” ‘Twas the BMJ Before Christmas… “


… and all through the issue… The British Medical Journal is once again offering research of a distinctly lighter nature.

Past years have recounted studies on “Head and neck injury risks in heavy metal: head bangers stuck between rock and a hard bass,” investigated those in the health professions by testing “…the hypothesis that, on average, male surgeons are taller and better looking than male physicians…,” and investigated Why Rudolph’s Nose is Red. The BMJ has also taken a brave stand against Tooth Fairy Malpractice, and explored using speed bumps in the diagnosis of acute appendicitis.

But the search for knowledge never ends, and this year the Journal dives right in with the results of a pilot study on the preferred state between Being right or being happy. A fascinating question, but as the paper itself admits, this early study has some limitations – specifically,”There was no trial registration, no ethics committee approval, no informed consent, no proper randomisation, no validated test instrument, and questionable statistical assessment. We used the eyeball technique for single patient trials which, as Sackett says, “more closely matches the way we think as clinicians.”

So, not an ironclad conclusion on that one yet, but that’s just one of a wealth of eye- and mind-opening research. Take, for instance Barcelona baby boom: does sporting success affect birth rate? or The Brady Bunch? New evidence for nominative determinism in patients’ health – which draws a positive correlation between the name Brady and the prevalence of bradycardia. (So if your name is Malaria, you really want to avoid the tropics.)

There are practical studies as well, such as The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study. And for art lovers, there’s, “Compulsive plague! pain without end!” How Richard Wagner played out his migraine in the opera Siegfried. (And may we suggest a future study into whether Wagner’s migraines can then be considered communicable through the opera Siegfried.)

Finally, if you’re wondering about the possible medical impact of reading these articles, the BMJ has a Methodical Investigation of Risibility, Therapeutic and Harmful.

Happy Holidays.


Learning from Celebrities: The Continuing Story…

A little over a year ago, we shared a video put together by the British Heart Association and actor Vinnie Jones, demonstrating how to use the song “Staying Alive” to time compressions while giving Hands-Only CPR. Well now, the American Heart Association and Community star (and doctor, really) Ken Jeong have made their own version. The accents are different, but the song remains the same.

I think the worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades…” Demetri Martin.

The Art of Medicine


From time to time we look at books dealing with the history of medicine, past examples including Dying for Victorian Medicine and Hidden Treasure. This time our featured title is The Art of Medicine, “…a unique gallery of rarely seen paintings, artifacts, drawings, prints, and extracts from manuscripts” – harvested from the Wellcome Collection in London, and edited by medical historian Julie Anderson and science writers Emm Barnes and Emma Shackleton.


Covering lands from Persia to China, cultures from prehistoric Mesoamerica to Renaissance Europe, as well as more recent examples from World War I and 2008′s “The Daily Stream of Consciousness” (by Bobby Baker, an artist chronicling her own struggle with mental illness), The Art of Medicine offers a fascinating visual record of humans and health throughout history.

You can sample more examples of AoM’s contents at this Brainpickings blog post, while the book itself is available both in our on-campus and virtual bookstore locations.


It’s That Happy, Merry, British Medical Journal Time Again

Yes, the 2012 Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal has hit the virtual shelves, and in keeping with tradition, this year’s issue tackles some unique issues.

(Past offerings -as noted in this space last year- have addressed such phenomena as “Head and neck injury risks in heavy metal: head bangers stuck between rock and a hard bass,” investigated those in the health professions by testing “…the hypothesis that, on average, male surgeons are taller and better looking than male physicians…,”and fearlessly tackled such touchy subjects as, “The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute.”)

This year, readers will be rewarded with insight as to Why Rudolph’s Nose is Red, the medical Case report of E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial, using speed bumps in the diagnosis of acute appendicitis, and the genuinely surprising news that the Nutritional content of supermarket ready meals is better than that of  recipes supplied by television chefs in the United Kingdom.

There’s still more, like an impassioned plea to prevent Tooth Fairy Malpractice, but the most popular study among current practitioners may well be the well-reasoned argument for an “evidence based uniform” for doctors.  See what you think…

Happy Holidays.

“Eat Your Heart Out” – Anatomical pastries in the best of bad taste.


While it’s certainly an odd location  for a cake shop (London’s Saint Bartholomew’s Pathology Museum), a three-day Eat Your Heart Out event this weekend boasts some truly spectacular achievements in culinary construction. (And it may provide some inspiration for less ambitious Halloween creations on the home front.)

