Top Posts of 2012

To mark the beginning of this new year, I thought I'd include links to some of the posts that have had the highest traffic in the past year.  

1.   How Does Alcohol Affect Adults with ADHD? 

The acute impact that alcohol can have on controlling inhibitions has been well documented in healthy drinkers. On the other hand, there has been little research into the effect of alcohol on individuals with disorders characterized by poor impulse control, such as those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A study published in a recent issue of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology tested the impact of alchohol on subjects with ADHD (n = 10) and controls (n = 12) using the cued version of the go/no-go task (a measure of implicit social cognition)...

2.  Laying An Egg.  

England was in full religious ferment during the first few years of the 19th century.  Joanna Southcott was leading a messianic crusade with countless followers revering her as "the Lamb" who would bring them to salvation.  Other prophets like Richard Brothers had their own crusades  promising the imminent coming of God's kingdom on Earth (the English were considered to be God's chosen people).  Tales of signs and wonders proclaiming the impending Second Coming spread widely.

Which brings us to Mary Bateman (a.k.a. "The Yorkshire Witch") and her incredible scam...

3. The Taliesin Murders

t's still considered to be the single worst mass murder in Wisconsin's history.

When eminent architect, Frank Lloyd Wright built his new home near Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1911, he named it Taliesin after the famed Welsh bard (his winter home, Taliesin West was in Arizona).   After they returned from Europe and moved into Taliesin together, both Wright and Borthwick were condemned for their notorious living arrangements (Borthwick's two children had accompanied her to Wisconsin).  The unhappy lovers were shunned by "polite" society and even denounced in newspaper editorials around the country (it was a less tolerant era then).  

Despite knowing how they were viewed by the public, both Borthwick and Wright managed to settle into a relatively peaceful life together.  Although Wright's career had been badly affected by the scandal (he wouldn't get another major commission until 1916), Mamah Borthwick managed to keep herself busy with her literary work and her feminism.  The scandal might well have died down in time and the two of them  had hoped to marry eventually once Catherine Wright granted her husband a divorce,

Except for Julian Carlton...

4.  The Tesla Conspiracy

Nobody can dispute the fact that Nikola Tesla was a scientific genius.

Not only did his patents and technological achievements help form the basis for most modern electrical and magnetic applications (including alternating current, an early x-ray machine, the AC motor, and the three-phase rotating magnetic field), he also pioneered in robotics, ballistics, cybernetics, and theoretical physics. Although Guglielmo Marconi was awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize for his work on radio, several court decisions would determine that Tesla deserved the real credit. Tesla never won the Nobel Prize in his own right (according to one rumour, plans to give a joint award to him and Thomas Edison had been scrapped due to their long  feud). Tesla was widely acclaimed for his work in launching the modern technological revolution and the standard unit for the measurement of magnetic flux density was named the tesla in his honour.Although he attempted to launch several companies in his lifetime, most ended in failure and he was often forced to work as a common labourer to support himself while dreaming up his next invention.For all that he was world famous in his old age, Nikola Tesla seemed incapable of managing his money properly and spent his final years in poverty...

5.  Mad Joanna

She is still known in history as Joanna the Mad (a.k.a, Joanna la Loca).

Born in 1479 as the second daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon (yes, that Ferdinand and Isabella of Christopher Columbus fame), she had a reputation from an early age of being morbid.  With a longstanding taste for the macabre, Joanna was intensely superstitious and obsessed with death.  According to one story, she told her governess that she wanted to try on her skeleton and cried when her governess informed her that the skeleton was already inside her.  Although she originally wanted to be a nun, her parents knew that a marriage of state would be essential to strengthen their political position. 

For forty-seven years until her death, Joanna was confined to one small chamber with no window and no natural light. Since she refused to eat in anyone's presence, her meals of bread and cheese were usually just left outside her room and her guards were fully authorized to punish Joanna with the "strap" whenever she acted out.  Actual details of Joanna's life at Tordesillas are rare (and usually tailored by her captors to justify her imprisonment) but the only joy in her life seemed to be caring for her youngest child, Catalina, with the help of her two female servants.  Even this one comfort was eventually denied her when Catalina married in 1525 and Joanna was left alone.  By the time of her death on April 12, 1555, Joanna was paralyzed from the waist down and her legs were covered by painful ulcers.  After a muted royal funeral, Queen Joanna was laid to rest beside her husband and their bodies were later placed in the Royal Chapel at Granada along with the bodies of her parents.  A statue in her honour still stands in Tordesillas and the convent where she spent so long is a tourist attraction.

So, was Joanna mad?  You be the judge...

6.  What's Your Blood Type?

Can knowing your blood type provide insight into your personality and the kind of people you are most likely to associate with?  For many people living inJapan or South Korea, the answer seems to be "yes".    While the discovery of the ABO blood group system only goes back the work of Karl Landsteiner in 1900, this was rapidly followed by the discovery of significant ethnic differences in terms of how blood groups were distributed across the world.    The overrepresentation of blood type B among Asian peoples played an early role in Nazi theories relating to racial superiority despite being largely discredited by early 20th century biology.  Despite the scientific racism surrounding early work into blood type,  scientists linked to Japan's imperialist government drew on Nazi research to foster ideas relating to Japanese supremacy over other races during the early 1920s.

