James Miranda Steuart Barry (c. 1789 – 25 July 1865)

James Barry, ca. 1823.
James Barry, ca. 1823.

I am publishing Dr. James Barry’s post today, Jan 28, even though we do not truly know the day he was born. Over his life, Dr. Barry changed the “when” as often as the “where”, but historians believe it must have been today.

A military surgeon in the British Army, Barry served in South Africa before rising the ranks, culminating in Inspector General, the highest military medical rank. He opened military hospitals across the British Empire, often defying austerity orders by the Crown, and was generally not an easy person to work with if you were his commanding officer.

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Dr. Gabriele Barbara Maria Possanner von Ehrenthal (27 January 1860 – 14 March 1940)

Dr. Gabriele Possanner
Dr. Gabriele Possanner

Dr. Posanner grew up capital-R Rich. As the daughter of a wealthy financial minister of Austria, she moved often and was educated by some of the best private tutors money in Austria could buy.

As a naturally inquisitive albeit a little spoiled young lady, it was decided (for her) that she should become a teacher herself. She graduated in 1887 but was barred from studying further to become a full teacher, since women were not allowed to attend Universities in Austria until over a decade later.

Disillusioned, she moved to Geneva and later Zurich, first as a socialite, then attending medical school, which was open to women. However, to graduate she had to show a Swiss High School diploma (Matura), her private school diploma was not recognized. So, in 1890, she went back to High School (at 30 years old), completed her diploma there, and returned to Zurich, where she graduated as an MD in 1894.

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Wilder Penfield (January 26, 1891 – April 5, 1976)

Parts of this series are supported by the British Society of the History of Medicine.

He invented new methods to map the brain. He perfected wake-patient brain surgeries. He began the work that explains hallucinations and brought forward the framework showing how deja vu works. He started the field of neuropsychology.

Yet, if you asked Wilder Penfield what his most memorable moments were, he always responded with “that would have been the time we were torpedoed by the Germans and the time we won the Cup with Princeton.”

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JAM’s Back

Just.a.medic is back. No matter how much it stung to lose over a million subscribers, there’s nothing like getting back onto the horse.

To be clear, YouTube did not delete the channel. I removed it after I had been permanently demonetized, restricted from trending and other areas, and become, more or less, the bomb dropping ground for anything from homeopaths to pissed off DOs who really disliked being told that their spinal subluxation bullshit belongs into the world of woo woo voodoo and not modern medicine.

A video I wanted to make for 2 years and then some… What is the difference between Neurology, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry, and Clinical Psychology?

Since I am starting new (50 subscribers, 936’842 to go), I’d love a like, subscribe, comment. Mostly comment. Seriously, comments make me happy.

Home Office

How do YOU work? What’s your home office like? It’s been a year and a bit since the world changed, dinosaurs started dying out, and remote work and learning became the new normal.

Photograph of my home office, desk work setup, monitor in the center, laptop to the right, iPad to the left.

Books on shelves.

Food and other deliveries slowly seeped into high street and fine dining, today Michelin starred restaurants deliver and, instead of complaining about Amazon, high street and local retailers offer WhatsApp or Messenger based same-day order and deliver, beating the Seattle Monster at its own game (and surviving).

Some local watering holes have started cocktail and drink delivery services, our local kiosk walks over to drop off cigarettes, rolling papers, and even cheap cell phones and SIM cards (the “everything I need to order some weed from my supplier safely” pack).

This is me:

  • MacBook, iPad.
  • iPhone connected to Mac via HDCamera for OBS as webcam
  • Logitech c930e as backup if I need my phone during calls
  • Razer Seiren X as Mic (best balance between quality and sturdiness)
  • Logitech Z200 Speakers
  • Logitech MX Master 3 mouse
  • Books (95% medicine)
  • Some tchotchkes to make me feel a little bit more comfortable
  • plastic flora, because I suck at keeping plants alive
  • Dozens of delivery service menus
  • The tie that was cut during Mardi Gras as it is tradition in Germany

I intentionally did not clean up or arrange my desk. If I am working from home, this is how I work.

Playing DOOM on a pregnancy test

Not strictly med-tech, but close enough and freaking awesome. Someone played DOOM on a pregnancy test.

Ok, ok, it’s not quite on the test strip. Instead, the maker (noted hardware mastermind Foone Turing) found out the pinout for the pregnancy test’s display and connected a Holtek HT48C06 to it, which can be used to run the code and connect a keyboard.

