3000-year-old trousers, Justin Bieber’s, fashion, modern arrogance…

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Mayke Wagner at the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin and her colleagues studied two pairs of woollen trousers from a cemetery in Xinjiang, China. Carbon dating shows they are about 3000 years old.

Before that time, local people wore skirts and cloaks – but then horse riding became popular. “During normal movements the inner parts of the legs, the crotch and the lower abdomen are not exposed to friction over an extended period of time,” says Wagner. “This only becomes an issue when straddling a horse daily.”

Wagner made a reproduction pair and realised that the wide crotch piece hangs down in folds, similar to drop-crotch pants, as worn by teen pop sensation Justin Bieber. (1)

Oh arrogant “modern” man!
Why can’t you see the truth?

What is old was once new.
What seems new, is actually too old.

Now wear your jeans and off you go!

Sand castles, dirt, God, “creation”…

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For billions of years, the history of life has been written with just four letters — A, T, C and G, the labels given to the DNA subunits contained in all organisms. That alphabet has just grown longer, researchers announce, with the creation of a living cell that has two ‘foreign’ DNA building blocks in its genome.

Hailed as a breakthrough by other scientists, the work is a step towards the synthesis of cells able to churn out drugs and other useful molecules. It also raises the possibility that cells could one day be engineered without any of the four DNA bases used by all organisms on Earth.

“What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information”, says Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who led the 15-year effort. Their research appears online in Nature. (1)

But how can you improve something that you do not even now how it works?

It reminds me of the anecdote…

God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the “beginning.”‘
‘Oh, is that so? Tell me …’ replies God.
‘Well’, says the scientist, ‘we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.’
‘Well, that’s interesting. Show me.’
So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.
‘Oh no, no, no …’ interrupts God, ‘Get your own dirt.’

True men are humble.

And stay silent in front of the wisdom of nature…
We have tendency to play with everything like reckless children.
We have the arrogance to call our selves “creators”.
And like children, we will see our sand castles taken away by the sea…

Mississippi river and the “Change things” mania of modern civilization…

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Maybe the Mississippi river delta isn’t doomed after all. Upstream dams on the rivers that run through the delta were thought to be starving it of the sediment it needs to stay above sea level – but now it seems there’s enough sand to feed the delta for centuries to come. (1)

We spend so many resources to change things.

Then we spend so many resources to understand if what we did was good.

Then we spend even more money when we pay the price for our wrong choices.

Being primitive we would just… adapt.

But we are too arrogant for that.

Microbes, arrogance, wrong perceptions.

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Methane-producing microbes may be responsible for the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90 percent of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out — by far the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. It turns out that Methanosarcina had acquired a particularly fast means of making methane, and the team’s detailed mapping of the organism’s history now shows that this transfer happened at about the time of the end-Permian extinction. (1)

The greatest disaster in life, caused by the – supposedly – weakest organism of all.

Our definitions need re-defining.
Our egoism does not let us see beyond our nose..

We are not all that powerful.
We are not all that clever.
We are just microbes believing we are titans.

But only the humble are truly powerful.
Look at the world from the perspective of a microbe.
Only though knowing our limits, will we become limitless.

Acknowledge you are nothing and you will be part of everything…

Midwifery. Witch hunts. Men’s prejudice. Medicine & dogmatism.

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The first clear evidence of clinical benefit from hand hygiene came from Semmelweis, working in the Great Hospital in Vienna in the 1840s. The hospital had two obstetric departments, and women were admitted alternately, whatever their clinical condition, to one or the other. In the first, they were attended by medical students who moved straight from the necropsy room to the delivery suite. In the second, they were attended by midwives and midwifery students who had no contact with the necropsy room. The incidence of maternal death was as high as 18% in the first department, with puerperal fever the main cause, but only 2% in the second. Semmelweis observed that a colleague died from an illness similar to puerperal fever after being accidentally cut during a necropsy. He concluded that the infecting particles responsible for puerperal fever came from cadavers and were transmitted by hand to women attended by medical students in the first department. He therefore instituted hand disinfection with chlorinated lime for those leaving the necropsy room, after which maternal morbidity in the first department fell to the levels achieved by the second department. (1, 2)

Semmelweis’ discovery directly confronted with the beliefs of science and medicine in his time. His colleagues and other medical professionals refused to accept his findings mainly because they did not find it convincing that they could be responsible for spreading infections. The reaction reflected on his job as well when he was declined a reappointment in 1849.

The continued criticism and lash out finally broke him down. By 1865, he was suffering from depression, forgetfulness and other neural complaints and was eventually committed to an asylum. He only lasted there for two weeks and died on August 13, 1865 at the age of 47. (3)

Most sites reproducing the case of hand-washing and doctors bad attitude towards it simply emphasize the fact that doctors in the abovementioned clinic used to perform autopsies and then go treat pregnant women, while midwives in the other clinic did not. Although this was indeed the main case (see the original paper here), there is much more to see. Things you can find if you look deeper. Things not immediately evident from reading Wikipedia scientism-biased articles.

The first important teaching from this story is the way doctors treated advice towards them by someone outside the mainstream “cast”. They could not accept the fact that they were the cause of death. They could not accept that they even had dirty hands (!) (4, 5, 6) (“gentlemen do not have dirty hands”)

The second important thing to note is the way normal people (midwives) used to have more wisdom than the scientists. To complete the story in the beginning of the article, except the obvious difference between doctors and midwives (that the latter did not perform autopsies) there was another one which was the truly important one: that midwives tended to wash hands more often that doctors. This was something noted by the renowned Lister (7, 8). Researches on the matter show that midwives did have good hygiene practices (9 – see for example Midwifery Act 1902), (something one could see showcased by the “mysterious” fact of the World Health Organization celebrating “Washing hands” – see here – and the ICM celebrating International Midwife Day – see here – on the same date).

It is interesting to note that in the early 20th century rich women were more likely to die in childbirth than poor women. (Mary Wollstonecraft was one victim of an incompetent doctor; she died of puerperal fever after delivering a daughter who would grow up to write Frankenstein.) For almost any other cause of death, the poor were more likely to die than the rich. But for childbirth, poor women could afford only midwives. Rich women could afford doctors. (11)

After we (men) chased down women healers as witches (12) (yes, the ability to HEAL was one of the charges against witches!) we now have men ruling obstetrics. And even though home births are AS SAFE AS hospital births (13), the man-midwife (doctors) replaced the “bad witches” (14, 15).

Everything is good now.

Now we can all afford doctors or – even if we can’t  – must see one or simply die.

Now we dogmatically “know” that we know better and that the old ones were useless humanoids simply lucky to be alive.

Sure medicine has learnt its lesson. Sure it saves lives now. (Does it? See here)

But how many lives has it killed so far due to its dogmatism? How many more lives can be saved if the “all lightly” doctors listen to the popular wisdom of “ordinary” people like the midwives – even today?

Dogmatism can be truly deadly. Even before birth…