It’s hard to think of anything more reckless than adding a deadly carcinogen to a product that already causes cancer—and then bragging about the health benefits.
Yet that’s precisely what Lorillard Tobacco did 60 years ago when it introduced Kent cigarettes, whose patented “Micronite” filter contained a particularly virulent form of asbestos.
Smokers puffed their way through 13 billion Kents between March 1952 and May 1956, when Lorillard changed the filter design.
Six decades later, the legal fallout continues a Florida jury has awarded more than $3.5 million in damages to a former Kent smoker stricken with mesothelioma, an extremely rare and deadly asbestos-related cancer that typically shows up decades after the initial exposures.
Lorillard and Hollingsworth & Vose, the company that supplied the asbestos filter material, face numerous claims from mesothelioma sufferers, both factory workers who produced the cigarettes or filter material and former smokers who say they inhaled the microscopic fibers. (The companies insist that hardly any fibres escaped.)
“Micronite” one ad boasted, is “a pure, dust-free, completely harmless material that is so safe, so effective, it actually is used to help filter the air in operating rooms.”
Kent was Lorillard’s response to the health scare of the early 1950s, when the link between smoking and lung cancer began drawing wide attention. Tobacco companies scurried to roll out filters to calm jittery smokers and keep them from quitting in droves.
The health benefits would prove illusory, but the switch to filters averted the potential loss of millions of customers. “The industry’s own researchers admitted that filters did nothing to make cigarettes safer,” notes Robert Proctor, a Stanford University historian whose 2012 book, Golden Holocaust, covers Big Tobacco’s tactics in painstaking detail.
“Philip Morris scientists in 1963 admitted that ‘the illusion of filtration’ was as important as ‘the fact of filtration.”
Andreas Vesalius was both honoured and reviled in his time, as he challenged the status quo of science and many prevailing dogmas.
His influence on the fields of medicine and anatomy has been profound. In these pages, you will learn more about the factors that shaped Vesalius’ train of thought and the anatomical revolution of which he was a driving force.
Andreas Vesalius 1514-1564: the only authorized portrait
The Flemish physician Vesalius (1514–1564) was a highly skilled dissector who insisted on analysing human corpses rather than animal cadavers.
Vesalius vehemently refuted his teachers’ old methods, garnering enemies and searing criticism, but he did not give up on his quest.
He is best known for creating perhaps the world’s most influential book of anatomy, the De humani corporis fabrica, at the young age of 28.
Read on to learn more about this revolutionary genius.
The legacy of Vesalius’ comprehensive anatomical works would linger even into the next millennium.
His writings combined intricate detail with exquisite illustrations and he also took masterful advantage of the era’s new technologies in publishing.
These pages aim to help you better understand Vesalius’ background and how his work influenced the changing face of science.
The Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn (“djinn’s eggs”).
Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae).
Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine.
The roots sometimes bifurcate, causing them to resemble human figures. Their roots have long been used in magic rituals, and today are valued by members of neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The roots of Mandrake were supposed to bear a resemblance to the human form, on account of their habit of forking into two shoots which form a rough figure of a human.
In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root.
It was common belief in some countries that mandrake would only grow where the semen of a hanged murderer had dripped on to the ground.
And it was believed to cause death to whoever dug it up, as the plant would let out a shriek upon being dug up, which none might hear and live.
Therefore if you would dig up a Mandrake you should either do it from a distance using string, or tie the string to your dog and let him pull it up. Of course, then the dog would die from the terrible scream from the plant.
In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the author makes use of the legend of the mandrake’s scream, and anyone tending mandrakes wears earmuffs to dull the sound.
As an amulet, it was once placed on mantel to bring luck and happiness. Bryony roots were often cut into fancy shapes and passed off as Mandrake.
Small images made from Bryony roots, cut to look like the figure of a man, with millet seed inserted into the face for eyes, were sold to the foolish and uneducated.
They were known as puppettes and were credited with magical powers.
Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for these artificial Mandrake amulets.
Crimson rosellas can detect members of their own sub-species by the smell of their feathers.
Image Credit: Courtesy Deakin University
A BIRD’S SENSE of smell may be just as important as its sight in identifying family or potential mates.
