Prizes, propaganda and pollination
“Macdonald spoke on April 27, 1885. He noted that the definition of ‘persons’ should be broadened to include women, this being a half century before the deed would finally be done by the famous Person’s case of 1929.
“The Ig Nobels are supposed to make us laugh, then think: but the medicine prize makes us wince. It honours the efforts of French physician Emmanuel Ben-Soussan, with colleagues Spiros Ladas and George Karamanolis, to prevent explosions of gas in the colon during a colonoscopy.
“Hydrogen and methane from gut bacteria can reach potentially explosive concentrations in some 40 per cent of patients who have not thoroughly flushed out their colons … The good news is that the gases won’t explode unless the colon also contains about 5 per cent oxygen; and normal concentrations are only 0.1 to 2.3 per cent. The researchers found only 20 explosions reported in the medical literature.” From New Scientist, Oct 6/12.
Sir John A, Feminist
“In 1885, Macdonald became the first national leader in the world to attempt to extend the vote to women. (Women did gain the vote in eighteenth-century revolutionary France, but only briefly, and the Isle of Man, if indeed a country, as it claimed, enacted the necessary legislation in 1881.)
“Macdonald spoke on April 27, 1885. He noted that the definition of ‘persons’ should be broadened to include women, this being a half century before the deed would finally be done by the famous Person’s case of 1929. He then explained why: ‘Mr. Chairman [the House then being in Committee], with respect to female suffrage, I can only say that I, personally, am strongly convinced, and every year for many years I have been even more convinced, of the justice of giving women otherwise qualified the suffrage [the universal requirement for possessing the right to vote being owning a minimal amount of property].’ He continued, ‘I had hoped that Canada would have the honour of placing women in the position she is certain, eventually, after centuries of oppression, to obtain … of completely establishing her equality as a human being and as a member of society with man.’” From “Canada’s Father Figure” by Richard F. Gwyn in Canada’s History, Oct-Nov/12.
“Humans have a long-standing fascination with these fish, and it’s easy to see why: ranging from the metre-long cookiecutter shark (named for the way it munches perfect circles out of the flesh of large sea creatures) to the ancestral megalodon (the length and weight of a school bus), sharks are captivating. Lightning, bees and snakes kill more people every year than sharks do, but none have the notoriety of these finned fish.” From Kenza Moller’s review of Sharks (National History Museum, 2002) by Michael Bright, in Canadian Geographic, Oct/12
“Debt forgiveness may seem like a foreign concept today, but in Biblical times, it was surprisingly common. To quell rebellious debtors and insure financial stability, ancient rulers regularly proclaimed jubilees, which would free slaves, return property, and cancel debts. Jubilees even found their way into Leviticus and the Gospel of Luke as moral imperatives – forgiving debts lets people get their heads above water and start from scratch.” From Utne Reader, Sept-Oct/12.
“It takes a special moment to bring people together. The residents of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, will remember where they were and what they were doing at 7.30pm last Saturday: flushing their toilets.
“The sound of thousands of lavatories gushing across the city was the result of an unorthodox attempt by local officials to clear waste accumulating in the city’s sewers after weeks of drought and avoid blocked sewage pipes after days of water rationing.” David Smith in The Guardian Weekly, Sept 28/12.
Plight of the Bumblebee
“It may sound like heresy, but some bee experts are now arguing that honeybees’ role as pollinators has been much exaggerated. ‘There are those who think that all pollination is carried out by honeybees, which is complete nonsense,’ says Dave Goulson at the University of Stirling in the UK. By focusing on domesticated bees, the claim goes, we are neglecting a far more endangered pollinator, the wild bumblebee. Bumblebees – along with hoverflies and other native insects – pollinate most insect-pollinated crops.” From “Plight of the Bumblebee” by Anthony King in New Scientist, Aug 11/12.
“Fernand Lachance of Warwick, Quebec, has often been credited as the definitive poutine creator. As the story goes, in 1957 a trucker came into his restaurant, Lutin Qui Rit, and ordered fries. But when the trucker saw cheese curds sitting on the counter, he asked Lachance to add them to the fries, in a bag. Lachance did as the customer ordered but is reported to have called the concoction ‘une maudite poutine’ (a hell of a mess). Lachance began adding gravy to the mixture in 1964.” Sandy Klowak in Canada’s History, Oct-Nov/12.
“For the first time in human history, there are real threats to the survival of the human species. Since 1945 we have had nuclear weapons, and it seems a miracle we have survived them. And policies of the Obama administration and its allies are encouraging escalation.
“The other threat, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps to do something about it. The United States is taking steps backward. Large-scale propaganda operations, openly announced by the business community, seek to convince the public that climate change is all a liberal hoax: Why pay attention to these scientists?” From Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance by Noam Chomsky (City Lights Books, 2012).
“If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”