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  • Jen-Luc Piquant sez: "They like us! They really like us!"

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FYI it's the Mütter Museum. Typepad may have eaten your umlaut.

Hmm... so my head has exploded? How cool is that!?!

So a few years ago, when my wife and I were visiting my parents, I was awakened from a descending half-sleep when I felt and heard a strong electrical "bang" or "buzz" in my head. It was clearly inside the back of my skull ("clearly" of course is hard to quantify since one's senses are notoriously bad at working out what has actually happened on the inside of one's head). It was startling and scary but after a few minutes wherein my wife swore she hadn't heard anything, I went back to sleep.

I saw my doctor who said he'd heard of this kind of thing happening, it's beleived to be a kind of static build up that eventually arcs across the brain, making the neurons all excited for a brief period. It's not considered damaging, but oh my is it overwhelming when it happens. Reading the case studies makes me think that this is what happened to me, aside from the fact that mine was clearly electrical to my senses.

It happened again a few years later and hasn't happened in at least five years now.

How many of you can say you have exploding head syndrome?

I hear that cheap therapies for ADHD include caffeine and chocolate. Side effects for caffeine include disrupted sleep cycles, arthritis and osteoporosis. For chocolate, side effects can be managed with exercise.

Ooo. Bright, Shiny!

For that matter, exercise on it's own seems to be effective against ADHD. It also seems to help build brain power.

I've experienced the "head bang" a bunch of times over the years, but it doesn't happen frequently. One time it happened at the end of a long, semi-conscious dream (iow, I remember the details of the dream), and it was like a transformer exploding with a flash of light. It happened at a "conclusion" in the dream about someone; I got up, dressed, and drove over to the person's house, and lo and behold, what I thought was happening in the dream was happening. Kind of freaky coincidence. Other than that, it's happened falling asleep on the couch, and because of city noises at times I thought it was a muffler popping, truck accident or something, but it wasn't - and the sense of a "flash" is key. I've never had a MRI or CAT scan on my brain, but in the last year I've been tested for a lot of things, so it's definitely just a neurological event. It's not necessarily unpleasant, just jarring. Perhaps related to acute stress or as the saying goes, "having a lot on one's mind."

There's so much to learn about neurology, and it's tricky because of all the crossovers of diagnoses (especially in psychiatry) that lead researchers down blind alleys, and worse, to hurting more than helping people, but I think we're getting closer and closer to some definitive answers about brain events every day. Synesthesia, Asperger's, etc. are other interesting things we're still learning about. Let alone sleep disorders, as Blog Around the Clock discusses.

Oh, regarding "cabinets of curiousities": museums and zoos definitely have rooms that feel like those curio cabinets of yore. While volunteering at the zoo once I got access to a room full of exotic animal pelts, framed African scorpions, feathers, stuffed animals, and such from all over the world, much confiscated from poachers. These rooms were both kind of creepy and fascinating at once, and there were other things besides animals such as objects for displays. These things are great for taking outside to entertain the children while they're waiting in lines or sitting around. My animal was a full snow leopard pelt, paws and all. Kids love feeling the fur and comparing the paws to their hands or touching huge, dead creepy bugs. (One pudgy, little British boy with an impeccable Oxford accent asked me about the leopard, "Did you *kill* it?" - You had to hear it to realize how funny it sounded - "No, I didn't kill it, but I'll tell you how...")

So, yes, some of museums' and zoos' most interesting things are still in the back rooms.

Great post, Jennifer. :-)

I forgot - Buzz Skyline's poem is great! Very clever. Thanks for sharing that.

But your permalink for it is off. It should be

My head also explodes occasionally. Since I live in New York City, I've always assumed it was an actual noise that woke me up.

There is a wonderful wunderkammer in L.A. -- actually Culver City -- the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I'm surprised you don't know of it, or rather, I'm surprised that you don't mention it in connection with Kircher etc., and assume from that that you don't know of it.

Um... I not only mentioned the Museum of Jurrasic Technology in conjunction with Kircher, but I explicitly linked to it... second paragraph under item #7... S'okay, my posts are long -- it's easy to miss a detail like that. :)

Regarding crossbows - a colleague regaled me recently with tales of ancient weapons of mass destruction. In the middle of the last millenium, it was the Yew tree. Apprarently yew tree branches are capable of storing more elastic strain energy than any other tree. Thus the statement that British longbow soldiers were the finest in the world is not technically accurate. Britain, home to large groves of yew trees, was able to produce superior cross-bows. British soldiers could thus stand further away from their target than their opposite number, and still score lethal bullseyes.

The moral of the story seems to be that while in military matters nuclear physics gets all the attention, wars are won on materials science.

Have you read "Cabinet of Curiosities" (c. 2002) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child? I've read most of their books, and this is one of the best. Ah, I see that the book is referenced in the Wikipedia article... I recommend it highly. The authors have a clear love of natural history museums and their humble beginnings.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is great.... although I could never quite figure out if it was a museum or a parody of museum going.

But there would be - like - some fancy exhibit, with all these buttons... but they wouldn't do anything. Was that the exhibit? Or was it just broken? Was I part of the joke/performance art with my repeated pushing? I suppose one would have been able to tell after David Wilson won a MacArthur award some years ago and the place was flush was cash. They were supposed to fix it up and could have been able to fix the broken exhibits if they were in fact actually broke. Unfortunately, I haven't been since my own LA years which is sometime now.

Jen-Luc is looking rather embalmed there. Did somebody grant her tenure or something?

Jennifer, your posts on the history of science are the best. You would enjoy this week's posts.

Why so squeamish about miracles? If Athanasius says he was cured of gangrene and a herniated disc by the Virgin Mary, why not believe him? Who has evidence to the contrary?

That's true The Museum of Jurassic Technology is the museum which is the strangest museum I've ever seen. The first thing that is that the museum is very confusing, showing exhibits that ranges from artifacts to trailer home dioramas. The museum seems to be "understood", though it is unlikely that you will actually "understand" it even after leaving.
Weird Museums

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.