Crimson rosellas (Platycercus elegans), colourful parrots that inhabit eastern and south-eastern Australia, can identify their own subspecies based on the odour of another bird’s plumage, according to a new Australian study.
The findings, published recently in the journal Animal Behaviour, represent the first known case of such ability in any bird species.
Birds are well known for using colour as a signal to tell between potential mates or to distinguish their own species, but little is known about their olfactory abilities.
“These results are important and interesting because there is a traditional notion that birds have little to no sense of smell,” says Milla Mihailova, lead author of the paper and PhD student at Deakin University, in Victoria, south east Australia.
In the study, researchers tracked the behaviour of female crimson rosellas incubating eggs on nest-boxes and found they preferentially nest on boxes that smell like an individual of the same subspecies or species.
For the first time since the accident in 1976, workers at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington are planning to clean out the room where chemicals exploded in Harold McCluskey’s face, showering him with radiation 500 times the occupational limit and embedding radioactive americium in his skull, turning him into the Atomic Man.
McCluskey, improbably, survived the incident. (He later said, “Of nine doctors, four thought I had a 50-50 chance and the rest just shook their heads.”) The massive dose of radiation left him with health problems, and decades later, his body still set off Geiger counters.
But the most painful legacy of the explosion was probably the isolation, both physical and social, as other humans shied away from his radioactive body.
When the accident happened on August 30, 1976, McCluskey had just returned to his job as a technician after a five-month strike had shut down the Plutonium Finishing Plant at Hanford.
The material he was working with had become unstable after the long hiatus and so right after he added nitric acid as instructed, it exploded, blowing out the glove box that was supposed to contain it.
His body—now covered in blood and shards of metal and glass—was taken to the decontamination center where he stayed in an isolation of concrete and steel.
Nobody was allowed near him out of fear for the radiation he still emitted.
“Blinded, his hearing damaged by the explosion, McCluskey spent the next three weeks at the unit cut off from personal contact,” described a later profile in People. “Monitored, like an alien, by nurses wearing respirators and protective clothing, he could neither see nor clearly understand the attendants who approached.”
The nurses scrubbed and shaved him every day—the bath towels and bathwater now part of Hanford’s radioactive waste.
He endured 600 shots of zinc DTPA, a drug that binds to radioactive metals.
Australian Aboriginal accounts of lunar and solar eclipses indicate many traditional communities understood the movement of the Sun, Earth and Moon.
The research by Duane Hamacher from Sydney’s Macquarie University and accepted for publication in the journal Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage and appearing on the website arXiv.org, indicates Aboriginal communities in different parts of Australia often have similar traditional stories to explain these events.
According to Hamacher, Aboriginal Australians were careful observers of the night sky, possessing a complex understanding of the motions of astronomical bodies and their correlation with terrestrial events.
This included the passage of time, the movement of tides, changing seasons, and the emergence of particular food sources.
“Aboriginal people used the sky for navigation, marriage and totem classes, as well as cultural mnemonics”, says Hamacher.
Moon Man and Sun Woman
According to Hamacher lunar eclipses are generally seen to have a fairly negative connotation around the world, and Aboriginal traditional culture is no different.
“Many viewed eclipses negatively, frequently associating them with bad omens, evil magic, disease and death,” says Hamacher. “In many communities, elders or medicine men were believed to have the ability to control or avert eclipses by magical means, solidifying their role as provider and protector within the community.”
“That’s often because of the reddish colour the Moon takes on during an eclipse is seen in some traditional culture as blood, meaning someone’s been killed or the ‘Moon Man’ is going into the graves of the diseased and emerging covered in the blood of the dead.”
Hamacher’s research reveals far more stories associated with solar eclipses than lunar ones, despite there being far more lunar eclipses taking place.
“Most solar eclipse stories describe the Moon covering the Sun,” according Hamacher. “Unless you were paying close attention you wouldn’t normally see that, because it happens in the new Moon phase when we can hardly see the Moon”.
“In northern and central Australia, it’s seen as the Moon Man and Sun Woman making love. Other parts of Australia see it as a black bird or possum fur covering the Sun, or the use of some magical means to make the Sun disappear.
Hamacher says some groups, especially in south eastern Australia see the sky as a canopy being held up by spirits.