Since it’s Saturday, this will be a somewhat lightweight news roundup.
The entire Internet is losing its collective mind over a shirtless pic of vice presidential candidate, and fitness freak, Paul Ryan. Before the photo was even uncovered by TMZ, “Paul Ryan shirtless” began trending on Google. We the people really, desperately want to see the 42-year-old’s legendary midsection.
Feverish coverage of the congressman’s grueling P90X workout routine, and reports of his 6 to 8 percent body fat, have helped stoke the fire. So too have his good looks: Media outlets from TMZ to the New York Times have waxed poetic this week about his sex appeal. There’s also the fact that some see his physique as rock-hard proof of his true character: As my colleague Willa Paskin said, it’s like people are thinking, “He really must be as disciplined and serious as he pretends. Look at those abs! Those are not the abs of a dilettante!”
Frankly, of those three guys pictured above, I’ll take the pale, unmuscled, slightly flabby–but really smart and interesting–Bill Clinton. And thank goodness The Daily Beast didn’t find a shirtless photo of Mitt Romney! They did post shirtless photos of a few other politicians though. My favorites were Rick Santorum and Vladimir Putin–check them out at the link.
RalphB posted this one in the comments last night, and I just had to include it in this mornings must reads: Romney Loves Ryan: What Mitt Sees in His New Beau, by Paul Constant at The Stranger.
If we’re being generous, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan is a man of contradictions. If we’re being honest, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan is an idiot. Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick has problems beyond the basic teabagger contradiction of claiming to be for small government then passing an obscenely large military budget, voting to ban gay marriage, and enacting laws that lessen a woman’s access to abortion and birth control. This is a Republican who unabashedly supported George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and the Patriot Act, but also claims to be a big Rage Against the Machine fan. There is a dissonance, a bifurcation in Ryan’s brain that demands further investigation.
As I write this, the media’s love affair with Paul Ryan is still running hot and heavy. Since rumors of the Ryan pick broke late Friday night, reporters have not been able to say enough nice things about the man: good-looking, remarkably fit (anywhere from 6 to 8 percent body fat, multiple bloggers have cooed; a CNN headline on Monday swooned: “Paul Ryan’s workout: Is P90X for you?”), young, a decent public speaker, well-loved in his home district around Janesville, Wisconsin, where he was born and still lives today with his beautiful wife and children. Hell, compared to the stiff, awkward, and biologically unlikable Romney, Ryan is the second coming of George Clooney, with a practiced aw-shucksiness and a closely cultivated cowlick that are meant to imply Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Constant spends the rest of the piece describing Ryan’s hypocrisy and his ability to lie and obfuscate at the drop of a hat. He’s the perfect match for Romney.
Is it any wonder that Romney loves Ryan, can seemingly spend hours sitting next to him and softly chuckling while gazing in his direction, his hands awkwardly curled up in his lap? It must be like looking into a mirror that shows you all your life’s possibilities. It must be like looking at all the potential he used to have. Here’s the distillation of everything Romney believes, and by some fluke, people even like this other guy. If Romney didn’t make Ryan his vice presidential candidate, he’d probably have killed him in a fit of jealous pique.
Perfect! I wish I had written that.
In science news, a new species of spider with really scary claws was discovered by some people exploring a cave in Oregon.
Amateur cave explorers have found a new family of spiders in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon, and scientists have dubbed it Trogloraptor — Latin for cave robber — for their fearsome front claws.
The spelunkers sent specimens to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which has the West Coast’s largest collection of spiders. Entomologists there say the spider — reddish brown and the size of a half dollar — evolved so distinctly that it requires its own taxonomic family — the first new spider family found in North America since the 1870s.
“It took us a long time to figure out what it wasn’t,” said Charles Griswold, curator of arachnids at the academy. “Even longer to figure out what it is. We used anatomy. We used DNA to understand its evolutionary place. Then we consulted other experts all over the world about what this was. They all concurred with our opinion that this was something completely new to science.”
