Tag: cancer

Junk Science

Chimney Sweep Van Dyke From Mary PoppinsWhile I was doing some research last night, I came across this nugget from Wikipedia:

The first cause of cancer was identified by British surgeon Percivall Pott, who discovered in 1775 that cancer of the scrotum was a common disease among chimney sweeps.

This sparks so many questions that I don’t have the time right now to discover the answer to, foremost of which is “why”?

Is there some naughty secret to chimney sweeping that I’m not privy to?

Shrews Vs Cancer

My friend Hardy pushed this article from the CBC along to me:

Shrew spit tames cancer cells


At first, Stewart thought the chemical — called soricidin — might be a potential painkiller, because it blocked nerve transmission. When he tested it on a random cell culture that happened to be ovarian cancer cells, however, he found the cells died[…]

Northern Short-tailed Shrew by Gilles GonthierNorthern Short-tailed Shrew, Photo by Gilles Gonthier

I think we can all agree that any new tool to fight cancer is a welcome one, but what really brought the story home for me was the description of his process:

Stewart spent several years luring the animals with pepperoni and trapping dozens of shrews in his rural backyard before he eventually identified the chemical in shrew saliva that causes paralysis. Researchers then purified and synthesized it.

People tend to think that a single person can no longer make a difference in the scientific community, that the age of the sole-tinkerer is over, and that nothing gets done without a larger machine to make things happen.

If this passes the tests and manages to become key to a widely used treatment, it won’t be because of the scads of test tube wranglers and suit wearing money-holders, it’ll be because one interested fellow spent years in his backyard with pepperoni grease on his fingers and a real need to know burning in his brain.

Hulk Smash CNN

The news media, long being a tug of war between information and idiocy, often displays its worst tendencies on the CNN front page:

CNN Front Page Screen Shot
Surely this can't be true.

Huh. I’ve also heard that there’s no good way to turn putting down your dog into edutainment, nor any good way to sit in a tiny overly white room as your family huddles around the last rattling gasp of a dying grandfather. I wonder how many child soldiers, after a long afternoon of removing the hands from an entire village’s worth of corpses, think: “Jeez, really, shouldn’t there be a good way of doing this. Where’s the job satisfaction? Where’s the laughter? Maybe we should institute casual Fridays.”