Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts – WIF Myth and Legend

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Odd Things

People Used

to Believe

Humans have believed all kinds of strange things throughout our short time on this planet. This is, in part, because humans (and our evolutionary ancestors) love stories. We gather around campfires and invent entire mediums, industries, and technologies to aid in their telling. But on the other hand, humans have always had a deep need to understand the world we inhabit, and the combination of these qualities can lead to very uninformed people believing some very strange things.

10. The Sun is Actually Really Cold

He believed that the sun wasn’t hot, that it was actually very cold, but that its outer layers were of a luminous material, or an extremely reflective ocean. The discovery of sunspots had him reeling with possible ideas, suggesting that these were either momentary glimpses at the surface beneath the atmosphere or great mountain peaks that were being exposed by the tides of a vast ocean.

Obviously, these theories were laughed out of scientific circles by a host of polymaths, and Herschel’s ideas never caught on. The sun isn’t cold, and those sunspots are actually produced by the sun’s magnetic field.

9. Isaac Newton’s Future

Isaac Newton may have been known for his scientific exploits, but he was also absolutely obsessed with Alchemy, going so far as to construct his own furnaces to produce alchemical experiments. He wrote about these things extensively, using code to hide his theories from prying eyes, believing that anything could be transformed into anything else (something we know now is very wrong). If these texts were observed by anyone from modern times, they would be seen as occult or religious tracts. He was so obsessed with Alchemy and the supernatural that it might be considered that his interest in science was his real hobby.

To Newton, the philosopher’s stone was a real thing, which he was constantly searching for.

Newton was also fiercely religious and believed that the Bible should be taken literally. He spent much of his time attempting to uncover a secret code created by the authors of the Bible, something left by God that would redeem humanity before His inevitable return.

After studying Biblical texts extensively, he concluded that the world as we know it would end in 2060 and that it would be preceded by an apocalypse.

8. Bloodletting

All the way up until the start of the 1900s, the practice of applying leeches or cutting parts of a person’s body open to drain them of their blood was not only common, it was a thriving industry. The practice comes from the erroneous belief that all illness comes from the body having too much blood in it and that to cure that illness, the excess blood needs to be drained from the patient.

This is, of course, false, and while the practice of bloodletting fell and rose throughout history, it was perhaps never more popular than in the 1800s. It was a common practice for leeches to be imported for this purpose, and it’s estimated that in France alone, 42 million leeches were imported each year. These leeches were used to drain the blood from patients, cared for by barbers (yes, you read that correctly). A patient could have as many as 100 leeches applied to them. Barbers and caregivers would coat the part of the body they wished to apply the leech to with sugar-water, milk, or blood to entice the tiny critters to start sucking. This industry caused leeches to become fairly scarce, driving the cost of them up by 300%, and forcing “care-givers” to find inventive ways to extend the life of a leech.

The first physician didn’t come out against bloodletting until 1828.

7. Lambs Grew on Trees

During the Middle Ages, it was a common belief that the cotton being imported from India came from a vegetable that had a lamb attached to it by umbilical. This inaccuracy was reported by Sir John Mandeville in the 1300s. Mandeville wrote that in Tartary (the part of the map we know of as Russia and Mongolia today) a strange plant that produced gourds containing tiny lambs was a common sight.

It turns out that much of what Mandeville wrote about his travels were either outright lies or based on notes from other travelers.

Another version of this myth suggests that these vegetable lambs would die once they ran out of food surrounding their pod if they weren’t killed by their natural predator (wolves).

Other writers would go on to claim to have seen these vegetable lambs, and the belief would not start to crumble until the 1600s.

6. Women’s Orgasms Were A Sign of Insanity

As late as the early 20th century, it was believed that women did not experience sexual desire and that the female orgasm was something that needed to be solved, rather than a thing which could be beneficial to a woman’s mental and physical health.

Sigmund Freud was one of the physicians who proposed the idea that clitoral stimulation could lead to psychosis in women, a “theory” which saw quite a few women institutionalized as a result. Women who had difficulty or could not have a vaginal orgasm were labeled as lesbians (which was also thought to be a mental illness), imbalanced, and masculine.

History has had a bad habit of demonizing the female orgasm. The vibrator was originally invented so that doctors could relieve “hysteria” (known as sexual frustration today) in women, and it was generally not believed that women were capable of experiencing sexual desire and were merely receptacles for male anatomy.

Today, we know that the female orgasm is beneficial not only to a woman’s mental health but also to her physical health as well.

