“The spine surgery will help your child breathe.”

scoliosis drawingIn the 1950s, about the same time that John Charnley was perfecting total hip replacement surgery in England (see previous blog posts), American Paul Harrington addressed a vexing spine problem. To understand the problem, consider that a snake slithers along by curving its spine repeatedly from side to side. By comparison, a human’s spine is not as flexible. It can bend a little from left to right but is normally straight when its owner stands tall. If a human spine develops a curve to the side that does not go away when standing at attention, the bend is unbalanced and tends to progress. Untreated, the spine can collapse to the side and cause shortened stature, an unsightly humpback, and in some conditions even compression of the heart and lungs inside a twisted ribcage. A compromised life ensues. Read more

Holiday Gift Guide for Frugal Bone Lovers

For those hard-to-please people on your holiday shopping list, surprise them with a bone-related gift. The options are vast, but for inclusion here, my 14 recommendations had to meet these criteria:

  1. no real bone
  2. no skull motifs
  3. nothing blatantly Halloween or goth
  4. nothing risque (Yes, there are glow-in-the-dark undergarments.)
  5. nothing over $9.99 (The final and best one is free.)

Happy gifting. Also, forward this post to those who will be shopping for you with a “hint, hint.”

By the way, I have no financial interest in any of the items.

Slide8This paper punch comes in two sizes, 5/8″ for $5.95 and 1″ for $7.95.

Great for personalizing documents, checks, envelopes, restaurant menus.

The cut-outs will appeal to scrapbookers.

Continue shopping ……

Read more

It Takes a Turkey to Call a Turkey

18-11-13 turkey caller+It is currently mid-season for turkey hunting in California. The smart toms by this time have become jaded to the previously persuasive squawks and clucks generated by commercially available box,  diaphragm, and rattle callers. Enterprising hunters therefore may turn to a homemade device that Native Americans began using at least 6500 years ago–the wing bone turkey caller. Read more

Skulls in Fine Art

Slide2Halloween is the time of year that unrepentant boneheads such as myself can revel in ubiquitous displays and celebrations involving


Admittedly, some presentations are schlocky beyond our wildest nightmares, and yet few are frightful. Skeletons, skulls, mummies, gravestones, cobwebs, and ghouls are more or less amusing. This was not originally the case, particularly for skulls. Read more

Dry Bones: How They Got That Way

museum natural history parisNaturally curious, you may have asked yourself how bones get from their living condition–muscle-covered, cartilage-capped, and fat-filled–to the inert, dry, aesthetically pleasing material so widely exhibited and valued. If you are not curious about how this transition takes place, you may wish to skip this post. Read more

Be careful what you ask for, paleontology style

In the 1930s, paleontologist Gustav von Koenigswald was looking for possible human ancestral fossils on the Indonesian island of Java. He was led there because forty years before, another paleontologist, Eugene Dubois, had found a tooth, thighbone, and skull cap of what he claimed to be the missing link between apes and humans. Whereas the colonial government had assigned convicts to help Dubois excavate the remains of what was to become known as Java Man, von Koenigswald had to hire local natives to help dig.

Slide2The photograph shows several rather intact skulls on von Koenigswald’s desk–reconstructions based on limited fragments that his team had turned up. Unfortunately too late, von Koenigswald discovered that the recovered fossil pieces were more fragmented than they had to be. Read more

The Human Hand, Not Really That Good for Anything

Long ago primitive sharks had ridges running down their sides from gill to tail. Later, muscles grew into the folds, and eventually the central portion of each ridge receded while the ends enlarged to form fins both fore and aft. All was well.

Slide5Then one day several hundred million years ago, a fish was swimming blissfully in a shallow pool. The tide went out and much to the fish’s surprise, she could use her five-rayed fins to move around a bit on the rocky bottom. The tide came in and she swam away, never to give this event another thought. The world, however, was forever changed. Read more

Camping Trip Accelerates Bone Research

18-09 UristAfter completing military service in World War II and then his orthopedic surgery residency in Boston, Marshall Urist returned to his native Illinois and joined the faculty at the University of Chicago. There he partnered with a physiologist, and they focused their laboratory research on bone growth and bone grafting. Urist noted on patients’ X-rays that new bone would not only form immediately around a graft but also at times some distance away, in muscle tissue for instance. He surmised that some chemical messenger must be stimulating local cells to begin producing bone. Thereafter he directed his research to isolate and identify the messenger. In the mid 1950s, Urist moved to Los Angeles and spent the remainder of his career at UCLA. Read more

Boning Up on Expressions

top ortho blogs 100 medallionBone tired and soaked to the bone in sweat, Jason crawled into his truck. The long scorching summer working for his paleontology professor in the bone-dry Wyoming bone beds was at its end. Although the work-study program had good bones on paper, in reality, it failed to deliver anything more than bone-numbing tedium. Read more

The versatile cannon bone. What is it?

top ortho blogs 100 medallionHorses and cattle, along with deer, goats, and sheep, walk on their tiptoes. This makes their limbs are as long as possible, allowing them to run fast and escape canine and feline predators, which run on their digits planted flat.

Slide1Another limb-lengthening and speed-enhancing adaptation of these toe trotters is their cannon bone, named for its tube-like structure. It is an extra long bone in each forelimb in addition to the upper arm and forearm bones and in each hind limb in addition to the thigh and leg bones. To understand a cannon bone’s location, we can sing about the toe trotters’ forelimb anatomy: The arm bone is connected to the forearm bone, … is connected to the wrist bones, … are connected to the cannon bone, … is connected to the finger bones. Similarly for the hind limbs: The thigh bone, … leg bone, … ankle bones, … cannon bone, …  toe bones.  Read more