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The Dorsal View

There are still a good few weeks to go until the next batch of bank holidays and for the younger ones in your family, they have probably started looking forward to the mid-term break already.

Fear not, and hope for a severe cold snap in the weather. LiveScience recently featured a range of frivolous winter activities that will keep them away from the TV and at the same time, maybe give them an appetite for science, albeit ‘pop’ science.

Frozen bubbles: If you have a bottle of bubbles hanging around from summer, and if you’re in an area where the temperature is at freezing point or below, try this.

The trick is to blow the bubbles into the air as high as you can so they have a chance to freeze (they will) before they reach the ground, hopefully intact. Even if they break, they will form interesting shapes similar to cracked egg shells.

Balloonatics (with apologies to a certain group of cardiac surgeons): Blow up a regular balloon outside in the freezing cold and leave it there to deflate. When it’s suitably saggy, have your little one bring it inside and watch it re-inflate and enjoy your smugness as you explain how the volume of gas changes according to different temperatures.

Freeze-dried treats: It’s hardly science but a fun activity if there’s snow in your area is to create your own sweet treats.

Heat some maple syrup in a pot to around 115o Celsius. Then grab some fresh, clean snow and pat it down onto a baking tray.

Pour the heated syrup onto the snow on the baking tray, grab some ice lolly sticks and presto, your little ones can roll their own maple syrup ice lollies.

This one may come in useful for those of you who have finally had enough of the Irish health system and are heading off to Canada.

Flagging the pole: It’s never too early in life to introduce the concept of preventive medicine, so here are a few facts to impart to the little ones…

(1) Metal pulls heat from an organ much faster than the body can replace it; (2) frozen metal cools the surface of an organ and the body distributes more heat to cooled areas; and (3) moisture on an exposed organ freezes in cold weather, while ice latches-on to pores and metal simultaneously.

Bottom line to tell the kiddies — never put your tongue on a freezing flagpole to test a theory.

A brighter future   

Regular readers will know that I am routinely flabbergasted at the continuing wave of unorthodox and sometimes bizarre treatments in the field of aesthetic surgery. Some examples include ‘nipple enhancement’, ‘dimpleplasty’, ‘six-pack creation’, ‘belly-button enhancement’ (to turn an ‘outie’ into an ‘innie’), ‘eyelash transplantation’ and ‘G-spot enlargement’, to name but a few.

One of the latest and weirdest of these is illustrated in the growing demand at the Lelux Hospital in Bangkok for a procedure labelled ‘penis lightening’.

According to the hospital’s Facebook page, pigmentation lasers similar to those used for many other regular procedures are used to break down the melanin in skin cells. Three-to-four of these procedures are carried out in the hospital each day, apparently at a cost of around $650 for five sessions.

The hospital says the surge in demand followed the rise in popularity months earlier of cosmetic labia-lightening at the same facility. Overall, these procedures are provided in response to social pressures in Thailand and surrounding countries that regards lighter skin as more desirable.

For those who have genuinely disfiguring conditions, cosmetic surgery of course has its rightful place in the realm of medicine. But for those who simply want cuter nipples or more fair-skinned genitalia, as my grandmother would have said, ‘isn’t it little they have to be worrying about’.

On thin ice

As if proof were needed that GPs need a sense of humour, here are a few quotes from Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chairperson of the Royal College of General Practitioners in the UK, made to Sky News just before Christmas. Prof Stokes-Lampard provided a wry assessment of the potential health status of Santa Claus: “He’s overweight and all of us do our bit to add to his obesity by leaving mince pies and cookies for him and milk or alcohol,” she said.

“He may have gout, he may have alcoholism — there’s a real bit of binge-drinking going on. There are also issues with sleep deprivation, work stress, his mental health.”

Warning that his reindeer may be infested with ticks and denouncing the practice of leaving alcohol for him by the fireside, she added: “The human body can only process one unit of alcohol per hour, which means excessive consumption could make Santa drunk very quickly.

“This not only increases the likelihood of him slipping in the snow or mixing-up important presents, but could also lead to long-term issues affecting his mood and mental health.”

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