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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Four score and a bit over a year, it has come to me that the Lord, yes, the same God who judges us all after we exit stage left, right, or into the orchestra pit, has a remarkable sense of humor. Man works like hell to solve problems, and it seems that just when he has the answer to one, the Good Lord smiles and tosses man another little problem to solve. Examples? How about the diseases that plagued London in the 18th Century? There was sewage in the streets and filth everywhere; smallpox was killing people by the thousands. Bye the 19th Century, however, man had semi-conquered smallpox with a new device and sera called vaccinations. No sooner was smallpox considered more of a minor irritant than cholera and typhoid appeared. It was rather like the God saying, “If you’re going to do nothing about sewage and cleanliness, I’m just gonna keep tossin’ these little diseases attcha until you wake up!” Of course, mankind did finally wake up, which is perhaps one of the reasons for the cliché, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” but let us attempt to keep the clichés to a minimum.

In 1845, the Great Famine that killed over a million people in Ireland was another little gem tossed to the beings on the planet. It took 168 years to figure what the hell it was, but in 2013, scientists finally figured what the infestation was that caused crop failures worldwide, but that hit Ireland particularly hard. According to one source, Ireland has yet to recover its full population.

I really shouldn’t say the God is responsible for the famine and disease that has plagued the earth since the time Eve took the first bite of an apple. Man seems to have done a fairly good job of mucking up the gene pool on his own. The Native Americans were far healthier than the European settlers who landed in North America. According to Native American Netroots, “The diseases brought to this continent by the Europeans included bubonic plague, chicken pox, pneumonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. The diseases introduced in the Americas by the Europeans were crowd diseases: that is, individuals who have once contracted the disease and survived become immune to the disease. In a small population, the disease will become extinct. Measles, for instance, requires a population of about 300,000 to survive. If the population size drops below this threshold, the virus can cause illness and death, but after one epidemic, the virus itself dies out.” Nonetheless, our European forbearers did a pretty good job of infecting the Native Americans with disease. Other than stealing their land, this seems to be a pretty good reason for the Indians to be pissed at the settlers.

When I was a child (okay; no wisecracks; no, I did not know Adam and Eve…or their kids), my world was terrified of chickenpox and measles. It was believed that exposing us to a neighbor child who had one of the diseases would give us a lesser case or at the very least would give us immunity after the disease had run its course. Today, we know that the chickenpox virus remains in the system and can result in shingles in later life. It was just last year that my own doctor recommended a vaccination to prevent the virus from resulting in shingles. In addition, I don’t believe it’s any accident that one of my pox scars later turned into a basil cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer that is rather easily cured.

Another frightening disease throughout my childhood was infantile paralysis or polio. It’s a disease that has been around probably has long as man has been here. In The History of Vaccines, it is noted that “Polio reached epidemic proportions in the early 1900s in countries with relatively high standards of living, at a time when other diseases such as diphtheria, typhoid, and tuberculosis were declining. Indeed, many scientists think that advances in hygiene paradoxically led to an increased incidence of polio. The theory is that in the past, infants were exposed to polio, mainly through contaminated water supplies, at a very young age. Infants’ immune systems, aided by maternal antibodies still circulating in their blood, could quickly defeat poliovirus and then develop lasting immunity to it. However, better sanitary conditions meant that exposure to polio was delayed until later in life, on average, when a child had lost maternal protection and was also more vulnerable to the most severe form of the disease.” The one thing that I know for certain is that a 16-year old named Jerry left work at the A&P in Rockland on a Saturday night in 1951 feeling great. On Tuesday Jerry was dead from polio. I still pray for his soul. He was a good kid, and I’m sorry I never got to know him better. Thanks to Dr. Jonas Salk and company, polio has nearly been eradicated, although 250,000 cases still appear annually in lesser developed countries.

Like polio, cancer has been around for thousands and thousands of years. Hippocrates, yep, the same guy for whom the oath was named, used the terms, “carcinos,” and “carcinoma” when describing some ulcer like sores that spread and killed. Today, we are still fighting the fight to find a cure for the disease. I do not know of one person I have ever met who has not, in some way, been affected by cancer. I lost my wife, my Dad, and two grandparents to the disease. You have either lost someone or know somebody who has lost a parent, child, or some other relative. Cancer is the most insidious disease I have ever known. Yes, Jerry died of polio and that was terrible. Worse is watching as your spouse, the mother of your children, waste away and stop breathing. Cancer will not be cured in my lifetime. Hopefully, it will be eradicated by the time my great grandchildren are born.

