Thursday, February 17, 2011

"A bawd, my lord, one that sets bones together"

From The Revenger's Tragedy:

L. What hast been, of what profession?
V. A bone-setter.
L. A bone-setter?
V. A bawd, my lord, one that sets bones together.

Nature News backs up the pun with studies on rat femurs.

Decreases in sex steroid hormones can lead to loss of bone mass in humans. Karsenty and his colleagues hypothesize that, conversely, a decrease of hormones derived from bone might prompt a decline in sex hormones and fertility. They also speculated that this would be more pronounced in females. "We were betting at the beginning that it would regulate female fertility more than male fertility," Karsenty says.

In a series of experiments on mice engineered to have low levels of osteocalcin, however, the researchers consistently found that the male mice had lowered fertility, whereas osteocalcin levels had no impact on the fertility of female mice. "We were slightly wrong," Karsenty admits.

While on the topic of bones, here's a story about skull cups in prehistoric England (via Matt P. via the Awl, which makes the inevitable joke about "skulling").
Cut marks and dents on the bones suggest they were scalped and scrupulously scraped clean of skin and flesh with flint tools shortly after death. The crafters then removed the face bones and bases of the skulls from the adults and the 3-year-old, meticulously chipping at the broken edges of the resulting cups, possibly to straighten their rims.
Cf. skull-bongs. The skull cups story mentions that the skulls might have been used to store blood; cf. Marianne Moore's jerboa poem:
Lords and ladies put goose-grease
paint in round boxes with pivoting
lid incised with the duck-wing

or reverted duck-
head, kept in a buck
or rhinoceros horn,
the ground horn, and locust oil in stone locusts...

Also a time-lapse video of the afterlife of an elephant, at New Scientist TV (via Mary Roach on twitter). And the afterlife, in a brighter sense, of Elisabeth Fritzl (via Light reading).

I'm back in Urbana with a cold. The spacebar has more-or-less come back to life. The Georgia Tech talk was OK but a little blah; fortunately nothing depends on it. I got yet another invitation to give a talk "if you're ever in Europe"; European scientists are glib with invitations as the condition is rarely satisfied. Grad students are of course never worth the transatlantic airfare.

No comments: