In Phoenix for a meeting last week, I had a free afternoon and felt the urge to see some bones. So where could I go? Sure, Arizona has lots of fossils scattered in remote spots, but I just had a few hours, which I blissfully filled at the Musical Instrument Museum. I never guessed I would see an armadillo “ukelele.” Read more
One of my my favorite Gary Larson cartoons depicts two cows sitting on a sofa with a phone on the coffee table wildly ringing. One bovine says to the other, “Well, there it goes again. …and here we sit without opposable thumbs.” Read more
Our thumbs contribute to everything man-made. Without a thumb, hand function drops to 40% of normal. Three main reconstruction techniques are available to restore this critical part, either missing from birth or from injury. The first one, discussed last week, entails slowly lengthening the thumb remnant. I nickname it begging. This week’s post discusses the second method, which I call borrowing. Read more
Our thumbs are amazing. Their independent movement allows them to swing away from the palm and face (oppose) the other fingers. Our thumbs contribute to everything man-made. Various languages celebrate its function. Shastin Farsi means both 60 and thumb, signifying that it constitutes 60% of the hand’s function. In Turkish, thumb is bas parmak—chief finger. And in Latin it is pollex, which is derived from pollere—to be strong. Isaac Newton marveled, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” Read more
Because of its alluring properties and relative scarcity, gold is more precious than silver. The same used to be true for ivory when compared to bone. Although it is easy to distinguish gold from silver, it is not necessarily the same with ivory and bone, yet the implications include legal ones.
Should you come across an irresistably beautiful crafted white object in an antique store, can you trust the dealer’s word regarding its composition? Museum curators and the US Fish and Wildlife Service also have vested interests in bone vs. ivory. How can you tell them apart? Read more
At age 15, William Cheselden apprenticed himself to a noted London surgeon. Seven years later, in 1709, he emerged as a surgeon himself. Unable to immediately develop a practice, he taught anatomy and eventually turned his class notes into a book, The Anatomy of the Humane Body. It was wildly successful, partially because it Read more
Little did itinerant merchant Joseph Sherburne and Ponca Chief White Eagle know, but their trading in corncob pipes would ignite a fashion frenzy lasting 30 years. Sherburne had obtained a license to trade with this group of Native Americans, who in 1878 were living in Indian Territory, which is now Eastern Oklahoma. Among his trade goods were pipes fitted with bone stems. They quickly sold but without comment from the purchasers. When Sherburne next visited, Chief White Eagle showed him an elaborate neck ornament Read more
The emergency room staff was immediately suspicious. His father said that Peter, just over six months old, was pulling himself up to a standing position by grasping his pant leg. Peter fell back, screaming. The extreme distress, entirely unusual for Peter, continued until some Tylenol helped him fall asleep. The next morning Peter was again screaming, and his mother took him to the emergency room. Read more
If table talk at Thanksgiving dinner grinds to a halt following dissections of weather, football, and rogue relatives, you may wish to bring up the seasonally relevant topic of wishbones. Here are 12 ways to ensure that you will be invited back for Thanksgiving next year. Read more
An elephant herd consists of a matriarch, her sisters, one happy male, and all of their immature offspring. Once juvenile male elephants reach adulthood at approximately 14 years of age, they are expelled from the group and either live alone or pal around from time to time with other bachelors.
As is known for at least one other contemporary species, young male elephants lack life skills and good judgement, and so they may exhibit risky behaviors, including lethal ones, such as getting mired in bogs. Read more