It’s easy to toss a lot of the disease and death in God’s lap. ”Man plans and God smiles.” No, that’s not really it. Perhaps the Good Lord did throw us a few speed bumps when things first got going, but we have certainly done a fine job of creating our own little killer bugs. I wonder what’s next on the agenda.

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At my age and with about as much mechanical engineering ability as a fly on an elephant’s ass, I put forth the following for some younger and more technologically advanced individual than yours truly.

First, picture this…you have a lovely house, a beautiful [in your eyes] wife, two remarkably brilliant and gorgeous children, and one rather yappy, but gentle Beagle. One night, at about one o’clock in the morning, the smoke alarm in the upstairs hallway wakens the entire household. You smell smoke; you shake your wife, grab the kids and the dog and, with nothing but the clothing on your back, you escape into a freezing night with the wind chill at minus eight degrees. Neighbors come from everywhere. They grab blankets and jackets and try to warm you; they invite you to their house, but you are mesmerized by the sight of all of your possessions going up in smoke and flame.

The fire department arrives and hooks up hoses the hydrant in front of your house. It’s frozen. Quickly, they drag their hoses down the street and hook up to the next available hydrant…frozen. Meanwhile, one side of the roof of your house has collapsed. Why the hell are the firemen doing something? They’ve already used up the available water inside their trucks but it’s a futile effort. By the time an unfrozen hydrant is found, they have to drag their hoses nearly half a mile away from your home. It’s too late. What was your house is now a smoking shell. The photo albums, your insurance papers, the car in the garage off the kitchen, your marriage license, the kids’ birth certificates…everything…gone…ashes.

Sound impossible? It isn’t; it wasn’t. It seems to be happening nightly in Massachusetts right now. I’m certain it has been happening in other parts of the country as well. Why so many frozen hydrants. Well, it’s just possible that December 2013 and January 2014 might go down as two of the coldest months in history. When you have days and days and days in a row that are at zero degrees or minus, fire hydrants are going to freeze.

So what can be done to prevent catastrophes’ such as the example given above? The answer is simple; design a fire hydrant and build water pipes that will ensure the water won’t freeze. I can hear you now: “Yeah, right, genius. How the hell are you going to do that?” I don’t have a clue, but there is an answer. Just because it has yet to be done, doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. While what follows is, admittedly, a poor example, it may give you some idea of how to get started: Many years ago, my late wife and I owned a 45-foot Marlette mobile home. After we’d purchased our first house, we moved the Marlette to a trailer park on Cape Cod…our first summer house; how thrilling. Water came into the mobile home through copper tubing located under the trailer [tell it like it is] and attached to a community water supply. That tubing was exposed to the elements year round. You might believe you had drained the tubing for the winter, but you might have accidently failed to get every bit of it. In case you did fail, any water left in the tubing, whether it was inside the mobile home or out, was going to freeze and probably burst the tubing somewhere in its journey. The solution was simple; first you wrapped the outside tubing with a wire coil that was attached to a plug. This was then plugged into the central electrical outlets which were on each plot of land. The wire had some kind of thermometer and when that thermometer reached a certain point, the electricity came on automatically, heated the coil, which heated the tubing which prevented the water, outside and in, from freezing and bursting the copper tubing.  By the way, you also wrapped the outside tubing with an insulating material.

Fire hydrants in areas that experience freezing have valves that are usually sunk below the frost line. This year, New England has experienced an unusually cold winter, making the idea of a hydrant that can be heated to prevent valve freezing an idea whose time may have come.  Is it a crazy idea? Will we ever have a winter to match the one we are currently experiencing? These and hundreds more questions must be answered by the adventurous inventor. That person, whoever you are, may become a millionaire because of your invention. You also may not make a penny. Remember, it’s the challenge, not the completion; the journey, not the arrival…and all of those other clever [and not so clever] clichés that will…wait for it…guide you along your path to glory.

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What if…when we die, we don’t really go to Heaven or Hell?

What if…when we die, we are merely born into another universe, perhaps like ours; perhaps not? After all, haven’t scientists just discovered that there could be something like 40 billion planets throughout our galaxy which is one of perhaps millions of galaxies within billions of universes?

