During this summer of covid, and I’ve been thinking of what poet Billy Collins called those, “forlorn chairs/though at one time it must have seemed/a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.” Even situated, as they usually are, to take in the view, it’s hard for those chairs to compete with the attention-grabbing distractions found on our glowing screens.
If you’re not careful, you can spend hours looking at moving pictures and not reading things on your magical device. You start on a favorite news site, clicking through the headlines. Maybe you even open a story or two and read a couple of paragraphs. Then you leave those open tabs to visit a social media site, which sends you on another long string of click and skim. And these on-screen attractions are merely a distraction from your work and there are also the chores of daily life, and before you know it, the day is done and the chairs have sat empty once again.
But the coronavirus pandemic has given us a new reason to slow down and occupy those lonely chairs, and here at our farm, my husband and I are doing our part. Compared to all the shiny things beckoning from our screens, and those away-from-home activities that were once possible before covid, sitting on our front porch and watching the sun move across the sky might seem a little boring. Sure, we’ve got spectacular views of jagged mountains and deep canyons. But sunsets unfold slowly, and sitting still and paying attention requires a kind of patience that’s rarely called upon in the digital age. Which is why it feels so important to practice the art of just being — savoring the moment, for its ephemeral quality.
Describe the beginning of a human when it is in the womb
Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night
Which nerve causes the eye to move so that the motion of one eye moves the other?
Get a master of hydraulics to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner
Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle
Ask Giannino the Bombardier about how the tower of Ferrara is walled
Get the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese, the Frenchman
The daily to-do lists and life of Leonardo Da Vinci have much to teach a science communicator like me.
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By: Sally Adee |July 27, 2020
There are well-known differences between the drugs you can get over the counter in the UK and the ones you can get in any US drugstore. Got period cramps in the UK? How about some Feminax – it’s got codeine! Cough? Codeine linctus. Aches? Pains? Co-codamol (codeine mixed with paracetamol, known to Americans as Tylenol). Americans are shocked to find these drugs easily available at UK chemists, no questions asked; Brits are frustrated when US pharmacists get the vapours from being asked to casually dispense over-the-counter opioids.
I’ve been in the UK for 10 years, dimly aware of this phenomenon, but never had any cause to pay much attention. That changed when I found out about Kaolin & Morphine, an anachronism so Dickensian it twists the dial all the way around to Roald Dahl.
Kaolin & Morphine: they may sound like two lawyers from a Dickens novel, but they are in fact the main ingredients in an over-the-counter medicine you can get in the UK to treat diarrhea. Now, it’s important to note here that the word “morphine” in Kaolin & Morphine is not one of these oversize-mustache marketing tricks where you sex up a couple of poppy seeds in the ingredients by calling them “morphine” in ye olde time typeface. No sir. You buy a bottle of Kaolin & Morphine and you are absolutely getting a bottle filled with about 10 per cent genuine morphine.
First of all: this really escalated! It’s just the runs, are you really going straight to the opium?
But let’s back up. People have been using clay for stomach upsets for several thousand years. and opiates are known to put a cork in overactive digestive systems, but as far as I can tell it took the British to put these two great tastes together. But when and why? I’ve spent far more hours than I should trying and failing to dig up the answer. A hint can be found in a 1968 paper which mentions that opium alkaloids are “frequently formulated” with kaolin or pectin for diarrhea.
It hasn’t changed much since then. A bottle of kaolin and morphine is basically a thick glurge of the kind of clay commonly found in cosmetic face masks with a bit of morphine and a soupcon each of chloroform and licorice. It is described in the pharmaceutical literature as虫虫物语加速器_虫虫物语加速器免费下载_biubiu加速器:2021-5-28 · biubiu虫虫物语加速器专区为您提供虫虫物语加速器下载，最新虫虫物语免费加速服务，极速稳定不会卡，找更多虫虫物语加速相关内容，请进入biubiu加速器官网。 Bottoms up!
It probably reached the peak of its popularity with people who are now in their sixties and seventies. A British person in this age range told me that “it tastes exactly like chalk,” and he would help it go down by pouring an amount equivalent to “two fingers of whisky” into a glass and diluting it with a few drops of water. (It was also available in mint flavor but apparently that made it taste even worse.) I found an eBay comment from a person claiming to be 75 whose mother used to give it to her when she was a child (today, there are fairly strict instructions not to give this to anyone under 12).
It’s still widely available if you want it – you can order it from online chemists, and the occasional bottle pops up on ebay and amazon. And you should be able to get it at any pharmacy – but that doesn’t mean you will.
The reasons are a bit contradictory. The pharmacy at Morrisons, a mid-range UK grocery chain, has a strict no-can-do policy on Kaolin & Morphine. “We don’t sell it because Morrison’s policy prohibits having drugs of abuse over the counter,” the pharmacist there told me.
Boots, our big drug store chain, also does not stock the ingredients for mixture. But when I asked if it’s because of abuse, their pharmacist sounded puzzled and said it’s because nobody has asked for it in years.
Independent pharmacies can make their own decisions, so they’re more likely to stock it. But there too it’s hit or miss. One that I called hadn’t had to dispense it in 12 years, and the person I talked to said that the amount of morphine in it, and the concentration, are just not enough to make you feel much of anything. (Though the Morrison’s pharmacist insisted that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”)
But actually, I’m not sure that’s true. Last year, a reddit poster found an old bottle of Kaolin & Morphine and did some amateur chemistry to separate out the good stuff. Not worth the trouble, he reported.
