Cotton candy and probiotic transplants

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By John Pawlak

  As a child, I remember eating clouds of cotton candy, marveling at the simplicity of interwoven sugar, and wondering - “How did the first person ever think of making this stuff?”  Seriously, who out there decided that centrifuged sugar would be its own food group?

 Perhaps that’s the true genius behind the advancements we enjoy in a civilized world.  Some whacked out nutcase wakes up in the middle of the night and shouts, “Injecting Clostridium botulinum bacteria (to produce botulism) into your face will make you beautiful!”   Now that’s pure genius!

 No, forget that example.  That guy actually was in fact a whacked out nutcase.

 But it does make one wonder.  How do people think up the bizarre inventions and practices that advance (or sometimes curtail) civilization as we know it?  Now, I’m not talking about grandiose inventions like the light bulb, the cell phone, the airplane, or the nose hair clipper.  I’m referring to the more subtle creative imagination that keeps pushing the envelope of life.

 Come to think of it, who invented the envelope?  Before the paper envelope, important documents were encased in clay.  Licking one of the those shut could really do a job on the tongue.

 Well, eating sugar or licking clay isn’t what motivated me to write this week’s column.  Actually, it was a story about the other end of the digestive process.

  I was reading about probiotic fecal bacteriotherapy, a relatively new medical procedure designed to treat Clostridium Difficile Infection (CDI), an intestinal disorder caused by “bad bacteria.”  Doctors inject a couple tablespoons of a healthy person’s feces (containing “healthy bacteria”) into the sick person’s gut.  The process is euphemistically called a fecal transplant.

  To me, this highlights the thin boundary between genius and madness.  What motivates someone to say, “Hey, we could cure this illness by administering an outsourced poo enema!  Any volunteers?”

  By the way, it should be no great surprise that this procedure is being studied in Australia, the land down under.

  The bounds of human creativity is seemingly limitless.  Researchers in Georgia claim that the bite of the Brazilian wandering spider can cure erectile dysfunction.  Clearly, this could be an up and coming market success.  However, it can also cause death, so it might take a while before you see boxed spiders on supermarket shelves.

 Another research item of interest is placenta.  Whatever your stand on stem cell research, it’s easy to understand the logic behind the study of placenta in auto-immune disease research.  But who came up with the idea of using placenta in shampoos and other hair products?  That’s weird enough, but using placenta in food?  Apparently, there’s a big demand for it.  However, people complained that it was tasteless and wanted a “more exciting” way to ingest it.

 The “Placenta in a pill” company owner, Jules Carmin said, “One day it just hit me!  Make placenta ice cream!”

  Like I said.  Pure genius.  Hmmmm.

 Yes, it’s a strange world (and getting stranger every day).  As a child, when visiting my cousin on a dairy farm, I was amused at how my uncle would play classical music in the barn.  He claimed that he had read how music made the cows produce more milk.  I was totally amazed to hear this.

That is, I was amazed to find out that my uncle could read.

This style of research is still in full throttle on the farms.  British goat raisers now play Mariah Carey’s music to their goats, asserting that it increases milk yields by an extra pint per goat per day.  My guess is that they tried other artists, but found that playing Lady Gaga resulted in hircine mass suicides.

  And classical music is still being used in other ways.  A Japanese company plays Mozart to its bananas.  They claim it produces a sweeter fruit. 

John Pawlak/Los Alamos Columnist


 So, what’s next?  Would sitting on a speaker and playing Oppen Gangnam Style help my digestive system?


 Yes, there are some really bizarre things that people sell and I could talk about even more ridiculous things people are willing to buy, but to tell the truth, I’m not in the mood to discuss politics.


 John Pawlak