What if…when we are born into this other universe, we don’t breathe oxygen but some other gas, like helium for example, and we all walk around with these little squeaky voices? And there is no Mormon Tabernacle Choir type of thing because there are no altos. There could be something like the Vienna Boys’ Choir I suppose, but I’m not certain they’d be very good…but they’d have to be considered good if that was the only musical group we’d ever heard. Just think, no barbershop quartets! What a strange world in which we’d live.

What if…when we die, we came back as asexual and could switch genders back and forth like some frogs? However, we wouldn’t look like frogs – or maybe – but maybe we’d be just who we had been when we were from that other place…you know…that place we called earth. Suppose the gravity pull wasn’t as strong and we could walk across the world merely by taking giant steps…be a bitch if you misjudged and landed in the Marianas Trench, or suppose the pull of gravity was ten times as strong and a tall person in our new world was only three feet six inches tall…and all of our organs were compressed.

What if this new planet that we now inhabit was filled with the equivalent of our caveman types but we still – through some mix-up in the life/death transition – retained our mind set that we possessed when we died. That would be fine if we had been the victim of Alzheimer’s disease, but what a bitch if we were cast in with the caveman and went looking for a Safeway or Walmart? Worse yet, suppose that instead of caveman types, the beings with which we were associated had all learned quantum physics in kindergarten and were so brilliant that we couldn’t communicate with them on any level?

When you carefully consider life and death, think of how many trillions of people have died since ‘man’ first inhabited earth, whether we evolved from apes or crawled out of the slime; it doesn’t matter. Assuming for the moment that there is a Supreme Being, and that he does judge our behavior in some way, shape, or form, and that there is a shape or form that remains following our death – after all, how do you perceive the soul? – then where is the Supreme being taking all these forms and what is He, She, or It doing with them. Gotta put them somewhere. After all, don’t you think a Supreme Being would be so far advanced as to think of and practice recycling? Oh, you’re coming back as an American bald eagle flying peacefully over the mountains and valleys of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana? Is that what you’re telling me? I suppose that could be but wouldn’t you want to broaden your scope and come back as some being on a distant planet in a galaxy far, far away?

Everything is a series of what ifs. It’s the thinking of Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and George Orwell. People have wound up in padded rooms for thinking this way, but were they wrong? Verne certainly was on the money with many of his predictions. Many would say that Nostradamus and Michelangelo were just a bit ahead of their time, but many of their ideas have come to fruition. Why shouldn’t we give greater credence to this whole idea that death is far from being an end, but perhaps is only the beginning of our journey? Who is to say that we don’t, right now, live with people who have lived before, but by some strange coincidence, didn’t get this kind of life right and had to repeat it in order to move on?

If you believe that I’ve been spending too much time watching the Sci-Fi Channel, you’re wrong. When I was younger, I did watch Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, but that stuff doesn’t float my boat anymore. However, when scientists come out and tell us that they have discovered millions of habitable planets just for beings like us and that fulfill our requirements, who is to say that we don’t regenerate in some form in some other place. Forget the bones in the cemeteries; maybe we don’t need bones in our new world. Perhaps we don’t need any of the organs we generally associate with being a part of ‘us.’

I invite you to put on your thinking caps and throw away all your preconceived notions of how you look, feel, and act. Try to imagine yourself as going through some kind of metamorphosis, transitioning to conform to what the Supreme Being wants us to be after we have been judged. Picture yourself ending up existing on someplace as hot as the sun or as cold as Neptune – it would have been Pluto prior to the demotion! Assume that you haven’t been all that bad so perhaps you wind up somewhere in between those extremes. What is your form or shape? What do you breathe? What do you eat? How do you dispose of what you eat or is every part of it absorbed into your system? How do you procreate? Do you work and if so, doing what? The questions are endless, but what a great mind-bending exercise it could be. Do you have legs or some other form of propulsion? Are any of the social mores that we accept as humans those which you will adopt?

Go ahead. I challenge you to define the next you!

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The late Academy Award winning actress, Bette Davis is quoted as having said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” Now that I’m only a couple of years away from when she died – she passed away at the age of 81 – I’m beginning to understand precisely what she was saying.

Getting or growing – your choice – old is a process, along with everything else. If you are diagnosed early on with a terminal disease, you never have the chance to experience what some might call the torment of growing old. My friend Jerry – and at my age, I’ve forgotten his last name – died of some damned thing called poliomyelitis. I saw him on Saturday night, when the store in which we both worked closed. He was fine; no problems. Evidently, he woke up Sunday morning with some aches and pains; by Tuesday, he was dead. He never had his chance to grow old. Neither did my friend, Joe Thompson. Joe quit school in our senior year to join the Marines. On the way back to camp one night, on some Georgia road, Joe and three of his buddies wrapped their car around a tree. Joe hadn’t hit 20 yet.