5. Cosmic Ice Theory

In 1912 Hanns Hörbiger attempted to challenge the scientific community by introducing a controversial theory which suggested that humanity, the stars, and the planets were all made of… ice. Hanns and his partner, Philip Fauth, argued that the formation of the Milky Way was caused by the collision of a massive star with a dead star filled with water. This collision resulted in the formation of the Milky Way galaxy and dozens of other solar systems—all made of ice produced from the collision. When these ideas were challenged for not making any mathematical sense and for there not being any physical evidence for it, Hanns said “Calculation can only lead you astray,” and, “Either you believe in me and learn, or you will be treated as the enemy.”

This ridiculous theory didn’t catch on with mainstream science at the time, not until the conclusion of World War I at least, when Hanns decided to take his theories into the public sphere, where they might be better appreciated.

His rationale was that if the general public grew to accept the theory that they were in-fact made of ice, then the scientific community would have to accept it as well (we mean, isn’t that how science works?). While serious scientists did not accept his theory, many socialist thinkers at the time did, concluding that it was superior to theories invented by Jews.

And you are probably guessing where this is leading. Hitler, Himmler, and all of his cronies also adopted these ideas as well, along with a whole bunch of other horrifying things.

4. Doctors Didn’t Need to Wash their Hands

Before the advent of germ theory, medical professionals would go from examining dead bodies to performing live births on mothers, which as you can imagine, caused all manner of infections and a high mortality rate among patients they cared for. It wasn’t until 1840, when Ignaz Semmelweis, a 19th-century Hungarian doctor observed that one of his fellow surgeons died after cutting his finger during an autopsy.

Semmelweis surmised that because many of the doctors in his hospital often operated on corpses before treating live patients, they were inadvertently spreading “cadaveric matter.” And when he instituted the policy that all of his doctors were to wash their hands between patients, the mortality rate at his hospital dramatically dropped. Naturally, he wanted to spread this discovery with the rest of the medical world.

There was quite a bit of resistance to this idea, though, mostly because Semmelweis’ publication on the matter was barely coherent, and handwashing wouldn’t be strongly advocated for until 1860 by famous nurse Florence Nightingale. And it wouldn’t be until the discovery of germ theory that handwashing would become a staple in hospitals around the world.

3. Sexual Energy Controls the Universe

Wilhelm Reich went from being the enemy of Fascist Europe to being the enemy of the US Government, from psychoanalyst to the founder of sexual liberty in the West. Reich believed that orgasms were caused by a mysterious energy in the atmosphere called “orgone” and that this energy permeated and moved the entire universe. He suggested that a good orgasm could liberate a man or woman, and a bad orgasm could make them a prisoner.

Sexual liberation was not exactly in vogue in Hitler’s Germany at the time, so Reich was forced to flee to New York, where his ideas would be embraced by the disenfranchised left. Reich even “invented” a device that he claimed could “energize” a person with orgone. The device, called an “Orgone Energy Accumulator,”  was feared by conservatives and revered by left-leaning individuals, and some even swear by its power today. Reich’s ideas got him labeled as a communist sympathizer in the 50s, and eventually, the FDA would come after him for selling his Orgone Accumulators, demanding that they be destroyed along with all literature pertaining to them.

Reich would be arrested for violating this order and sent to Federal prison, where he would die alone in 1957.

2. Women’s Bodies were not Designed to Handle Train Rides

The resistance we’re seeing to the rise of artificial intelligence and 5G internet is nothing new, it’s age-old. When the first locomotive was unveiled, men feared that its immense speed (top speed getting up to 50 miles per hour, or 80 kilometers per hour) would cause a woman’s uterus to fly from her body.

A companion to this fear was that the human body, male or female, might melt if brought to similar speeds.

Cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell suggests that this revulsion to new and developing technologies results from a kind of “moral panic” that a society experiences when an invention threatens to alter how we perceive time and space. Put more simply, we humans hate changes to the status quo, and we’ll kick and scream until that change either goes away or we realize it really isn’t so bad after all.

1. The Earth was the Center of the Solar System

Up until the end of the 2nd Century AD, it was thought that the Earth was the center of the universe. Although this notion is ridiculous to the vast majority of us who accept the clearly superior Heliocentric model (which purports that all bodies in the solar system revolve around the sun), to humans observing the skies in the 2nd Century, it did seem like the sun, stars, and the moon all revolved around the Earth.

Beyond famous Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Ptolemy, early Christianity taught that God had placed the Earth at the center of the universe, thereby making it unique.

Though recently, conspiracy theorists have begun a movement bordering on cult-like proportions suggesting that the Heliocentric model is a huge hoax perpetrated by world governments and that the Earth is actually flat, we don’t have to tell you that this is bullocks, do we?

The Geocentric model of the universe was so pervasive in human history, that it would remain the scientific rule until being invalidated in the 16th Century AD.

Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

WIF Myth and Legend

Not Just a Bucket of Bones – WIF Medicine

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Fascinating Facts

About the

Human Body

It’s no wonder that so many of us take our bodies for granted; we take them with us everywhere we go. We’ve all been there when it comes to complaining about aches and pains. People have been known to spend more than a million dollars altering the appearance of their bodies. There are some, such as neuroscientist Randal Keone, who want to end human dependence on bodies by creating computers into which our consciousnesses can be uploaded.

This is overlooking what a beautiful, elegant machine the human body is. Its many intricacies, quirks, and surprises. So let’s break out the microscopes and give the wondrous body a little more of its due.

10. The Prodigious Data of Our Genomes

In 2003, after three years of work, the International Human Genome Sequencing Project declared they had finished ordering the data that would allow them to write a human genome. It was noted that this was two years ahead of schedule. Why would it have been expected to take five years to write out the amount of data in a human genome?

Well, a genome is a complete set of human DNA., which as we all know is basically the code that is ordered to make out a specific human and their traits. Though specific traits such as hair color, height, and such only comprise about 2% of DNA while the rest is more or less a standard human template. The code is usually broken down into patterns of the letters U, G, A, C, and T (CC, AT, TG, etc.). A single genome of DNA will have 3.5 billion pairs of data in it to program a human being. This means that when the International Human Genome Sequencing Project completed their mapping, they had finished the equivalent of translating 100 encyclopedias worth of information! You’d think almost no one would have that much to write about them, even after Twitter came around.

9. I’m Radioactive

Part of the reason human beings are radioactive is inadvertent. The radioactive element strontium-90 tends to accumulate in bones because the body tends to mistake it for calcium. Relatively large amounts of that were spread around around the world due to pervasive nuclear weapons testing, but since it has a half-life of 29 years the worst effects of that have passed. The more pressing concerns for many are those who absorbed the material from such nuclear disasters as Fukushima in 2011.

The body more directly creates radiation through its nervous system. Every time you use your nerves to move an organ, think, etc., that causes the fission of a potassium-40 atoms, and that fission releases gamma radiation. On an average human being, roughly 10% of that will leave the body (lower on a heavier person). This translates to a lifetime spent sleeping with another person being the equivalent of spending a few days in Denver or some similarly high-elevation city. This is to say that we’re not radioactive enough to produce much energy. If all the nerves in your brain were harvested for electrical power, it would take roughly 2.85 days of charging time to fill up an iPhone.

8. Seeing with Your Ears

If you look at someone in the eye, you’re looking at one of the body’s most counterintuitive contraptions. When you see something, first light passes through the lens of an eye, then it casts itself on the retinas in the back of the eyeball. In the process of passing through the convex material of the lens, the light is refracted onto the retinas upside down. So how does it process as right-side up by the time that the information gets into the back of the cerebrum where the brain is located?

This is where the ear comes in. It’s the vestibular nerve in the ear that connects your eyes to your balance center and corrects your vision for the brain’s benefit. This has some handy benefits merely having the retinas connected directly to the brain wouldn’t provide. For example, it’s the reason that you can tilt your head at a 90 degree angle without the world appearing tilted. This discovery has led to the belief that newborn babies, with their nervous systems that are still coalescing, actually do see the world upside down. So far, though, none of them have said one way or the other.

7. Glowing Bodies

Sure, you’ve heard about how people with a certain mood or style are glowing, but this is a bit more literal. In 2009, researchers Masaki Kobayashi, Daisuke Kikuchi, Hitoshi Okamura photographed the first known images of a human being glowing, although the basic science of measuring biological photon reactions had been known since the 1960s. They placed five test subjects in a light tight environment, brought out a charge-coupled device camera, and spent seven hours photographing them. While the temperature remained constant, it was found that the amount of light/photons that their bodies emitted changed through the course of the day.

This is not to say that you should be hoping for people that can save many on lightbulbs anytime soon. The amount of light is roughly 1/1000th that of what would be visible to the naked eye. Still, since the rate of photon emission was found to be linked to metabolism, Kobayashi suggested that after more study the technique could be refined to use to diagnose metabolic conditions. In the years since, some studies have been conducted with photon emissions to test the effectiveness of meditation. The results are reportedly promising but inconclusive.

6. New Body Parts at Different Rates

Everyone knows from lessons about the dangers of excess alcohol back in their teen years that we only get one set of nerve cells that never replenish. But what about the other organs? How long does it take to replace them?

Well, for one, the lining of your stomach only takes a few days to replace due to the corrosiveness of stomach acids. Your skin cells are comparatively long-lived with an average of three weeks. The liver cells stick it out a robust 150 days.