One more science story: Likely footprint of spiky dinosaur has NASA’s Md. campus on cloud nine
Eons before man dreamed of exploring the heavens, dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford is convinced, a low-slung armored beast roamed what is now a NASA campus in Greenbelt, stamping a huge footprint that went unnoticed until he spied it this summer.
A scalloped mini-crater with four pointy toe prints pressed into ruddy rock, the putative dinosaur track juts out from a scruffy slope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, home to 7,000 scientists, engineers and other workers with their eyes firmly turned skyward.
Maryland’s signature dinosaur, an armored browser known as a nodosaur, made the track with its back left foot 112 million years ago, Stanford said as he led an entourage of NASA officials to the print Friday morning.
Sticking out of the grass in plain view, the elephant-foot-size impression — nearly 14 inches wide — elicited gasps. “Unbelievable!” said a NASA photographer. Someone else said, “Oh, my!”
Read more at the link.
I was amazed when I read this one: Construction Worker Survives After a Metal Bar Pierces his Head in Brazil
A 24-year-old construction worker survived after a 6-foot metal bar fell from above and pierced his head, doctors said Friday.
Luiz Alexandre Essinger, chief of staff of Rio de Janeiro’s Miguel Couto Hospital said doctors successfully withdrew the iron bar from Eduardo Leite’s skull during a five-hour surgery.
“He was taken to the operating room, his skull was opened, they examined the brain and the surgeon decided to pull the metal bar out from the front in the same direction it entered the brain.” Essinger said.
He said Leite was conscious when he arrived at the hospital and told him what had happened.
He said Leite was lucid and showed no negative consequences after the operation.
The reason I was so amazed is that this accident is so similar to one that everyone learns about in Psychology 101–the case of Phineas Gage.
The story of Phineas Gage illustrates some of the first medical knowledge gained on the relationship between personality and the functioning of the brain’s frontal lobe. A well-liked and successful construction foreman, Phineas Gage was contracted to work on the bed preparation for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad in Cavendish, Vermont in late 1840’s. On the 13th of September 1848, while preparing the railroad bed, an accidental explosion of a charge he had set blew a 13-pound tamping iron straight through Gage’s head, landing many yards away.
From all accounts, the front part of the left side of his brain was destroyed. Incredibly, almost immediately after the accident, Gage was conscious and able to talk, and insisted on walking to the cart that would take him into town to be treated. Despite his torn scalp and fractured skull, Gage remained lucid and rational during the ride and was able to speak with his attending physician, Dr. John Martyn Harlow. Dr. Harlow, a young physician in Cavendish, noted that although the tamping iron appeared to have gone directly through Gage’s frontal lobes, Gage was still able to speak rationally and answer questions about the injury. Gage was treated by Harlow and returned home to Lebanon, New Hampshire 10 weeks later.
Unfortunately, Gage’s recovery was not a complete success. The once friendly and well-liked man became “fitful, irreverent, and grossly profane, showing little deference for his fellows.” He was also “impatient and obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, unable to settle on any of the plans he devised for future action.” Those who knew him before the accident said he was “no longer Gage.”
A couple of years ago the above portrait of Gage turned up and his story was all over the news for awhile. It remains to be seen whether Eduardo Leite will have a better outcome than Gage did. The bar that went through Gage’s head damaged his frontal lobes–basically giving him a prefrontal lobotomy. The doctor who operated on Leite claims that “the bar entered a ‘non-eloquent’ area of the brain, an area that doesn’t have a specific, major known function.” I have a feeling we’re eventually going to learn from Leite’s post-operative experiences what that part of the brain does.
I’ll end with a sad but heartwarming story from The New York Times Vows column: Angela Sclafani and Michael Olexa. I’m not going to excerpt from it, because you really need to read the whole thing. Just be sure to have a box of Kleenex handy.