It’s been said that only the good die young. Personally, I think that’s bullshit; you die when you die. Life, at least to me, is a big gamble. Every day the dice get rolled somewhere and you live or you die. That is, perhaps, a bit morbid, but it’s one way of looking at it. I’ve also been known to say that every morning I pull back the covers and put my feet on the floor, the Devil says, “Oh, shit, he made it through another night.”

Depending on the “expert” with whom you speak we begin the process of sarcopenia anytime between the ages of 20 and 50. Gotcha with the big word, didn’t I? Don’t worry I also had to look it up. It’s the age at which we begin to lose muscle mass. Sure, it’s possible to slow the process through strength training, and I suppose if you’re Mark Maguire, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, or a few others, you can even reverse the process, but (a) I would prefer to grow old at the regular rate, (b) I’m not certain I have the money to pay for that ‘stuff,’ and (c) I’m not all that big on injecting myself if I don’t have to do so. If you’ve ever had to inject yourself with insulin or Lovenox or anything like that, you know what I mean. The point is that as we age, we can’t lift the things we once lifted. We can’t do what we once found fairly routine. I well remember being in the gymnasium at Babson, watching a group of students playing basketball. One of them yelled over, “Hey, Mr. Bishop, wanna play?” Certainly, I was too wise to get into that gig, but they did convince me to take a shot. I stood where I had remembered standing in high school – my ‘spot’ on the floor from which I once had been a deadly shot. It was about 25 feet away from the basket and just off to one side. I took my shot and it fell about five feet short of the rim. I laughed; they laughed, but it was a clear indication that when you’re in your late fifties, you don’t shoot hoops the way you did at 17.

As I say, aging is a gradual process. If you’re lucky (and smart), you exercise to stay healthy; you eat right to stay healthy; you don’t smoke; you don’t drink to excess…everything in moderation – even moderation itself. With luck, cancer steers a wide path around you, although many of us find the basal cells of our sunbathing youth and they must be removed. When I grew up, smoking was an acceptable habit, and so in middle age, were its consequences…COPD and emphysema. Quitting helps but the damage is done. You can’t run as far or as quickly…if you can run at all. You learn that the meals that tasted so good also took a toll on your heart. If you’re lucky, you survive the first attack, and if you listen, there may or may not be a second and more severe one.

Time moves along and the print on the newspaper gets smaller and a bit more indistinct. You see an eye doctor and he may tell you that he can improve your vision or that you’re condemned to bi- and then trifocals. In my case, procedures had advanced whereby, laser surgery removed cataracts and my vision was restored to the point of buying eyeglasses off the rack. Some folks aren’t so lucky. Their vision keeps fading until it’s all but gone. The same is true of other senses. Hearing seems to fade…very, very, very slowly but it fades. Hearing aids become a part of one’s wardrobe along with greater caution when crossing the street.

One morning, we wake up and something seems to ache as we’re getting out of bed. Hell, which can happen any time from 10 on, I suppose, and if you’ve been an athlete, it happens the morning after every game. At some point, the ache or the pain doesn’t go away and you realize that the cartilage which once was there is either torn or worn away. The doctor says it’s the onset of arthritis, that you need surgery, or that, “we have a pill for that.” If it’s your back that’s hurting, they have injections for that or you can go ‘under the knife’ and pray for the best. You see, aging today, is not the same as it was in the day of your mother and dad. And it most certainly isn’t the same today as it will be 50-100 years from now. If you followed Star Trek, you may remember when Bones, Kirk, and Spock, returned to earth in the late 20th Century to rescue one of their crew. They found him in a fairly modern hospital, yet Dr. McCoy called the doctors of that period, “barbarians” and “butchers.” I can honestly say that I’ve seen some of that in my lifetime. My left leg has a six inch scar from the first knee surgery; the second – a year later – has two one inch scars on either side of the knee. My youngest child, whose knee surgery was done about 20 years later, had three tiny pinholes which we can no longer see. What next, you ask? What’s next is already here. Doctors are growing cartilage to repair or replace that which has worn down or gone altogether. Gall bladder surgery, which once left a nine-inch scar on one’s chest, is now accomplished with a miniature vacuum cleaner that leaves a barely noticeable mark. But still, we age.

