Weather Reporting Leeches

By Anupum Pant

Of all the creatures in the whole wide world, you’ll be surprised to know that leeches have played a fairly important role in the history of weather forecasting. An incredibly bizarre device invented by Dr. George merry weather, in the 19th century, called the tempest prognosticator, was basically a barometer powered by leeches.

Dr. George Merryweather, aptly named, was a surgeon by profession who was a lot into leeches. Since barometers were already being used for a long time then, to indicate approaching storms, he knew that air pressure was crucial in determining weather. However, Dr. Merryweather, an ingenious man, hell-bent on doing things the different way, had a different plan in his mind.

In his profession, he came across medicinal leeches all the time. In course of time, with a keen ability to notice details, he noticed that leeches were sensitive to electrical variations in the atmosphere.
He noticed a peculiar behaviour among these creatures. He observed that the leeches often started squirming around in a chaotic manner before a storm arrived.

Putting this practical knowledge to use, and experimenting with a number of designs, Dr. Merryweather devised a contraption. It consisted of 12 pint-sized bottles arranged in a circle. Each of which contained a leech in one-and-half-inch deep rain water. The top of every bottle had a tube into which the leech could crawl and disturb a mechanism, which in turn would activate a hammer to hit a bell – indicating that a storm is coming.

When a storm would come, the leeches were expected to crawl up the bottle, into the little pipe and activate a Heath-Robinson like mechanism which would make a hammer hit the bell. When the leech had completed its job it would fall down into the water and the hammer would go back to its place.

However, a number of times the leeches would give a false alarm. That was the reason he decided to use a jury of 12 leeches. And said,

The more of them that rang the bell, the more likely it was that a storm would be on its way.

If you ever go to Devon, you must take some time out to visit the Barometer World Museum to check out a full-scale working model of this device. Or you could go to the Whitby Museum in North Yorkshire to see the other working model.

[Video] Stunning Animation of How HIV Works

By Anupum Pant

Sorry, it was the FIFA WC finals, my favourite team (Germany) won, and I was too excited to write a lot today. So I searched my notes for something interesting to share quickly.

I found this 3D medical animation that I had bookmarked a long time from now. It is an animation of how the HIV replicates. It’s one of those videos with a lot of jargon where not everyone would understand what’s really happening, unless they are a lot into biology. If you are not, then I’d suggest muting the sound (don’t actually) and just watching the biological machines at work.

Still, it is amazing to see how things work at a very very tiny level and it’s an immense pleasure to appreciate how little biological machines work around in bodies to accomplish so much.

Moreover, it makes me very happy that we’ve come so far in science to understand so many things that we are now able to make mesmerizing animations of the extremely complicated and seemingly abstract biological mechanisms.

Script, Storyboard, Art Direction by: Frank Schauder, MD
Animation: MACKEVISION
Publicity: Dr.Rufus Rajadurai.MD. | D.DiaDENS

He Lives With No Heart Beating in His Chest

By Anupum Pant

Imagine this…
You are a doctor. A patient comes to you complaining of something and now you need to check his heartbeat. You plug the stethoscope in your ears and confidently move the probe to touch the chest of this patient, only to find that there is no heart beating inside that chest! In medical terms, isn’t this a dead man walking?

The answer is no, he is as alive as we are.  Medical technology has made it possible for a man to live without a traditional beating heart. Two incredible doctors, Billy Cohn & Bud Frazier, in the year 2011, replaced Craig A. Lewis’s lifeless heart with a revolutionary artificial device – A device that can replace your heart and lets the blood flow continuously – without a beat. By all criteria that doctors use to analyse patients, Craig is dead.

Side note: Do read about that scientist who died and came back to life – [Is There a Scientific Explanation for Everything?]

There is no beating when it works. Through a stethoscope, a doctor would probably hear a continuous whistling of blood sluicing through synthetic pipes and motors (I’m not sure about that). The two doctors had been testing it on cattle and it was their only hope to save Craig’s life. So, they decided to do it – replace his heart with this revolutionary device.

Related article: A heart that runs on nuclear energy – [Nuclear powered pacemakers for the heart]

Yes, technically you could say Craig A. Lewis is a heartless guy, but this is a serious leap in medical technology we are talking about here.

You cannot miss this very-short BBC documentary – “Heart Stop Beating” – where both the doctors talk about how they did something that had never been done before. [Video]

Heart Stop Beating | Jeremiah Zagar from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

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