Category Archives: long form article

Win Thumb Lose Thumb

A few nights ago, I was watching a show about people that have been attacked by various forms of marine life. There was a man that was stabbed by a marlin’s bill, another man that was bitten by a beaver, that kind of thing. The best segment though, was the one where a giant moray eel bit a diver’s thumb off and ate it. It seems that the diver had built a ‘relationship’ with this particular eel by feeding it sausages. Flesh colored, thumb shaped sausages. The diver answered the question of why he was surprised by the, seemingly obvious, outcome by stating, “I was shocked because there had been no problems up to this point.” Fortunately doctors were able to replace his missing thumb with one of his toes. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do for his tragic lack of imagination.

The diver made a classic blunder. He assumed that not having body parts eaten the first few times held some significance. He confused a winning bet with a good bet, which is often not the same thing. There are four types of bets: Continue reading

Things We Forget

In 1747, Scottish physician James Lind proved in a controlled medical experiment that citrus fruits were an effective cure for scurvy.  Citrus fruits had been used by sailors since at least 1497 to ward off the disease, but scurvy continued to be the leading killer of sailors on long ocean voyages, with some ships losing as many as 90% of their men.  Even after Lind’s discovery, it took an additional forty years of experiments and political lobbying for the cure to be institutionalized within the British Royal Navy.  In 1799, all Royal Navy ships in foreign service were ordered to serve 1 oz. of lemon (often called ‘lime’) juice with 1 oz. of sugar daily after two weeks at sea.  The result was startling.  In 1780, there were 1,457 cases of scurvy admitted to the Naval Hospital at Haslar.  From 1806 – 1810, there were two. Continue reading