Ranging from the benign (a stacked set of 5 white Chocolate Vertebrae), to more ambiguously appetizing ‘treats,’ like  Marshmallow Brains and the all-too-realistic Infected Eyeball Cupcakes (and beyond – trust us: NSFW), these offerings may well be history’s most confusing foods, calling to the taste buds even as they repel the brain.

Regardless, some Halloween parties in London will definitely have some unique finger food (yes, that too) on their menus this year.

In addition to the images at the link above, London’s Guardian newspaper has a slide show of some of the featured delicacies, if you have the stomach for it…

Happy Halloween

A Bit of Olympic Perspective…

Just two quick links in the interest of timely topicality.


The New England Journal of Medicine has been looking in the rearview mirror again – this time with a collection of archived articles related to Olympic Medicine. From historical looks at eugenics and the theory that athletics diverted from more cerebral endeavours and rendered adolescents “listless and stupid,” to more recent concerns about the physical and psychological risks of women’s gymnastics at the elite level, this overview links to more than two dozen articles dating as far back as 1851.


Of course, when sport and medicine intersect, there is frequently the question of doping, and if you’ve ever wondered how far back such performance enhancement has existed at the Olympics, ProCon.org’s Historical Timeline … of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports illustrates that it’s probably been there from the very beginning. With almost one hundred citations, dating from 776 BC to 2012, the Timeline lists events from Olympic and non-Olympic sports – and includes such ‘legal doping’ examples as Thomas Hicks’ victory in the 1904 Olympic Marathon (above), acheived with the help of brandy and strychnine.

(Ah, how the times have changed.)

If You Happen To Be In London This Summer…

The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace is holding history’s largest exhibition of anatomical drawings by that greatest of show offs, Leonardo da Vinci.

The exhibit actually runs till early October, but if you have no plans to cross the pond, fear not, The Queen’s Gallery has an accompanying website, with links to all the images in the exhibition. (Clicking on the images will open magnified views in the same window.) The Gallery also created an iPad app for the exhibit -available through the App Store- and provides a link to all of Leonardo’s drawings held in the Royal Collection.


In the video above, Curator Martin Clayton describes three of the drawings in the exhibit and explains how, through his creation of a glass model of the aortic valve (a fascinating procedure in itself) and some water full of grass seeds, Leonardo was able to theorize the role that natural vortices in the flow of blood played in closing of the valve. (Something only confirmed in the last century.)

Hidden Treasure

Founded 175 years ago, the National Library of Medicine is the world’s largest medical library, with more than 17 million items in a collection that reaches back to the eleventh century, and ranges from rare early medical books to nineteenth-century surgical illustrations and mid-twentieth-century animated cartoons.



To celebrate that anniversary, the Library has released Hidden Treasure – a spectacular sampling of those 17 million items that includes, from the publisher’s description;

‘… a series never before reproduced of hauntingly delicate paintings and illustrations of “monstra” collected in the early decades of the nineteenth century “from the museum of Dr. Klinkenberg” in the Netherlands; charming hand-painted glass “magic lantern slides,” which doctors projected in slideshows to entertain and help cure inmates at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the Insane; surreal views of mechanically sliced cadavers in the photographic anatomical atlas of fin-de-siècle France’s notorious surgeon-provocateur Eugène-Louis Doyen; and a staggering variety of objects from around the world and through seven different centuries.’

Other entries include such direct links to world history as Hitler’s medical records and a report from the first medical responders to enter Hiroshima after the bomb. Each exhibit is accompanied by a brief essay from a distinguished scholar, artist, collector, journalist, or physician. (You can sample some of the book’s illustrations at this review on Wired’s website.)

This extraordinary collection of medical history can be obtained in store or ordered for delivery to your door through our virtual bookstore.


More Paper People

As noted previously, the traditional anatomical atlas is far from the only way to depict the inner architecture of the human body, but as you can see from the image below, we may well have come across one of the most labour intensive methods imaginable.

Massachusetts artist Lisa Nilsson has used the ‘quilling’ method of rolling and shaping thin strips of paper (in this case, the gilded edges of old books), to create miniature cross-sections of the human body (you can see a bit of the process in progress here), and the result is almost as awe-inspiring as the real thing.

The level of intricacy is nothing short of spectacular, especially given the small scale of the works (a head and torso cross-section only measures 13 x 9 inches), and those looking for even more detailed views than available at the artist’s site can find larger versions of the files here.

Who says paper is dead?…

“Just a Little Heart Attack”…

In honour of Heart Month, we have another example of a video using humour to teach an important lesson. (Scroll down to January 4th for the first example.)

This time, we have Elizabeth Banks –of “Scrubs,” “30 Rock,” and the upcoming “Man on a Ledge”– demonstrating the warning signs of a heart attack as her supermom character gets the family off to work and school (and eventually tries to make an unusual bargain with 911).

