World’s worst hickeys: Cupping is weird and potentially dangerous

In an effort to reduce pain or fix other health problems, some people will submit to having suction temporarily applied to various regions of their skin, usually the neck, shoulders, and back, via a collection of plastic or glass cups.This is known as cupping, and is a great way to embrace your inner Polkaroo.Thanks to the many sore athletes taking part in the Rio Olympics, cupping is having a bit of a moment right now.…

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Fungi found flourishing following fire

Morels and several other fungi (all members of the order Pezizales) are known to produce their mushrooms in recently burned soil, whether it's the result of a nice little campfire or an entire forest going up in smoke. The fire creates the right conditions for the fungus, which lies beneath the ground and so protected from flames and heat, to send up mushrooms. These mushrooms release spores into the environment, and the circle of life…

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The Internet asks me about smelly things

Whenever I'm working on a new post, I like to take a bit of time to check in on the stats for this blog. I'm particularly interested in what people are typing into their search engines to find their way here. For whatever reason, a post I wrote about what poisons smell like is very popular among users of the Internet. I'm taking this as a sign that people like to read about smells, so…

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Weird stuff found in recreational drugs: Cocaine edition

This is the fifth and final post in a series on strange substances accidentally or intentionally added to street drugs. When you're done here, check out the posts on alcohol, meth, opioids, and pot/LSD.If a drug is being sold illegally, chances are its sellers have added crap to it in order to make more money. Cocaine is no exception to this deception. Substances added to nose candy because they resemble the drug but otherwise don't…

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Weird stuff found in recreational drugs: Pot/LSD edition

This is the fourth post in a series on strange substances accidentally or intentionally added to street drugs. When you're done here, check out the posts on alcohol, meth, and opioids.Over the course of the autumn of 2007, hospitals near Leipzig, Germany admitted 29 people because they inadvertently smoked weed contaminated with lead. Yep, some dealer decided it was a good idea to drop a bunch of small lead particles into the marijuana they were…

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Weird stuff found in recreational drugs: Opioid edition

This is the third post in a series on strange substances accidentally or intentionally added to street drugs. When you're done here, check out the posts on alcohol and meth.Opioids are drugs that affect the human body by binding to a group of related proteins conveniently known as opioid receptors. By connecting to these receptors in a certain manner, they convince receptor-bearing cells in the brain, spinal cord, and intestine to do useful things like…

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Weird stuff found in recreational drugs: Meth edition

As Breaking Bad has taught us, the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine is a very dangerous undertaking. It involves the use of many harmful substances, which depending on the synthesis method include highly corrosive acids and bases, cancer-causing benzene, brain-damaging mercury and lead, jaw-wrecking phosphorus, and blood-breaking sodium cyanide. Blending these various substances together can produce noxious fumes, making gas masks and chemical suits a necessity if you want to avoid getting seriously hurt.Meth cooks, at…

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Weird stuff found in recreational drugs: Alcohol edition

Today's post is the first in a series I'm going to write about extra ingredients found in illicit recreational drugs. One of the major issues with street drugs is their manufacture and distribution is often poorly regulated. This means they can accidentally become contaminated with all sorts of toxic substances during production. Additionally, a wide range of chemical compounds, some of them harmful, may be intentionally added to dilute a drug (like a bar watering…

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Burning seaweed to make glass and avoid a lumpy neck

Seaweed is one of those tricky biological groups, as membership isn't just about being a close relative. It typically includes plant-like organisms found among several types of algae - green, brown, and red - and depending on who you're talking to also includes masses of cyanobacteria (which are distant relatives of algae). Functionally, all seaweeds enjoy growing in salty water and use the sun to manufacture sugary meals for themselves. Their need for sun means…

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Identifying infections by their stench?

Bacteria tend to smell. A classic example is the geosmin-producing Streptomyces species responsible for the nice earthy scent of freshly dug up soil. In general, though, bacteria have unpleasant odours. Just think of cheese, armpits, and poop. Lots of bacteria in or on all of those things. Some of the stinkiest bacteria are ones capable of infecting us. The distinctiveness of their disgusting bouquets may provide a means of identifying them. Hippocrates apparently diagnosed tuberculosis…

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