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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How Reality Made Myth

Dragons are awe-inspiring patchwork creatures found in the myths and legends of cultures all around the world. In Europe, they are nightmarish fire-spewing reptiles, large and lizard-like, with the forked tongue of a snake and wings like a bat. In the legends, they are reviled and feared because they liked to imprison maidens, destroy villages and hoard over mountains of gold.

In the ancient cultures of Mexico and South America, a divine feathered serpent known by various names was believed to renew the world after each cycle of destruction.

In China, dragons are amphibious creatures that dwell in oceans, lakes, rivers and even raindrops. They are revered as life-giving symbols of fortune and fertility, capable of unleashing rain in times of drought. They are animal mosaics, possessing the body of a snake, the scales of a fish, the talons of an eagle, the antlers of a stag, and the face of a gilin--another mythical creature that resembles a deer but whose body is wreathed in flames.

Despite their differences, many of the mythical dragons found throughout the world all began as vague serpentine ideas modeled after real creatures, beginning with a snake or some other fearsome reptile. Over time, they acquired more definite and exotic shapes as they absorbed the hopes and superstitions of the local people and borrowed the traits of local animals.

Our short list of creatures and natural phenomenon reveal what may have inspired the look of dragons as well as creatures that are truly dragon-like.

Posted by Ajay :: 12:00 PM :: 0 comments

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Fish Poison makes Hot Things Feel Icy and Cold Things Feel Burning Hot

Eating some bad fish might not seem like the most spectacular way to ruin a tropical vacation, but for a 45-year-old man from England, a bit of tainted seafood was the beginning of a wild ride.

Cold water felt burning hot. Hot things felt icy cold. His tongue felt strange. Drinking alcohol or coffee only increased his suffering.

The patient had ciguatera poisoning -- an ailment caused by ciguatoxin, a neurotoxin that is produced by microorganisms and found in a wide variety of tropical fish.

To raise awareness of the bizarre condition, Peter Bain, a researcher at Imperial College in London, described the amusing case in the October issue of Practical Neurology.

He was not the first doctor to witness the strange illness.

In 1774, Captain James Cook, famed explorer of the South Pacific, watched as some of his men experienced the unusual affliction. His surgeon recorded the diverse symptoms, including: a burning sensation in the face, pain in the limbs, and an imaginary feeling of loose teeth.

Bain and his colleagues, Kira Achaibar and Simon Moore, began their report with an excerpt from that historic tale.

Ciguatoxin tends to remain in the flesh long after a meal has been digested. When predatory fish like grouper and red snapper eat smaller fish that feed on algae, they also consume all of the poison that accumulated during the lifetime of their prey.

By the time that the larger fish have been caught, they may have amassed a tremendous dose of the neurotoxin in their livers and fatty tissue. In this case, the next stop for the mysterious chemical was the nervous system of an unsuspecting tourist.

To this day, there is no test or effective treatment for poisoning by the marine toxin. Some doctors may choose to prescribe the drug mannitol, but a randomized trial indicated that it might not work. For the unfortunate traveler, it took ten months to recover from the torturous neurological effects.

Posted by Ajay :: 11:57 AM :: 0 comments

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