The futile quest for the “perfect” breast

Over at Respectful Insolence, Orac discusses an article where a scientist has spent his days shut away, slaving endlessly over a data set–of pictures of topless models. Why? To produce the perfect boob job, of course–or as the article puts it, “to help Hollywood look even more perfect.”

Great. Just what we need.

According to the researcher, the ideal breast “…is a 45 to 55 per cent proportion – that is the nipple sits not at the half-way mark down the breast, but at least 45 per cent from the top.” Like it wasn’t enough before to worry about them being too perky, or too saggy, or uneven…now the nipple has to be a certain percentage up on the breast as well? Thank you, Mr Mallucci, for your meticulous research.

This ticks me off even more than it usually would because a reader had just sent me a link to this story in US magazine about Heidi Montag and her “revenge plastic surgery.” Apparently this girl is on a reality show and despite her already having fame and, I assume, some degree of wealth from that, well, her breasts were just too small. So she decided to have them augmented. My issue isn’t so much with that procedure itself as it is with her attitude toward it, and what her comments and studies like the one above say about our culture and the emphasis we place on the “perfect” set of breasts and body:
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Attack of the killer amoebae

In another case of TV shows being prescient, abuzz here at other Scienceblogs is this story, which sounds like a bad B movie: ” 6 die from brain-eating amoeba in lakes.” The amoeba in question is a species of naegleria, which was featured on the medical drama House last year. According to the article:

Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose — say, by doing a somersault in chest-deep water — the amoeba can latch onto the olfactory nerve.

The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up into the brain, where it continues the damage, “basically feeding on the brain cells,” Beach said.

People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers. In the later stages, they’ll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes, he said.

Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have stopped the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.

“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,” he said.

More after the jump…
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Introducing Correlations

I rarely watch TV, but I’m always up for a good nerd show. So when I was contacted from a representative of the PBS affiliate in L.A. about a new show they were doing in conjunction with WIRED Magazine, I was definitely interested. The show is called WIRED Science (you can watch the pilot or previews on the site). It’s kind of like a news magazine TV show–Dateline but with science (and, well, better personalities.) The show premieres next Wednesday, October 3rd at 8 PM (7 Central).

So how does this concern me, besides being an interested viewer? The reason they contacted me was because they’re setting up a blog, “Correlations”, to go along with the show–and I’ll be one of the bloggers over yonder. This will also go live on Wednesday, and it will feature 8 of us blogging there about our varied areas of expertise:

Find out all about it after the jump…
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Not again…

Via PZ, I see that yet another Catholic bishop in Africa is claiming that condoms are laced with HIV:

The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately.

Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed some anti-retroviral drugs were also infected “in order to finish quickly the African people”.

His answer to AIDS is, of course, marriage, fidelity, and abstinence…which is all well and good, but not always possible or realistic. (Not to mention, what about an HIV-infected spouse?) WWJD?

[ETA: ERV has a longer (and more pissed off) takedown].

“Twelve Diseases that Changed Our World”

I asked yesterday what readers considered the most important diseases in history. This was prompted by a new ASM Press book, Twelve Diseases that Changed Our World, written by Irwin Sherman.

As I mentioned, Sherman included many diseases readers expected–plague, cholera, tuberculosis, smallpox, syphilis, malaria, influenza, yellow fever, and AIDS. He didn’t include a few that popped up repeatedly in the comments–leprosy, measles, and typhoid (or typhus, for that matter). While I think a study of these could have been illuminating (especially leprosy, since much of the stigma attached to that disease still resonates even in modern society), Sherman notes than an exhaustive study of diseases would have been “mind-numbing,” and that wasn’t his goal in writing the book. Rather, the book is “…about the we have or should have learned from our past encounters with unanticipated outbreaks of disease and how such understanding can be put to use when future outbreaks occur.” More after the jump…including the diseases Sherman chose that most readers missed.
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Where’s the Discovery Institute when you need a defender of academic freedom?

So, after all the kvetching the Discovery Institute did over the Guillermo Gonzalez tenure denial case, why aren’t they rushing to the defense of one Steve Bitterman, a community college professor at Southwest Community College here in Iowa. The case is still developing, but what is known is that Bitterman was fired last week–apparently for teaching that Genesis isn’t literal:
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Group B Streptococcus: an introduction

One of the organisms I work with is the group B streptococcus, Streptococcus agalactiae (“GBS”). This is a relative of the bacterium that causes strep throat. Typically, GBS causes disease in the very young and older age groups; it’s one of the most common causes of meningitis in newborns, for instance. This has dropped some in recent years, as obstetricians have implemented procedures to screen expectant mothers to see if they’re carrying GBS (as about a quarter of healthy adults do), and then provide antibiotics to carriers during labor (thereby preventing infection of the baby during labor and birth).

However, despite these guidelines, babies are still dying from this infection:

About 5 percent of babies infected with Group B strep die. Most who survive develop normally, but among those who develop meningitis as a result of GBS, up to 50 percent suffer lasting neurologic damage that can include cerebral palsy, sight and hearing loss, mental retardation, learning disabilities and seizures.

This comes from a recent article that covers the issue pretty well, discussing the problems with diagnosis and prevention, how women can act as their own advocates for treatment, and the need for an effective vaccine (that could therefore minimize the need for antibiotics during labor). Education about GBS is increasing, but too many at-risk women still aren’t hearing the message about screening–the article is a good introduction to the issues.