The longest lasting of the cells that do get replaced are bone cells. Those last long enough that your bones last an average of 10 years each. Each cycle, though, they tend to regrow a little thinner. This is why they’re especially vulnerable among the older generations. As of 2020, the National Institute of Health estimates that roughly 50% of Americans over the age of 50 have chronically weak bones.

5. Growth Hormones Can Cause Shrinkage

In the early 20th Century, experiments in injecting growing males with testosterone and females with estrogen began. The idea with the females was that it would normalize their menstrual cycles, and for males that were not growing satisfactorily to get taller. In the long run, the results would show the effort was a misfire. The estrogen injections increased breast cancer rates for women in their sixties, and for the males the testosterone could backfire in a more immediate way: their pituitary glands shut down because the body was already full of testosterone, so there was no growth.

By far the most famous recipient of this misguided treatment was Rainbow Connection and A Star is Born songwriter Paul Williams. Since his father was over six feet tall, he thought the fact Paul was only four 4-foot-6 in fifth grade meant there was a problem and started therapy. Williams said that it stopped the growth of his bones and sent him into puberty at age 10. Some things it just doesn’t work to try and force.

4. We Needs Metals

It’s standard practice to include the heavy metal content on a nutritional information label, but why do we need copper, zinc, or iron? Well, we need copper to control heart rate and produce all sorts of cellular tissue, from bones to heart cells. Zinc is used for cell division and dissolving carbohydrates for heat and other forms of energy. Iron also is used in metabolism, but with the addition of helping transfer oxygen to cells.

The amounts of metal in a body vary significantly and in some instances can be surprisingly substantial. An average adult human only has roughly 50-80 milligrams of copper in them, barely over 2% of an ounce. By contrast, it’s often said that an average adult human has enough iron in them to make a nail three inches long. Let’s hope for your sake that this is the only way anyone will say you have one of those in you.

3. 98.6 and Falling

Of all the entries on this list, this one likely provides the single best piece of news. In 1851, the standard temperature for a healthy adult male body was set at 98.6° F. Since then, studies such as the one performed in 2019 by Dr. Julie Parsonnet of Stanford University of 677,000 measurements found that the average man’s temperature had dropped down to 97.9° F. It hadn’t been a rapid dropoff. The average had been roughly .05 degrees per decade. Women came in at around 97.3° F.

According to Parsonnet, the reason behind this isn’t related to a lack of activity on the part of most people. It’s because with the adoption of healthier lifestyle habits and improvements in antibiotics, the number of people whose immune systems are constantly fighting colds and flus while remaining functional has declined. Not to mention that the fact that more and more people are living in homes with reliable temperature control means that more peoples’ bodies no longer require inflammation to remain active. Who’s to say if it won’t turn out in the next century that optimal human temperature is a degree or two lower?

2. Calorie Counts

Now this, admittedly, a fairly grisly entry for this list. In April 2017, historian James Cole of the University of Brighton was researching cannibalistic practices in ancient tribes to see if they were performed purely for ritualistic purposes or for survival. To this end he decided to determine the fat and caloric content of human bodies to see if they would yield a worthwhile amount of sustenance compared to available prey. He came to a conclusion that an average adult male human body weighing 145 pounds contains roughly 125,000 calories. Since the generally accepted amount of calories a person needs in a day is about 2,000, that means a human body would feed another human for slightly over a month and a family of four for slightly over a week, though as we learned in the previous entry harder living certainly meant people burned through calories faster. A red deer from the time would yield roughly 160,000 calories for less risk, which left Cole inclined to conclude that humans were impractical as a food source and thus the cannibalism was likely more for religious or militaristic purposes.

Cole went into thorough detail in the analysis of a body’s calorie value. For example, a one pound heart provided 650 calories. The liver is 2,569. The lungs are 1,596 calories combined. Skin offers about 10,280; bones 25,330. The delicacy of zombies, the brain, provides 2,700 calories.

1. Makes Own Drugs

To think that in a few ways, every person is a mobile drug lab. For example, there’s dimethyltryptamine, which is a hallucinogenic Schedule 1 drug often extracted from mushrooms. It also naturally occurs in human cerebrospinal fluid and related to dreams. It’s speculated that near-death experiences are related to it. Then there’s the opiate pain reliever morphine, which in 2010 experiments indicated (inconclusively) the brain creates out of the chemical tetrahydropapaveroline.

More firmly established in the late 1980s was that the body produces its own cannabinoids, specifically CB1 and CB2. Beyond the intoxicating effects, the National Academy of Science reported in 2006 that CB2 is used by the body to regulate bone growth. Since then there have been findings that these cannabinoids are used for regulating a number of other physiological functions, which is why in some cases it’s better to rely on the body’s own cannabinoids than ingest some more.

Not Just a Bucket of Bones

WIF Medicine