Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oscar the cat

There's an essay about this cat in the latest New England Journal of Medicine. I can't forward that around (as much as I would like to), but here's the link to the CNN story. This cat lives in a nursing home and predicts when people are going to die - he simply goes to their room and curls up next to them. According to the article, "His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone."

If you have access to the NEJM, I'd recommend reading the original essay by Dr. Dosa. It's in the July 26, 2007 issue ( vol.357, p.328-9). If not, searching "Oscar the cat" on Google News brings up quite a few hits.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Harry Potter encounter today - and it's not what you think

I got a request today for an article about Boomslang bite. I see odd words every day, but they're usually more along the lines of psychoneuroendocrinology. "Boomslang" struck me funny, like it belonged in something like a Harry Potter book more than a medical journal. Little did I know.

I had no idea what a boomslang was (a bug was my guess) so I took a minute and looked it up. It's a venomous snake native to Africa. In my quick search, I also came across a reference to Harry Potter. Since it was Wikipedia, I took it with a grain of salt and wanted to verify that for myself. When I got home, I pulled out my copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and found that "shredded skin of a boomslang" really is an ingredient in Polyjuice Potion (page 165 in my paperback edition).

Of all the days for that request to cross my desk and grab my curiosity. Serendipity?

In case you're wondering, I won't be in line for Harry tonight. I just finished Order of the Phoenix a few weeks ago and it will be awhile before I start Half Blood Prince. If I can just keep from hearing how the series ends before I read it for myself, I'll be a happy camper. But I doubt that will last long. If you see me, don't tell me. :)