Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Keith Chen rules. Bumblebee women less so.

I was going to blog about something else, but something really stupid piqued my interest instead.

First, a tour of the science news - British researchers prove once again that size isn't everything - unsurprisingly to us neuroscientists, intelligence seems to have a better correlation to synapse number (the connections between brain cells) and complexity than simple brain size. Leading journal Nature shows it's behind the times (the New York Times, at least) by reporting that an Italian group has shown that monkeys can understand money; Keith Chen has been doing this for years as reported here. Finally, the Swiss have gone bugf#$k nuts, as evidenced by a new law prohibiting the use of research techniques that may sacrifice the dignity of creatures, which apparently includes the dignity of plants.

So on to the stupid part. I was fortunate enough to travel to England in April on the boss' tab, where I spent a couple days with friends before I headed on to a conference. England had some minor culture shock associated with it - but I enjoy drinking in public, arguments, sarcasm, cask ales and so forth. What I don't like, and call me sexist if you will, is women drinking like blue-collar alcoholic middle-aged men (particularly if they have a beer gut to match).

So that helped to explain to me this gem from the BBC, published March 26 2008(!), declaring that drinking during pregnancy might be a bad idea. You would think this was a no-brainer, but apparently not - this British woman gave birth during a pub crawl (any bets on her alcohol intake?), claiming she didn't even know she was pregnant. Tragically, the baby boy weighs only 2 pounds and has about a 50/50 chance of living. No punch line here, folks, unless you count the fact that she was dressed as a bumblebee at the time, which is significantly more sad than funny, p < 0.05.

My brother and I bitch every year that we haven't come anywhere near as far along as some futurists/sci-fi writers believed we would have by this time (It's 2008! Where's my damn flying car?!), but the Brits are just getting around to banning drinking during pregnancy. I guess it's nice to see the colonials pulling ahead of empire... but I still want my friggin' flying car.


Preet said...

This is baffling. Even when I've been stone cold drunk, I know if I need to take a dump. I gotta imagine being pregnant for 9 months would register - if not at least during a fleeting moment of sobriety.

Hello, what's that? Why do I want pickles and ice cream, and why are me nipples wet?

Topham said...

It's a head-scratcher to be sure, but considering the infants are in the pub a few times a week over here anyway, you can start to see why it might be harder to draw a line at birth.

Nice experiment btw Ian, I'll be checking up on this blog...