Quick Roundup 463

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

"Rudy Got Married"

The below embed, whose audio features an old version I'd never heard until now of a ska standard, I dedicate to an old friend (who introduced me to this kind of music) and his lovely bride.

May they have many, many years of wedded bliss!

At the Point of No (Peaceful) Return

Dismuke emails a couple of links on the deteriorating position of freedom in the Americas.

One of these discusses the poor treatment of political prisoners by the Chavez regime. The last line, an update to the post, should pique your interest.
A historically minded reader tells me at least some political prisoners in the Gómez era were tossed in with common criminals. I guess that means we've reached the level of democratic development we had then.
The fact that we're now talking about degrees of mistreatment of political prisoners speaks volumes.

And a few little birds (cartoon at right) tell me this is what Barack Obama's idea of "hope and change" really is.

Check (out) the Appendix!

The appendix is vestigial, right?

Not so fast, professor! Further investigation suggests otherwise.
[T]he appendix appears in nature much more often than previously acknowledged. It has evolved at least twice, once among Australian marsupials such as the wombat and another time among rats, lemmings, meadow voles, Cape dune mole-rats and other rodents, as well as humans and certain primates.


Several living species, including several lemurs, certain rodents and the scaly-tailed flying squirrel, still have an appendix attached to a large cecum, which is used in digestion. Darwin had thought appendices appeared in only a small handful of animals.

"We're not saying that Darwin's idea of evolution is wrong - that would be absurd, as we're using his ideas on evolution to do this work," Parker told LiveScience. "It's just that Darwin simply didn't have the information we have now."
I have a feeling that the above won't stop creationists from seizing hold of this theory and using it to "disprove" evolution. That's too bad, because this news story actually shows how even a blind alley, so to speak, can lead to further knowledge in science.

So what's it for? Apparently, it may serve some digestive and immunological purposes.
... Parker and his colleagues recently suggested that the appendix still served as a vital safehouse where good bacteria could lie in wait until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea. Past studies had also found the appendix can help make, direct and train white blood cells. [link dropped]
But what about appendicitis?
Darwin was also not aware that appendicitis, or a potentially deadly inflammation of the appendix, is not due to a faulty appendix, but rather to cultural changes associated with industrialized society and improved sanitation, Parker said.
According to this line of reasoning, it may be the price we pay -- in terms of a known risk -- for being able to enjoy the benefits of advanced civilization without having to court pestilence and death every time we sip water. And now, assuming these scientists are on the right track, further scientific and technological progress may soon reduce or eliminate it.

-- CAV


: Removed second section, but kept the appendix.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, you kept the appendix? Unintentional self-referential humour? And in removing the second section. A re-section, as it were.

C. Andrew

Jim May said...

As I understand it, you can ingest "good" bacteria in your diet, without having to risk infection at all; Kefir and yogurt are two good sources of such.

I don't know whether that would reduce the risk of appendicitis, but they're good stuff anyhow.

Gus Van Horn said...


Intentional pun, but not mined for all its worth as I didn't go the extra mile and make the resectioning joke.


I think you're right about being able to ingest beneficial bacteria, but that would just address part of the missing functionality.

Speaking only as a layman here -- immunology is not my field -- I think that such foods would not much help compensate for any lost immunological function, which I gather must be to help white blood cells become familiar with potential targets.