The HT48C06 is a RISC processor, something everyone knows about these days thanks to Apple’s M1 departure from complex set processors. RISC was invented by Acorn, decades ago, and powered the best computer ever, the Archimedes. I wanted that thing so bad, but since they were expensive and not available most anywhere, I never got one.

Still, this is no small feat, another entry in the list of “things people have played Doom on,” and perfectly captures the combination of excitement, anticipation, dread, and frustrations that have been poured into those tests over the years.

Also note the “Internet Explorer” button.

By the way: file under “late to the party” but I’ve got a job, you know, and am slow anyways.

Adrenaline

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

I’ve been doing medicine for a minute. In less lucid moments I even call myself a medical professional (usually I call myself a shit/fan separation specialist, tasked with preventing the former from hitting the latter).

It is thus, that I ask of you: if you ever feel dumb or ignorant again, if there’s a moment where you doubt your brain’s capacity to deal, remember this:

It took me until last night, in a semi-wake stupor (have not slept for a few days, finals and migraine and all), to realize why adrenaline is called adrenaline.

Now, most modern medical literature refers to it as epinephrine, and that makes it even worse.

Image of adrenal gland sitting on top of the kidney.

This is the adrenal gland. Which is also its old name, modern text books call it by its proper name: suprarenal gland. And that makes it another step worse.

Turns out, we call adrenaline “adrenaline” because it is produced near (ad) the renal system (from latin “renes,” kidneys, above in dark red). Epinephrine? From Latin epi- “upon” and “nephros” from Greek nephrós, “kidney.”

Yeah, I would have been able to tell you that adrenaline is mostly produced in the adrenal medulla of the suprarenal gland. I’d probably try to sound smart and tell you, that 2-6% of adrenaline in the body is produced in the medulla oblongata of the brain.

But, damn, how can you use a word for 20+ years and never realize where it comes from? See, you’re not so dumb!

They are selling the Casa Magica, and I am sad…

During my first Camino, I had a majorly shitty day coming from Puente La Reina. It was only day four, so my body was still adjusting to the walking and coming down from the Pyrenees had done a number on my foot. In addition, some pilgrims had decided to party deep into the night and sleep wasn’t a friend until very late, leading to me getting up late.

My head was hurting, my feet too, and the weather was warm but muggy.

In Villatuerta I made the conscious decision to find the next available albergue, drop my stuff, and go to sleep. That albergue was the Casa Magica.

There were hammocks, a pop-up pool, a meditation room, and everyone was calm, relaxed, and friendly. Rather than hitting the hay, I found myself in the yard, discussing Midsommar with some Swedes, food with a few Frenchmen, and having a beer with a Grandmother from Spain.

At some point, the bell rang and dinner was served. Four courses, all vegetarian, with a massive paella as the main course.

I left much, much, happier than I’d arrived.

I stopped twice more. Every time, Casa Magica made me happy. The owner was friendly, the food was amazing, the people stopping there were the kind that did not just power through a guidebook’s stage recommendations, and besides, it was the stop before the wine fountain, which added some extra bonuses since Casa Magica sleepers arrived out of cycle and didn’t have to wait as long.

The Casa is for sale. Another victim of the pandemic, I presume, or the owners simply got tired. Who knows? But the fact remains, that with the Casa another beautiful icon of the Camino disappears…

UVLEN: Just a scam or callous indifference to human life?

It’s 2021. I promised to stay positive on this blog for the year, and there is something positive to report: not very many people seem to fall for this scam which, let’s be clear here, is a scam at best and callous indifference to human life for profit at worst.

I am talking about a thing called “UVLEN.” What it is, is simple: a sub-$1 production cost filter gadget and a strobe light app (sold for $30) for iOS and Android which, so the website promises, “emits UV light” and “kills germs.”

Quote from the website:

Taken from UVLEN’s Website

What it claims to be:

The UVLEN “filter.”

By simply sliding a “filter” over a phone’s flashlight, the UVLEN claims to emit Ultraviolet light which, if applied for 10 seconds, kills “bacteria and germs.”

This is, at least in theory, not unheard of: UV light does kill bacteria and viruses as well as other spores.

Botulism, for example, is caused by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which produces a toxin leading to severe health complications, up to death. Since c. botulinum is found in soil almost everywhere in the world and since it thrives in anaerobic environments so common in modern food packaging, UV light is often used to kill those bacteria.

However: the UV light used is actual ultraviolet light (< 220 nm) and not just violet/blue looking light in a specific spectrum (400-500 nm).

In nature, light exists on a spectrum of wavelengths. Simplified: the shorter the wavelength, the more problematic to life light becomes. UV light is slightly shorter than visible light, if the wavelengths get even shorter they’re more easily able to penetrate solid objects and pass through them.