7. What Is Ataque De Nervios?

Long recognized in Hispanic cultures, an ataque de nervious (ADN) is a culturally-specific syndrome that closely resembles a panic attack. The DSM-IV recognizes ADN and views it as being a distinct clinical syndrome. Despite the popularity of ADN as a folk diagnosis and clinical reports from various Hispanic countries, ADN continues to be little understood. A study in the September 2008 issue of Depression and Anxiety examines incidence of ADN in an ethnically diverse population. Using a sample of 342 undergraduates assessed for acculturation, clinical and anxiety risk factors, the rate of ADN did not significantly vary across the three main groups (African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic participants) nor did it vary based on acculturation. Symptoms of ADN were found to be notably different from panic attack symptoms. The authors conclude that ADNs, as described by the DSM-IV, are not unique to the Hispanic culture and are experienced by non-Hispanic individuals as well. The findings are consistent with the DSM-IV assertion that ADNs and PAs are distinct syndromes.

8.The Tarasoff Decision

Tatiana Tarasoff and Prosenjit Poddar were both students at the University of California at Berkeley when they met for the first time at a folk dancing class in 1968.  He was a 26-year old graduate student in Naval Architecture who had grown up in India as part of the untouchable Dalit caste and had little experience with dating or American customs.  She was an undergraduate and, while they dated on several occasions, did not view the relationship as a serious one.  Poddar grew infuriated with her attempts at breaking off their relationship to be with other men and became obsessed with her.  In his attempts at rekindling their relationship, he became despondent, neglected his studies, was often seen weeping, and generally began acting in a bizarre fashion.  He spoke with a friend about blowing up her dormitory room and was advised to seek counseling at the University Health Service. 

In the weeks prior to Tatiana's return from Brazil, Poddar moved in with her brother who had no idea that he intended any harm to his sister.  On October 27, 1969, shortly after her return, Poddar went to her house and stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife.  He then called the police and asked to be handcuffed. 

9.  The Cocoanut Grove Fire

The Cocoanut Grove was one of Boston's most elegant clubs.   Located in what is now the historic Bay Village in Boston's downtown, the club was a former speakeasy that had been decorated in a tropical style with artificial palm trees, cloth draperies on the ceiling, and an overall Casablanca theme.  Equipped with restaurants, bars, an upstairs dining room and the Melody lounge on the main floor, the club  was often packed on weekends.

And so it was on November 28, 1942. While the club's official capacity was 460, there were an estimated 1000 people that Saturday night when the fire broke out.  Shortly after 10 PM, while  Goody Goodelle was performing on a revolving stage in the Melody lounge, a young couple had unscrewed a light bulb near their seat to give themselves more privacy.  When a bartender noticed that the light was out, he told a 16-year old busboy, Stanley Tomaszewski,  to replace it.  Tomaszewski climbed a seat and struck a match to find the empty socket and, after he had finished replacing the bulb, blew out the match.   Spectators immediately noticed flames spreading across the satin ceiling although nobody took it seriously at first.

Emergency departments all over Boston were strained to capacity in handling the surge of admissions.  For 75 minutes after the fire, Boston City Hospital averaged a new patient every 11 seconds. Of the first 200 patients to arrive, 150 were already dead (most from smoke inhalation).  Due to wartime conditions, the hospitals were already well-equipped with oxygen tents and IV units although doctors and nurses worked for hours to treat all the patients.  Dozens stayed in hospital for months after the blaze and the last fatality was on May 5.

10.  The Turing Problem (Part 1 of 3)

When Alan Turing's house was burglarized on January 23, 1952, it didn't seem all that serious.  As Turing himself would later write in a lettter to a colleague:

I have just had my house broken into, and am still every few hours finding some fresh thing missing. Fortunately I am insured, and little has gone that is really irreplaceable. But the whole thing has had a very disturbing effect, especially as it followed shortly on a theft from me at the University. I go about expecting a brick to fall on my head or something disagreeable and unexpected anywhere.

Prophetic words.  When Turing reported the crime to the local police, he quickly began to suspect that a young lover of his, Arnold Murray, was involved.   He had met Murray earlier that month and they spent several nights together at Turing's house.   On being accused by Turing, Murray became agitated and threatened to tell the police everything about their relationship.  Given that homosexuality was still a criminal offense at the time, Turing knew perfectly well that what Arnold's confession would mean.  Despite the risk, Turing  simply told him to "do his worst" and Murray  settled down.    Murray admitted knowing the burglar (an acquaintance he had told about Turing's house) who had probably decided that Turing was a good target since he would be unlikely to report the robbery.   Although Turing was reassured enough to resume his relationship with Murray, he decided to go to the police with the information.   While he did his best to conceal Murray's identity and the exact nature of their relationship, he was eventually forced to confess the truth.  His fate was sealed at that point.

And that's it for this year.   Thank all of you who have been following me and there will be more to come.


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