Despite medical marvels and advances, the human body is not built for longevity. Our organs begin to function less than optimally no matter what we do, take, exercise, or eat. Sure, it can be slowed down; sure medical science is making fantastic strides; sure this and sure that, but…we still wake up with a new pain here or a new ache there every day or week or month. The beauty of it is and if this is the case just think of how fortunate we are. We’re still alive to see the beauty that is the world around us. Yes, for some, we awake to see the ugliness that is around us, but I guess I’m luckier that I’m in the first group. I watched Juli’s morning glories open again this morning; the purples, the blues, the reds, and yes, even the whites open to signal the beginning of a new day. And yes, I don’t feel particularly well because of my aches and pains and other problems…but I’m alive to see those flowers come alive; to see the blue jays come and grab the peanuts Juli has tossed out for them; to see the squirrels, chipmunks, and wild turkeys come to eat the grain and see that she’s thrown out. It all reminds me of just how lucky I am to have made it to this age and to think of how sad it is that so many of my peers have not.

Life is a treasure; a blessing. Getting old may not be for sissies, but it sure as hell is for the experience of seeing just how much beauty there is in it and how fast it’s changing. If life in the 1800s and early 1900s plodded along like a horse, and if life in the 1950s move along slowly the automobiles of the time, the 21st Century, by its end, can certainly be a time when, instead of our progress being measured arithmetically, it will be measured in exponential growth. I would love to have a crystal ball to stare into to see just what I won’t live to experience.

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Sometime in the not too distant past, I penned a piece about television advertisements that promote prescription pharmaceuticals. By law the advertisers are required to mention the side effects of each and every drug, much in the same way that surgeons are required to tell each patient the side effects of prospective surgery. The point of the essay became, “Man, if I ever thought about taking any of those, the side effects would scare me away.” The article ended with something to the effect of how happy I was that I wasn’t taking anything like that.

Admittedly, I don’t read the prescription description when I pick up my ‘drugs.’ Some of them ramble on for three or four pages and because I am required to take these medications for this condition or that perhaps I really don’t want to know the side effects.

Recently, I picked up a stack of refills of my prescription medications – and it is a stack; just wonderful to grow old – and was handed a pamphlet, an additional piece of information about one of my meds. Well, it really wasn’t a pamphlet it was a multi-folded single sheet that it its original form measured three inches wide by one and one-half inches tall. When opened, the length increased to well over two feet [29.5” to be precise]. Obviously, this was not something I planned to read. However – you knew this was coming, didn’t you? – just below the first paragraph I noticed the following: “What is the most important information I should know about xxxxxxxx? And the first damned thing I was supposed to know was “suicidal thoughts or actions.” Holy crap! Oh, wait a minute…that only applies to young children, some teenagers, and young adults…whew, glad I’m not one of them.

Next it tells me  that I should “Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms, or call 911 if they worry you.” Worry me; worry me?  You mean like acting on my dangerous impulses…or acting aggressive or violent…or how about panic attacks, feeling angry or irritable? Hell, those are normal for me. Is this stuff really working?

The next one describes a couple of conditions that could occur when taking this drug and this was the one that scared me half to death: “This condition can be life-threatening and may include…hallucinations, coma or other changes in mental status.” For crying out loud, people question my mental status on a daily basis and you want to guarantee they know I’m nuts! What are you folks, a bunch of deviants who get off on this shit! It adds that I might be sweating, have a fever, be vomiting and have diarrhea, and that my muscles might lock up…oh, isn’t that just lovely?

This cash register tape on a $600 order goes on to tell me when I should not take this drug. The explanation is in medicalese that only a physician…and sometimes not even a physician…could understand.  I did understand the ‘to,’ ‘and,’ ‘are’ ‘ingredients,’ and ‘see.’ Other than that, it might as well have been written in Czech…and I understand some of that language.

At the end of this tome I laughed out loud. Do you remember when Americans were told not to buy their drugs in Canada “…because drugs manufactured in other countries don’t necessarily conform to the standards of the FDA.” There was a great hue and cry about this. Canadian drugs were cheaper and the elderly in particular were ordering them online. Well at the end of this strip of paper, it tells me that this particular drug is manufactured in Kirkumbh, India for a pharmaceutical company in the USA. Is there anything we’re not outsourcing to India , Bangladesh, or the Philippines?  

