Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, February 14, 2020

Four Things

News you may or may not be able to use...

1. Bacteria living in parasitic worms produce a chemical that holds promise as a new antibiotic:

In lab experiments, the new antibiotic was able to cure mice of dangerous Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae infections, without any toxic side effects. Getting darobactin ready for humans will undoubtedly take a long time, but this is a promising start.

Researchers identified the nematode as a possible host for an effective antibiotic because of the way these worms feed on insects, targeting their larvae and releasing bacteria that then have to fight pathogens similar to those inside the human gut. [italics in original, links dropped]
For the more scientifically inclined, the Nature paper is here.

2. Some time back, I encountered a reference to a flow chart version of when medieval Christians permitted sex. The flow chart, first compiled by historian James Brundage, appears in all its glory in The Atlantic:
Penitentials were handbooks carried by some priests in the Middle Ages that delineated various sins for private confession and their penances. They were full of strict limitations as to what constituted pious behavior. They went on and on. To digest it all, James A Brundage, a scholar of the Crusades, aggregated the complex rules about sex into this excellent flowchart. [links omitted]
Go there to view the flow chart.

After having to look up Whitsun, I wondered if anyone had worked out how often, best-case scenario, people had the green light. The answer would appear to be no. Perhaps it's in Brundage's textbook, but if it is, I haven't seen it cited.

In any event, the chart reminds me a little of the "consent" checklists that modern Puritans of the left want people to fill out in colleges. (I wasn't expecting to find an actual example!)

And I am sure it gets used about as often as folks in the Middle Ages performed the mental gymnastics that actually following such rules would require:
That's not to say that Medieval folks actually lived according to the flowchart rules, of course. There's always a huge gap between proscription and reality. People did it then like we do it now: whenever they could. But it is a fascinating glimpse into the both prurient and ascetic world of Medieval confessor literature, and what kind of standards Medieval people might have measured themselves against.
When your standards have nothing to do with living...

3. Changing gears... If you've ever wondered why a 2 x 4 is neither, head on over to The Spruce Crafts, where you can knock yourself out on the subject of "Nominal vs. Actual Lumber Dimensions." The piece includes a useful chart.

4. At Slate is a fascinating article on the "Lines of Code that Changed Everything" and it starts out with a bang:
Bouchon's Automated Loom. (Image by Dogcow, via Wikipedia, license.)
Binary Punch Cards
Date: 1725
The first code

Binary programming long predates what we think of as computers. Basile Bouchon is believed to be the first person to punch holes into paper and use it to control a machine: In 1725, he invented a loom that wove its patterns based on the instructions provided in the perforated paper it was fed. A punched hole is the "one," and the absence of a punched hole is the "zero." As much as things have changed since then, the essential building block of code has not. -- Elena Botella, Slate [link in original, format edits]
I was aware that punch cards came first, but the date came to me as a surprise.

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you quote, "To digest it all, James A Brundage, a scholar of the Crusades, aggregated the complex rules about sex into this excellent flowchart..." He's far more than a scholar of the Crusades; I mostly know him as a historian of medieval law and of medieval sexuality, and a demmed fine one. I seem to remember entertaining you with some of the provisions of late Roman laws he discussed in his Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe at coffee one weekend at La Madeleine at Rice. The consistently repeated provision that seemed odd to us moderns was strict prohibitions and harsh punishments against grave-robbing and tomb-breaking. In any case, his books on canon law in the Middle Ages, especially The Practice and Profession of Medieval Canon Law, are the books of his I've read most recently. (I see from an online check that he even has a book on canon law and the Crusades, The Crusades, Holy War and Canon Law. That's one I wouldn't mind getting a copy of in my hot little hands!)

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for pointing these books out.