more fascinating (and terrifying), some scientists are claiming that they are poisonous:

...a provocative paper to be published this week, an international team of scientists argues that the Komodo dragon is even more impressive. They claim that the lizards use a potent venom to bring down their victims...

The fact that these lizards can bring down large prey, such as pigs and water buffalo, has been attributed to their highly infectious bite. After biting a large animal, all the lizard would have to do is play a morbid waiting game. The prey would stagger off, later to keel over sick, then succumb to infection. However, some scientists have always questioned that scenario. Recently, an examination of the heads of several Dragons that died in captivity was revealing:

...The researchers found the second set of glands in the Komodo dragon heads, and inside they found venomlike proteins. Tests showed that one protein keeps blood from clotting. Another one relaxes blood vessel walls...

These scientists are claiming that this one-two punch--rapid blood loss and drop in blood pressure--is what causes prey to collapse soon after a bite. But some scientists are not so sure, as one points out:

"...I guarantee that if you had a 10-foot lizard jump out of the bushes and rip your guts out, you’d be somewhat still and quiet for a bit,” he said, “at least until you keeled over from shock and blood loss owing to the fact that your intestines were spread out on the ground in front of you...”

Heh! Point well taken. I think the jury is still out as to whether this Dragon spits fire.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wow, meteors from comet Halley! From

...Space Weather News for May 4, 2009
METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday, May 6th, with as many as 85 meteors per hour over the southern hemisphere. Rates in the northern hemisphere will be less, 20 to 30 per hour. The best time to look is during the dark hour before local sunrise on Wednesday morning. Visit for sky maps and details...

In the Northeast, we are completely rained in. Maybe some of my southern readers can catch a few meteors Wednesday night!