From a handful of case studies in the 1980s, it seems like getting addicted to kaolin and morphine required serious commitment. The case studies are fairly harrowing [consider this a trigger warning]. One man, who was having seven bottles a day, came to the hospital with a severe potassium imbalance and “a chalky mass the length of his abdomen.” You could probably shit fully formed sculptures if you’re ingesting that much clay. In 1980, a case report mentions a 24-year-old woman who was addicted to the tincture for 18 months, and whose stomach became so perpetually distended she ended up in the hospital. But her habit only intensified after hospitalisation, and eventually her rectum prolapsed and she 海豚加速器app.
The sheer effort of drinking that much clay probably explains why several studies have found declines in both use and misuse. Few people bother to even try to abuse it anymore: in Scotland, the percentage of pharmacists who suspected kaolin and morphine misuse among their clientele fell from 27 percent in 1995 to 2.8 percent in 2014.
The liberal availability of codeine and even morphine without prescription in the UK paints a picture of a government that sure seems to let people make their own decisions on a lot of medicinal matters.
This view, however, is probably misleading, if you go by the kaolin and morphine story. The amount of morphine in it is hardly worth the name. Similarly, your mileage may vary, but I find that the amount of codeine in all those codeine products is so slight, it’s more of a placebo. And look what you can’t get at a UK pharmacy that is totally uncontroversial to buy in the US: you can’t get whitening strips that actually work because their hydrogen peroxide content is banned; you can’t get Neosporin because antibiotics are not sold over the counter here; and if you have insomnia, you won’t find melatonin because of European regulations. Hidden beneath our image of hard drugs in gold-leaf bottles, we are definitely the bigger nanny state.
Photo Credit: Clear glass shop round for liquid morphine, United States, Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
By: Emily Underwood |July 24, 2020
I can tell I’m going to need a stash of new vocabulary words to get through this pandemic. “Dumpster fire” and “shitshow” are worn thin from overuse. “Stressed” and “overwhelmed” lost their meanings months ago.
Luckily for me, a fresh, unfamiliar phrase recently leapt out at me from a paper I was idly perusing in the journal Aging Cell. The name of the paper was intriguingly macabre: “Age-Related Degeneration of the Egg-Laying System Promotes Matricidal Hatching in Caenorhabditis elegans.” A few paragraphs into the article, my eyes found the phrase that I’ve now adopted as my go-to metaphor for this pandemic: A bag of worms.
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By: Helen Fields |July 22, 2020
It was an unusual scene, last Tuesday night in a suburb of Washington, D.C. My mom and I were in lawn chairs on the edge of a closed road. My dad was wandering around with his camera on a tripod. A friend sat 10 feet farther down the road in her lawn chair. Strangers came and went, a little farther away. We all gazed off to the west, over the rare suburban open space.
We were looking for the comet. We arrived soon after sunset and, cheered by the nearly-cloudless western horizon, settled down to wait, with cookies. Wood thrushes sang from the woods. As the sunlight faded, the fireflies came out, puttering around above the road’s grassy shoulder. The lights came on in front of us. A few bats flew over. Eventually it got dark enough to start looking seriously.
This was only the second night Comet NEOWISE was visible in the evening, and one of the nights when it was brightest, but it was still very dim. My friend spotted it first; I eventually caught on to the faintest slash in the evening sky, the kind of dim light that disappears if you look directly at it. It got brighter as the sky got darker. Even after full dark, about 10:30 p.m., it was still a very dim slash. But unmistakable: the comet and its tail, receding after its swing around the sun.
My latest happy distraction is the candy-stick of a male dragonfly that has taken over my backyard pond. A gorgeous blue dasher, he zips (dashes!) in circles around me, hovers remarkably close to my face like some tiny drone, then finally alights on a twig nearby, watching me—truly watching–with his cartoonishly large compound eyes. His funny little face twitches periodically, as though the whole thing is blinking. When perched, he’ll curl his abdomen up toward the sky, an “obelisk” posture that I thought surely was a gesture akin to the middle finger (these guys are super territorial), but which instead helps regulate body temperature by reducing the surface area exposed to the sun.
The dasher’s Latin name, Pachydiplax longipennis, means “long winged.” (Why, what were you thinking?) Its wings are actually pretty standard sized for dragonflies.
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Subjects and Writers
Rebecca’s story, “The Search for Alien Life Begins in World’s Oldest Desert,” first published in The Atlantic, Nov. 28, 2018, has been included in Best American Science & Nature Writing, 2019. Jeez, Becky, pace yourself.
Rebecca’s story, “Pictures of Worlds to Come,” in the 12/6/2018 Nature won the American Astronomical Society, Planetary Science Division’s 2019 Jonathan Eberhart Award.
Rebecca’s story, “Eugene Parker’s Journey to the Sun” in the 6/2018 Air & Space won the American Astronomical Society, Solar Physics Division’s award for popular writing.
Christie has a new book, Good to Go (W.W.Norton & Co., 2019) about how the body recovers from the strenuous training that athletes and near-athletes undertake.
Rebecca’s feature on astronomers’ finally being able to watch the birth of planetary systems is one of Nature’s ten best features of 2018.
Craig’s new book, Atlas of a Lost World (Pantheon, 2018) is about the evidence for the first people in North America, who they were and how they made a living.
And bonus! Illustrations are by the multi-talented Sarah Gilman.
Sally won the Guild of Health Writers 2018 award for medical features, for her story in New Scientist on old people who stay youthful using young peoples’ blood.