Consciousness and how it got to be that way

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Mortality of Aircraft Wheel-Well Stowaways

Cross-posted to my outdoors blog.

The FAA gives a report of 11 known stowaway incidents from 1947-1993.

Of these 11, 6 died. 2 of them had definitely frozen to death. 3 more fell after the plane made it to cruising altitude, and could have frozen to death. Another fell on takeoff. This means that you have a 55% chance of dying if you attempt this, and if you die the chance is 33-87% that you will freeze to death.

Of course it's likely that other fatalities occurred but were not discovered because the plane was over water or the body landed in an unpopulated area; it is also likely that people stowed away and were not discovered, so it's hard to say which way the sample is biased.

The mechanism cited as probable pathway to fatal hypothermia at altitude seems very likely to be the same one that explains the strange behavior of high altitude mountain climbers who succumb to a similar fate, and are found having taken off most or all of their layers. Under conditions of low ambient O2, the hypothalamus becomes hypoxic and can longer thermoregulate. In climbers, their frontal lobes are hypoperfused, and they feel hot and can't reason themselves out of/inhibit themselves from taking their clothes off in the middle of a glaciated mountain. Stowaways are crammed in and can't move anyway.

Management: don't be in a plane at cruising altitude outside a warmed and pressurized cabin.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Treasures in the Ghettoes of Pubmed

"Werewolves and physicians experienced their closest contact in the context of early modern witch and werewolf trials."

Best opening sentence of a paper ever. From Metzger N. Battling demons with medical authority: werewolves, physicians and rationalization. History of Psychiatry 24(3) 341–355, 2013.

Discovered in the same Pubmed search: Høyersten JG. The berserkers--what was wrong with them?. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2004 Dec 16;124(24):3247-50. Surprisingly, only in Norwegian.

And a final gem, where I present to you the abstract: Psychopharmacology of lycanthropy (Davis et al 1992) (do note that there is an actual full paper behind this abstract:
OBJECTIVE: To develop pharmacotherapies for the orphan disease lycanthropy through the pursuit of the etiologic hypothesis of a genetically determined hypersecretion of endogenous lycanthropogens. DESIGN: Quadruple-blind, Rubik's Cube matrix analysis. SETTING: Community practice and malpractice. PARTICIPANTS: Subjects selected from inbred Ruficolla populations in Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Minnesota. All who entered the study finished it. INTERVENTIONS: Chemical screening of blood samples over a hypothesized secretory cycle of lycanthropogen peaking on the day of maximum lunar illumination. Administration of synthetic lycanthropogens for behavioural testing. Experimental lycosomatization through the illumination method of Kirschbaum. OUTCOME MEASURES: None were post hoc, but some are still in hock. MAIN RESULTS: Two putative lycanthropogens were isolated from the blood samples. Structural elucidation and synthesis permitted animal and clinical trials; in each of these, behavioural dysfunction was observed. Antilycanthropogen strategies included application of the principle of caged compounds and generation of a therapeutic immunoglobulin. The effects of a newly developed antihirsutic agent seemed promising. An interaction of the lycanthropogen-secretion system and ethanol was noted, which may explain behavioural aspects of alcoholism. CONCLUSIONS: The incidence of lycomania in North America is underestimated. Soon-to-be-available pharmacotherapies should promote its early detection and treatment. Full control may depend upon advances in gene therapy.