Thursday, November 15, 2012


The Last Laughing Death

We would tell you that this extensive Global Mail feature on the end of a fifty-year study of kuru among the Fore people of Papua New Guinea is "everything you want to know about kuru", but that would presume your interest in the social and scientific aspects of kuru is capable of being satisfied:

When Alpers put his data together for a presentation in Washington in 1967 “the argument for cannibalism — and I don’t use that term anymore, but it was used then — was compelling. Everything fitted. Why did women and children get the disease? Because they were the ones that carried out the practice — the men didn’t. It explained why it was dying out in young children — because the kiaps had proscribed cannibalism. You could also conclude that the disease was not being transmitted vertically from mother to child. No one born since 1960 was coming down with kuru. The penny dropped”.

Richard Rhodes' Deadly Feasts is a must-read if you're at all interested in prion diseases, but perhaps not if you are also interested in sleeping through the night without wondering if your brain is going to turn into Swiss cheese unexpectedly at some point in your life?

39 Comments / Post A Comment


First retro drug ads, now kuru? Be still, my heart. Nicole, you are killing it this morning.


your contents are great as well.@n


Fuck. And I had work to do today, Nicole.


pfft the globe and mail WISHES it was independent journalism for independent minds.


Well, my favorite prion disease is Fatal Familial Insomnia.

Um, WTF Interrobang

@Lucienne I KNOW, right?!?


@Lucienne OH my god that was not a disease I ever needed to know about.


@Lucienne so...pick up a copy of The Family That Couldn't Sleep?

(Great, but, uh, will probably prevent you from sleeping.)


@breccia Sorry! But you're welcome. There's like 0 chance you'll get it, so don't worry.

Pocket Witch

@Lucienne I regret my decision to google that.


@Lucienne I was just coming here to say that! It is so very terrifying - most fascinating prion disease, definitely. (And, um, while the chances of getting Fatal Familial Insomnia are basically 0 for everyone not related to the suffers, there's also a variant, sporadic Fatal Insomnia, which anyone can develop spontaneously. Sorry to ruin everyone's peace of mind forever.)


Re: the article: is "artefacts" an alternate spelling, or just incorrect?


@frigwiggin I think it's just the British version, but the Globe has really shit copyediting so it could be either.


@Interrobanged It's the British spelling.


@Bekki@twitter Good to know! It looks so weird to my eyes.


@frigwiggin I had always thought "artifact" was strictly for a physical object while "artefact" was for more abstract/conceptual uses, but apparently they are both accepted spellings in both British and American English, with "artefact" being preferred outside North America.


@Interrobanged This isn't the Globe. The Globe and Mail and the Global Mail are completely different entities.
And artefacts is British spelling, often found in Canada.


AAAAAAAaaaaaaa the term "mortuary feasts".


In my mind prion diseases and ice-9 are inextricably linked. Both are terrifying and change the structure of everything they touch and there's nothing you can do about it. Fortunately one of them is fictional...

The Wub

The Last Laughing Death is just waiting to become the next big ambitiously-titled YA dystopian fantasy romance novel. I would probably read it.


@The Wub BOOM when I start NaNoWriMo two months late, this is the book I am writing. Credits to Nicole for pointing me to the article, and to Jo Chandler for writing it, duh.


"Everythiing fitted"?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Megano! I couldn't get past that. Sounded like my nephew explaining a finished puzzle.


@Megano! "Fitted" is not incorrect at all, though.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Lu2 I know. It's a preference.


@Lu2 Ummm, what? It is in that context? Fitted = clothes.


@Megano! It's fine in British English; I assume Alpers' Australian English is similar.


@Megano! Yeah, I'm Australian, and I couldn't work out what the issue was for a second. 'Everything fit' sounds truncated and American to me. Ah tiny language differences :)


@Megano! It's in the dictionary (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.) as the past tense of "fit": "fitted" followed by "fit." The order doesn't imply one choice is preferred over the other. It's an American dictionary. ;-) I'm American too (and an editor) and didn't bat an eye at "fitted," for what it's worth.


Daisey and Georgette :(


@frigwiggin So many mixed feelings about that.
Predominantly it's :( .


I'm going to take this opportunity to recommend everyone read "The White Mary" because I really enjoyed it, and it was written by one of the first women to travel across Papua New Guinea alone. In it the character travles across Papua New Guinea alone - although it is a fictional novel.


This article's from The Global Mail -- www.theglobalmail.org -- the Australian non-profit journalism site (not the Canadian Globe and Mail)


You could also conclude that the disease was not being transmitted vertically from mother to child.
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that the disease was not being transmitted vertically from mother to child.
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Hamza Khan@facebook

My name is Niina (like Nina) which is not close to that. Today's cup said "Needa." hgh testosterone


thats an informative and attractive article i found here

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