Sunday, September 24, 2006

3d Rock art scanning update

I have mentioned using 3d laser scanning technology to record rock art before. Now the archaeology data service has made the archive of the project: Breaking Through Rock Art Recording: 3D laser scanning of megalithic rock art available. There are lots of nice images and renderings of the scans available and it is even possible to get hold of the 3d data if you ask for it and pay a fee as the files are quite big. The sites scanned for the project were Long meg, Castlerigg, Copt Howe and Horseshoe rock.

See also: Project page at the University of Durham

Castlerigg - the spiral that vanished at the Rock art blog

The mighty Phallus

I was alerted to the presence of the world’s most obscene fungus – the stinkhorn Phallus impudicus in the garden by the terrible stench that could be detected from a considerable distance.

The Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus

The stinkhorns are a fascinating fungi noted for their rapid growth, smell and unusual appearance.

“This is a fowl-smelling fungus that attracts flies to its spore-laden, slimy body, thus increasing the odds of its spores being dispersed to new habitats. The fruiting body can appear almost overnight, and may "scent" your entire back yard. ....This fungus begins as an egglike body beneath the soil. An erect phallus-like stalk breaks through the "egg," forming a cuplike basal volva as the stalk rapidly elongates. The swollen "head" or cap is coated with a black, putrid, musilaginous mass of spore slime.” (3) Mmm nice

The speed of growth is remarkable with a speed of 10-15cm per hour (1).

Phallus impudicus breaking through a pavement from ref. 1

The growing fungus can also exert a considerable amount of force being able to break a glass bottle if the ‘egg’ is allowed to grow inside and even break through tarmac with a force calculated to be 1,33 kN/m^2 so theoretically, one mushroom could lift a person weighing 133kg (1).

The smell that serves to attract flies that spread the fungal spores is astonishingly pungent and seems to do a good job (see pic.). The chemicals responsible seem to be: dimethyl disulphide, dimethyl trisulphide, Linalool, trans-ocimene, and phenylacetaldehyde (2). Interestingly dimethyl sulphide and trisulphide are important chemicals responsible for the bad smell of human flatulence, and seems to be a very effective attractant of various flies.

Because of its unusual shape, the fungus has unsurprisingly gained the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. It may be of some use is treating other medical conditions including epilepsy, gout and rheumatism. Apparently, it can also be eaten and is considered a delicacy in China and is sometimes mistaken for Morels by (presumably nose-less) fungus hunters. I doubt if I could stomach this particular delicacy.


1) Is Phallus impudicus a mycological giant?
Mycologist, Volume 18, Part 1 February 2004
DOI: 10.1017/S0269915X04001041

2) Dimethyl oligosulphides, major volatiles released from Sauromatum guttatum and Phallus impudicus
Phytochemistry, 1994, vol. 35, no2, pp. 321-323.

3) Wayne's World amazing fungi:

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fake medicines given seal of approval

There is sad news for people who care about good science and effective medicines: Homeopathic 'medicines' will be allowed to make medical claims on their packaging here in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. It is unbelievable that instead of being prosecuted for fraud the hucksters that flog expensive water/sugar pills are being encouraged. Clearly quackery is highly rewarded here - if you want to make a quick buck flog false hope to the sick.

See also:

Friends In High Places & Homeopathy Packaging And Flu from Badscience

New regulations on licensing of homeopathy from Sense about Science see also: Malaria & homeopathy

A Quack's Charter (Lock & Load)

Reminder: things arenÂ’t so great in the UK, eitherÂ… (Memoirs of a Skepchick)

Water Torture (Holmes Report Blog)