Today is June 28, 2020, which is also International Body Piercing Day and the birthday of Jim Ward. The two are not unrelated. Jim Ward was reportedly the first person to open a body piercing studio in California in 1978. The day was established to celebrate his many contributions to the field of body piercing but it is not clear who established it. My guess would be: Jim Ward.
the american crowbar case: Extreme body piercing
Phineas P. Gage has to have the most remarkable body piercing story on record. Gage was a railroad construction foreman. On September 13, 1848 Gage was supervising workers preparing the roadbed for train tracks near Cavendish, Vermont. The work required the men to set up for the blast by boring a hole in rock, filling it with blasting powder, and then using a tamping iron to pack or “tamp” sand or other inert material above the powder to contain the blast’s energy.
Gage was tamping a blast hole at about 4:30 PM when he was briefly distracted by his workers. As he turned to look over his right shoulder, he opened his mouth to speak. At that very moment the tamping iron hit against the rock, creating a spark that ignited the blast powder. The tamping iron (1.5 inches in diameter; three feet, seven inches in length; and 13.25 lbs) was rocketed out of the blast hole.
The tamping rod went through Gage’s head, entering the left side of his face, out the top of his head, and landed about 80 feet away. Gage was thrown onto his back and after a few convulsions, stood up, walked around, spoke to his crew, and rode in an oxcart about three quarters of a mile back to where he was lodging. About 30 minutes after the accident, a doctor arrived at Gage’s hotel to find him sitting outside.
From that moment forward, Phineas P. Gage was a medical wonder. Not only had he survived having a tamping iron blasted through his head, but the tamping iron also performed a frontal lobotomy.
The Phineas Gage story is one of the most fascinating in medical history. I’ve only shared the beginning of it as a teaser. If you are not familiar with it, I hope you’ll check it out. To get you started, here are two short articles and a brief story from NPR:
- Phineas Gage’s Astonishing Brain Injury: His Injury Led to New Discoveries in Neuroscience
- Phineas Gage, Neuroscience’s Most Famous Patient
- From NPR: Why Brain Scientists are Still Obsessed with the Curious Case of Phineas Gage
Help with Math
Thanks to COVID-19, many schools have been shuttered across around the world. As a result, parents have had to also serve as teachers to their students. Several exasperated parents have expressed total confusion over trying to help their children with math.
Tom Lehrer is here to help! Lehrer, at age 92, is a retired musican, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician. He traveled the world for many years performing musical satire and made several albums. In the 1970’s he decided to leave show business to focus on teaching math and musical theater history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He retired in 2001 but his satirical legacy continues. Parents who have been trying to help their children with their current math studies may appreciate Lehrer’s “New Math” from 1965:
chickenman – episode 71 is here!
Chickenman pays a visit to the Police Commissioner’s office where he immediately begins to try Ms. Helfinger’s patience. But she has a suggestion for how he can spend some of his pent up energy.