There are three kinds of UV light: UVA, which penetrates deep into the skin and causes aging. UVB, which is the part of the spectrum that causes sunburn and skin cancer, and UVC, which affects genetic material in a way that does not directly destroy the cell or virus but “reprograms” it to be damaged and non-functional.

Sunlight has all three, but UVC is being filtered out by the ozone layer. Which is why keeping it intact is so important. UVC is really bad stuff, exposition to it can severely hurt you.

Blue light is around the 500 nm spectrum, while UV light is between 400 and 10 nanometers. At the 122–200 nm side of the UV spectrum, the so-called Far UVC, germicidal properties have been proven in actual research. The UVC spectrum ranges from 100 to 280, it includes the “Far-UVC” part and is used in clinical and medical applications.

However, there’s a basic thing you should know about those waves: they don’t generally get shorter by themselves. While there are very involved means to shorten a wave, make it take less space between peaks, given a chance wave want to stay waves and, sometimes, extend their length, but never contract them.

What it is in reality:

UVLEN claims to emit UV light by sliding a simple gel filter over your camera’s flashlight. Again, in theory this would work: filters can filter out some wavelengths and let others pass. For example, a “red filter” lets waves of 620 to 750 nm pass, but blocks others, leading to red light.

That’s possible, because white light is comprised of all wavelengths between 380 to 750 nm, and all you have to do is cut off waves around 380 and below, and light becomes red. Same with green. Filter everything except for the space around 550 nm and you get green light.

Again, this is possible, because green (550nm) waves are being emitted.

We see a trend here: for something to be filtered (made exclusive), it has to exist in the first place.

A camera flashlight emits light between 400 and 710 nm. I won’t go into the science of phosphor emitters, but Apple’s own specs (as well as Samsung’s and Google’s, that’s the ones I could find) state, that the embedded LED is based on white emission through yellow phosphor filtering (from a rather “blue” source).

So, the gel we move in front of the lens does one thing: it filters out all wavelengths except those in the blue spectrum, between 400 and 495 nm. That’s quite a ways from the 100–280 nm UV wave lengths known to act germicidal.

In short: a filter can not yield a spectrum that is not in the source it filters. And there is no UV light emitted by a flash light.

Which is good! Otherwise, lighting someone up with a flashlight would be attempted murder.

Filters do not create wavelengths, they only reduce the number of them present on exit!

What this means:

We’re in the middle of a pandemic. People are (rightfully) concerned about dragging viral loads around on their hands and masks. While the discussion about fomite transmission has become a political, not scientific, one, disinfection of hands and surfaces as well as multiuse masks is a main component of overall transmission avoidance.

What if a simple wave of a phone over the surface could alleviate transmission concerns?

UVLEN actually takes this scam a step further, linking to studies discussing the 222nm range of UV light, UVC. Ballsy!

Taken from UVLEN’s Website.

This is two truths and a lie: of course visible light is generally safe to be applied to the skin for 10 seconds. Far-UVC is not! And, probably, this can be tested and certified. The lie is simple: there is no “necessary amount of far-UVC” emitted by a phone camera flashlight.

UVLEN filtered light has no germicidal properties. Anyone relying on a cell phone camera for these puts themselves and others at risk.

And this is the rub:

The makers of UVLEN likely know this. It’s easy and costs less than what the company probably paid to have their website made to test for present UV light. A good spectrometer costs between $400 and $4000 on Amazon, peanuts compared to many other tests.

So UVLEN intentionally and capitalizing on people’s fears and wants to remain safe while keeping others safe causes dangerous situations to happen in which users of their product presume themselves safer thanks to the use of the device.

This is, given the properties of the virus UVLEN very clearly aims at, depraved behavior. If it is “just a scam” or callous indifference to human life is up to you, the reader.

Summary

The UVLEN filter can not work, because there is no UV light to be filtered for emitted from cell phone camera flashlights. Because the light emitted is just simple spectrum blue light, the promises and claims on their website are bogus.

At the best, this is just a scam to make UVLEN a lot of money from the pandemic, at its worst it is a way to capitalize on peoples’ fears and conscientious aims to increase safety for themselves and others that puts innocents are a very real and present risk of disease and death.

I am turning off comments, since some UVLEN people are spamming them with links to the product (I have intentionally not linked it from here). I am currently featuring higher on Google’s ranking than them, taking interested buyers to me, rather than them, which makes them unhappy. If you like to comment, send me an email.