We wonder why there is unemployment in the United States. There are two simple reasons: (1) Companies find it sufficiently less expensive to have their products manufactured overseas and shipped back here; and, (2) American workers don’t want the type of low-paying, repetitive job that people in other parts of the world are willing to accept. Where are the visionaries who should have seen this possibility? Child labor laws; health standards; working conditions; wages…these are all quite different from what American workers demand. It’s tough to compete against eighty-five cents a week when our minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour.

Every prescription drug has side effects that can scare its patient half to death if they read each and every bit of information available about that drug. Hell, aspirin, that old standby for everything, thins the blood and makes one more susceptible to bleeding. This drug that I have just described, that I’ve been taking for years, has been of great benefit to me. Does reading the medication guide frighten me? No, because I’ve been taking it for years. Would it scare me if I was a first-time user? Well, you can bet your boots I’d have some questions for my doctor. Do drugs manufactured overseas raise questions in my mind? Not really, because they are being made for a US pharmaceutical firm and that firm bears the responsibility for any problems with the drug [of course, that doesn’t help anyone who may have died because of a manufacturing error but you get the point.]

All-in-all, we live in a time when new and better drugs are being discovered almost every day. Checking back I’ve found that not one of the prescription medications I’m taking today was available when I was 20 years old. I have one suggestion for anyone who might be concerned about taking their meds…don’t read the information sheet. Trust your doctor…and if you don’t, find one you can trust!

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Don’t you just hate it when scientists come along and take all the fun out of life? Well, I don’t know about you but I finally decided to satisfy my curiosity and learn which really did come first, the chicken or the egg. I was certain that there would be discussions galore on the Internet and that no concrete conclusion would be reached; after all, scientists have better things to do with their grants than arguing the age old question; you know, they get that million dollar grant to determine if mice can get cancer by eating 200 pounds of sugar a day for six years and important things like that.

I regret to say that I was wrong. The definitive answer according to Science & Tech, a magazine published in both the UK and the USA, scientists “cracked” the problem on July 13, 2010. It scrambles my brain just to think how [over] easy they made it sound. According to these devils, “Researchers found that the formation of egg shells relies on a protein found only in a chicken’s ovaries.” Now I don’t know about you, but I think that they’re getting rather personal when they begin to screw around with a chicken’s ovaries, but then, I didn’t get the grant!

I would be remiss if I did not print the entire article so readers may  view the sunny side of the study so here goes: “The protein – called ovocledidin-17, or OC-17 – acts as a catalyst to speed up the development of the shell.

“This hard shell is essential to house the yolk and its protective fluids while the chick develops inside.

“Scientists from Sheffield and Warwick universities used a super computer to ‘zoom in’ on the formation of an egg.

“The computer, called HECToR and based in Edinburgh, revealed that OC-17 is crucial in kick-starting crystallisation – the early stages of the creation of a shell.

“The protein coverts calcium carbonate into calcite crystals which make up the shell.

“Calcite crystals are found in numerous bones and shells but chickens form them quicker than any other species – creating six grams (0.2oz) of shell every 24 hours.

“Dr Colin Freeman, from Sheffield University’s Department of Engineering Materials, said: ‘It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first.

“’The protein had been identified before and it was linked to egg formation but by examining it closely we have been able to see how it controls the process.  ‘It’s very interesting to find that different types of avian species seem to have a variation of the protein that does the same job.’

“Professor John Harding, from the same department, said the discovery could have other uses. ‘Understanding how chickens make egg shells is fascinating in itself but can also give clues towards designing new materials and processes,’ he said. ‘Nature has found innovative solutions that work for all kinds of problems in materials science and technology – we can learn a lot from them.’

“The discovery was revealed in the paper Structural Control Of Crystal Nuclei By An Eggshell Protein.”

Frankly, I believe that a super computer has uses other than determining which really came first in this chicken/egg argument, but then, I suppose a grant is a grant is a grant.

If we really want the super computer to help us determine difficult topics, we might ask, “Which came first, man or woman? Which came first, God or the universe? How about a really tough one…If Noah was so smart that he could build an ark for all of the animals [two by two, don’t forget], how could he possibly have been so dumb as to invite a couple of mosquitoes on board…or fleas for that matter?

So, for all of you who I have disillusioned today, I regret the error of my ways; for those of you who feel you can now lord it over those who are ignorant of the facts…ah, stop being such a smartass!

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