William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Monday, 1, August, 2011


Filed under: Science — williamthecoroner @ 10:59

Made things more difficult for knights. See HERE. Although, I will point out that it worked well enough against the Turks (I wouldn’t have wanted to wear armor on crusade) and it did wonders as long as your opponent didn’t have anything better than a longbow.


Wednesday, 27, July, 2011

I’m Just Glad They Weren’t Dyslexic…

Filed under: Science — williamthecoroner @ 15:09

South Korean researchers have created a glowing dog.

The dog, a beagle glows flourescent green when treated with the antibiotic doxycycline. The story is here.

Yeah, the jokes just write themselves. Go on, knock yourselves out.

With a knick-knack, clone a dog that glows, this old man will wok at home.

Be sure to tip your waitress.

Sunday, 15, May, 2011

Unintended Consequences

Filed under: Science — williamthecoroner @ 15:04

Pyrex cookware used to be made of borosilicate glass by Corning.  It could withstand greater changes in temperature than plain old glass.  The brand was taken over by World Kitchen, they changed the recepit for Pyrex to prestressed soda-lime glass, which is more resistant to chipping, but is not as resistant to thermal shock.

Now, folks who cook crack cocaine have to steal labware, instead of using cookware, as cookware will not stand up to the changes in temperature.

Story HERE.

Wednesday, 27, April, 2011


Filed under: Medicine,Poetry,Science,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 22:09

Just returned from the AΩΑ dinner, which was to honour the graduating medical students who had achieved honours in three or more of their core clerkships.  There were about twenty-one honourees.  The speaker was a neurosurgeon whose research on the effects of music on animal learning, particularly rodent spatial learning.  If you make rats listen to Mozart, they do better than control rats in the Morris Water Task.  His studies have shown increase in activity and increased dopamine in the hippocampi of rats exposed to music.

This effect seems to generalize to music and human learning.  If one sets material that one wishes to learn to music, one does better.  Of course, this information is not new.  The poets of ancient Greece and the Celtic lands sung their stores, just look at the Odyssey and the Story of Beowulf.  Rhythm and meter help the human brain organize information; it is interesting to see how it works on the cellular level.

Thursday, 16, September, 2010

Dead Projects

Filed under: Science,Self mockery,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 21:56

I have several projects that I have been working on for some time.  I managed to get one paper in press, and I hope it is published in the orange journal soon.  I have another that I’ve been working with a toxicologist on–my part is done, and if the other bit doesn’t get done shortly, I’m just going to publish what I have.  There comes a time when one has to get things moving.

I was working on a cross-disciplinary teaching project with two collaborators from another school.  I have piles of the raw data sitting around–in several places that are just waiting to be analyzed.  I realized, though, that I have not spoken to my collaborators in this calendar year, I think one of them is at another institution, and no one returns my emails anymore. I think this project is DOA. My time would be much better spent on getting other projects published, perhaps ones with collaborators who actually talk with me on a daily basis.

This realization was profoundly liberating.  My office will also look a whole lot neater, now.

Thursday, 21, January, 2010

How Stuff Gets Done.

Filed under: Science,Self mockery,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 14:45

I’ve had a couple of research papers sitting on the back burner for too darn long.  Again, the problem is I have too many pies and not enough phalanges.  And people who just insist on having me do things when they pay me money.  Yeah, I know, I know.

I am pleased that I have reached the point in my career where I now have minions.  Not full time minions.  They are not full time minions, and I’m supposed to call them “graduate students” instead of “Igor”.  But you can’t have everything.  On the bright side none of them look like Marty Feldman.  Which is something, I assure you.  The good thing about having min, er, graduate students, is they sometimes come up to you and ask you if you have any projects that you want them to do.  Now, of course, the answer is a resounding “YES!”   And you then hand them a packet of papers and research material, and tell them to go off and read it and come back and discuss it.

They do this, and come up with ideas of their own (if they’re any good) and bring you stuff you never new existed (you hope) and they discuss that with you, and you go through several iterations of this cycle.  Till one day you say.  “Good.  Now, here’s a copy of a review article for the orange journal.  Write me a review article of so many words on what we’ve been discussing.  The student then goes and does it, and then you read it, and go through some more cycles of “where the heck should we go with this?  We’re writing an article, not a bloody book.”

