Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Omg -- the Element of Surprise

The inhabitants of the atoll have deteriorating brains because decades ago they were eating cycads, under the impression that these were salted pineapples, and unaware that cycad seeds contain a slow-acting neurotoxin. That is one theory, anyway.

Another theory also blames the islanders' diet but singles out the Marianas Fruitbat -- which eats cycad seeds, then accumulates the toxin within its flesh -- as the source of their exposure to BMAA. In recent decades the dietary danger has been handled in the usual human way, by hunting the fruitbats to nigh-extinction.

Only one of these is a double-nosed fruitbat

And now it appears that sharks also accumulate BMAA, either from cycads (which sharks relish so much that they crawl up on land and devour the seeds at night when no-one is watching) or from cyanobacteria which synthesise the stuff for their own devious biochemical purposes. This is bad news for people who consume sharks' fins or shark cartilage -- for respective reasons of gourmanderie or alt-health stupidity -- which is costing them what scanty brains they started with. Little consolation there, for the world is likely to run out of elasmobranch species before it runs out of destructive bald primates.

Let us turn... slowly... step by step, inch by inch... to different bioaccumulating neurotoxin, i.e. aluminium. For American readers who do not want the penultimate vowel in 'aluminium', we can only suggest that you harvest the 'i's and send them off to the Bodhisattva Institute for the Ego-Deprived.

There are two schools of thought vis-à-vis aluminium toxicity. One school, the majority, holds that Al is eliminated by our kidneys far faster than normal sources of exposure, while if they cannot keep pace then it builds up in other organs first and in the brain last of all.
Opinion is divided on the subject. All the
other captains say it is; I say it isn't.

A minority opinion of Aluminati believe that the stuff is not eliminated and does accumulate in (inter alia) the brain where it is responsible for Alzheimers' syndrome and autism... not to mention breast cancer, and macrophagic myofasciitis... a syndrome purposely designed to use up the surplus 'i's from 'aluminium', but unknown outside of one laboratory in France.

Within this school of thought, the "aluminium-based antiperspirants cause breast cancer" story is another vindication of the Atomic Theory. It must be said, however, that if you are applying the rollerball of the antiperspirant bottle to the skin of the armpit with such repeated vigour as to agitate the little whirling atoms comprising the lotion and make them change places with the correspondingly-agitated atoms of axilla, migrating with time to the breast while the antiperspirant bottle becomes 50% person, then you are DOIN IT RONG and are probably not to be trusted with a personal massager. The idea is to turn your armpit into a charmpit -- not your oxter into a rockster.

If nothing else, this focus on aluminium is a redressing of the balance and a (partial) compensation for a bias in Western culture... the unfair way it has built up the romantic danger and potency of heavy elements. Note for instance the absence of musical genres with names like "light metalloid" or "alkaline earth metal".

Left: Three monks realise that their abbot
has been experimenting on them with Antimony

Right: Main source of Smut expertise
on neurotoxicology dates from 1972

Heavy metals like lead and cadmium, mercury and thallium get all the attention and one little Asimov novella starring Beryllium poisoning is hardly enough to make up for the injustice.

Thallium -- the ironic hipster of toxic heavy metals

But everyone is missing the crucial point of the story. If aluminium is so dangerous, and biomagnifies in human brains, then what about the health hazards to zombies?

Will no-one think of the zombies??


H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

"Citizens of Gravity we are converting all out to Heavy Metal. Carbonic Plague of the Vegetable People threatens our Heavy Metal State. Report to your nearest Plating Station. It's fun to be plated," says this well-known radio and TV personality who is now engraved forever in gags of metal. "Do not believe the calumny that our metal fallout will turn the planet into a slag heap. And in any case, is that worse than a compost heap? Heavy Metal is our program and we are prepared to sink through it..."

William S. Burroughs

tigris said...


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...


Substance McGravitas said...

Not for nothing are Cannibal Corpse one of the dumbest metal bands out there.

Sirius Lunacy said...

The element of Surprisium has an atomic weight of 111!!1!!1!. It is considered a transition metal.

mikey said...

I have devoted a great deal of my life to proving that all the other Captains were idiots, an that Webster couldn't fecking spell for shit.

Also, too, the Fruitbat looks like the Herr Panzerpopen in one of his fabulous outfits.

And this is for the dood next to the Fruitbat.

wiley said...

That is one entrancing bat. Perhaps he's a demon bat. That would explain all the weird goings on, would it not?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

One would figure that the atoll's residents would have sussed out how to leach the toxins out of the cycads... is the cycad in question Zamia?

Little consolation there, for the world is likely to run out of elasmobranch species before it runs out of destructive bald primates.

I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.

Smut Clyde said...

One would figure that the atoll's residents would have sussed out how to leach the toxins out of the cycads

Apparently the custom on Guam is to soak the ground-up cycad endosperm in water for a day or two. The people who research this reckon that this dissolves most of the BMAA... except for other people who reckon that it *doesn't* dissolve the BMAA that's bound into endosperm protein (remember, BMAA is an amino acid)... Then there are other other people who reckon that BMAA isn't really that nasty after all, and steryl glucosides are the problem, which aren't affected by soaking at all.

is the cycad in question Zamia?
Cycas micronesica. Don't worry, it's on the way to extinction too.

el Manquécito said...

I was in a band that had a gag built into their act about Huh? beer, brewed in all aluminium tanks. "If you're drinking to forget, have we got a beer for you!"

exford legs said...


Also, it's the manganese in the pineapples, dude