Watch, laugh, and most important, learn.

Fold along the dotted line…

Looking for a low budget way of pursuing your anatomical studies, but finding models and skeletons too expensive? Well, a project by Australian architect and paper artist Horst Kiechle might be right up your alley. Kiechle recently constructed a complete geometric paper torso, complete with such organs as lungs, intestines, kidneys, pancreas, and stomach for the Science Lab of the International School Nadi, Fiji.

Unfortunately, there’s no downloadable template available (at least not yet), but you can see more images of the paper torso and its insides here at Kiechle’s Flikr page.

“Peel me a grape…”

And speaking of surgery, the da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic wonder designed for complex, minimally invasive procedures (think, ‘next generation laparoscopy’), has achieved quite a presence on YouTube – as various sources find their own ways to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology.

One of the more impressive exhibitions is this example, where the da Vinci (with the aid of a human operator, of course), peels some less-than-paper-thin sections away from a hopefully anesthetized grape.

Open the YouTube page for the video, and on the right of the layout you’ll find an index of related clips – which include more practical demonstrations of the system’s prowess, as well as some very tiny origami,

and, da Vinci as a hospital’s ‘dancing’ sales representative.


“Here’s one I made earlier.”

When the British Heart Foundation decided to educate the public about new (hard, fast compressions / no mouth to mouth) CPR guidelines for the untrained ‘rescuer on the street,’ they turned to an unlikely, but definitely compelling spokesperson to provide some impromptu training.

In the Foundation’s Hard & Fast video, Vinnie Jones, retired footballer and first-string movie … undesirable … in such films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Swordfish, and Gone in 60 Seconds, shows viewers how to resuscitate a cardiac arrest victim, while a pair of henchmen groove to the rhythm of Stayin’ Alive.

It might not be a reassuring tableau to wake up to for the person being revived, but it can’t be argued that it makes for an effective and memorable lesson.

Check it out for yourself.


Season’s Greetings from the British Medical Journal

By the time you read this, the 2011 Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal may already be out. And why should you care any more about this than previous issues? Wouldn’t you simply expect it to be another installment in the publication’s 170 year mission of engaging and informing medical practitioners?

Well, not quite.

Each year, the Christmas issue is given over to articles on a decidedly lighter bent. Past offerings have addressed such phenomena as “…the relation between coins ingested by children and the Dow Jones Industrial Average,” and “Head and neck injury risks in heavy metal: head bangers stuck between rock and a hard bass,” investigated those in the health professions by testing “Right-left discrimination among medical students” and  “…the hypothesis that, on average, male surgeons are taller and better looking than male physicians…,”and fearlessly tackled such touchy subjects as, “The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute.”

(And of course, we can’t ignore the seasonal elephant in the room, so past Journal posts have also both attacked and defended Santa Claus as a public health role model.)

What will appear in this year’s edition is as yet unknown, but until it’s released, you can access a one-stop collection of the Articles of Christmas Past at the blog of  Anne T-V (“a Canadian librarian with years of experience in continuing health education”).

Until then, Happy Holidays.

Whoever Said Exercise Had To Be Work?…

One might think that the concept of miracle shortcuts to physical health are a recent phenomenon brought on by our ‘instant’ society, but the quest for effort-free exercise is probably only about 20 minutes younger than exercise itself.

The blog, Collectors Weekly, has this brief look at some of the more recent attempts to take the work out of the workout -  from Victorian ab-rollers and “horse-riding simulator”s to the rollers and vibrators that served as props in so many early TV and movie comedy scenes, right up to the modern-day magic of the Sauna Belt.

But the must-see item in this exhibit is the video infomercial for the Hawaii Chair. Apart from the impressively happy model/customers doing their daily tasks while their chair is attempting to deposit them on the floor, special credit has to be given to the female host/interviewer, as she tries to do her job and maintain a sliver of decorum while holding on for dear life.



But hey, nobody ever said that exercise-free exercise was easy.

(Oh wait. They did, didn’t they?)

Trying to Economize On Those Hallowe’en Decorations?…

Why not knit your own?

As part of a mixed-media art project in 2010 (not related to the 31st), artist Ben Cuevas chose to use a knitted human skeleton as the centerpiece of his installation. While the rib cage may be showing the effects of gravity more than one would like to see on the average x-ray, the detail of the final project is staggering. You can find more images and information about the installation here.

(And just in case you’re not into knitting, we DO have a selection of skeletons and skulls here in the Bookstore to complete that Hallowe’en decor.)