Then the advisor gets a copy of it in electronic form and tweaks it till it is in the format the journal wants and mails it off to them.  I’m in the middle of that process right now.  But it is quite helpful.  I’ve managed to make my problems my student’s problems.  This is brilliant.  Everyone should have graduate students.  (And they’re terribly grateful if you buy them a pizza, particularly if it is from here.  The Bombay and Greek pizzas are pretty darn good.)

Tuesday, 8, December, 2009

One Drug

Filed under: People who need pianos dropped on them,Politics,Science — williamthecoroner @ 23:06

As Breda pointed out,

Today at 11:47AM at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, Kenneth Biros was the first person ever to die by a one-drug method of lethal injection.

There was some controversy about the execution. Previously, Ohio had used a three-drug cocktail, a barbiturate, a paralytic agent, and potassium to anesthetise the prisoner and stop his heart. In some instances, technicians had difficulty finding a vein (though a femoral stick or an intra-osseous line were not used. Those you can ALWAYS get). The single drug protocol had been criticised as being “experimental”, but of course, it can’t be tested to make sure it was painless. For obvious reasons. The controversy appeared to me to be a Catch-22 a spurious controversy brought up by anti-death penalty activists.

I have profound reservations about the death penalty. How it is applied, and who is put to death are part of these reservations, which I will not address now. Mechanistically, putting someone to death can be

  1. clean
  2. quick
  3. painless

Pick any TWO.  A bullet to the head is quick and painless.  It’s messy.  Hanging, as practiced by the British, is clean and quick.  I don’t know about painless.  Sitting atop 100 pounds of dynamite is quick and painless, but leaves a big mark.

Fundamentally,  I think the death penalty needs to be reserved for people who have voluntarily stepped outside the pale, and are willing to do awful things to people.  The Lundgrens of this world.  There are a pair of rough-off robbers in Florida who start their robberies by shooting the first two people they see in the store-as a terroristic threat.  People who are willing to use violence for political ends.  (I’m talking about you, Mr. McVeigh).  Predatory violence needs to be addressed in this fashion.

And, as a society, we need to get serious.  Serious about what crimes are predatory violence, serious about doing something about it, serious about making sure the right guy is punished for the crime.  If you’re not serious, then take the whole death penalty issue off the table.

Tuesday, 26, May, 2009

If TV Science was More Like Real Science

Filed under: Forensics,Science,Social Commentary — williamthecoroner @ 10:24

Hat tip, Lili.  phd040609sFrom PHD comics

Monday, 9, March, 2009

Obtaining the Bones

Filed under: Natural History,Science,Self mockery — williamthecoroner @ 14:52

Darren Nash, over at Tetrapod Zoology has some interesting insight into a question that has perplexed me many a time, How do you get the skeleton from a corpse? Bones are really rather neat, and you can learn a lot from them.  It has been a long while since I’ve tried it myself.  The largest animal I tried to get the skeleton from was a fox squirrel.

I rather liked his idea of the microwave.  Though, as he points out, microwaving a cadaver for an hour or so will use a lot of power, and I’m not sure I want to put my lunch in it when I’m done.  I’ve done boil-the-flesh off plan.  This was not a good idea.  You’ve got to boil the squirrel for most of the afternoon.  A boiled squirrel smells quite a lot like a boiling rat, which isn’t really all that pleasant.  Then there’s the little problem of explaining to your Grandmother why there’s a squirrel boiling merrily away in her stock pot when she comes home from work (and the secondary problem of buying a NEW stockpot when the project is done)

In my experience, putting the little corpses in wire cages and letting the flies work did wonders, and went very quickly in high summer.  As long as you could keep them well away from marauding scavengers and neighbors who might be annoyed.   I like his plastic tib with the holes technique, and the bury it in the compost technique.  Anything to keep the cadavers out of the kitchen

Monday, 2, March, 2009

Headline from Total E-Clips

Filed under: Science — williamthecoroner @ 16:51

We’ve gone a long way in making sure animals used for research are treated humanely.  As a person who is still alive because of medial research that has been done 1. on animals 2. using animals, and 3. using animal products, I’m very grateful to the researchers and the animals themselves.  My first job in undergrad was keeping the animal colonies of the biology department clean, watered, and fed.  I always made sure that they ate before I did.  I could go to the Den, they could not.

So, I’m glad to see:

Animal terrorist group foiled by informant dressed as a beagle


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