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Cheers - AE

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Too much time on someone's hands

It's the only reason I can think of for this:
Academics have carried out a detailed analysis of the 700 head injuries suffered by characters in the Asterix comic books, in a paper published by a respected medical journal.
The German scientists ...
We'll take the unkind jokes about the German sense of humour as read, shall we?
The German scientists calculated that the “plucky little Gaul” and his sidekick Obelix were responsible for causing more than half of the wounds, “under the influence of a doping agent called ‘the magic potion’”, with Roman soldiers their most common victims.
Oh noes, violence and performance enhancing drugs. Oh, the humanity! These are going to be a bunch of head doctors wringing their hands about desensitisation of violence, right?

[The] paper, published in the official journal of the European Association of Neurosurgical Socities, known as Acta Neurochirurgica, sets out with no apparent irony their aim to “analyse the epidemiology and specific risk factors of traumatic brain injury in the Asterix illustrated comic books”.
I really thought it was going to be trick cyclicts but it turns out to be a different sort of head doctor. And that raises a question: for a bunch of neuro-surgeons what the fuck is the point of this?
By “screening” all 34 books, the authors found 704 cases of head or brain injury, all but six suffered by men.
In 696 cases “blunt force” was used but eight people were strangled and six suffered a fall.
What did they expect to learn?
They found that many of those who were knocked out in the 34 books, more commonly enjoyed by schoolboys than neurosurgeons, were often left with an outstretched tongue or amnesia but none appeared to die.
The researchers, led by Marcel Kamp at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, conclude: “The favourable outcome is astonishing, since outcome of traumatic brain injury in the ancient world is believed to have been worse than today and also since no diagnostic or therapeutic procedures were performed.”
Okay, you got me there. They learned that cartoon France of 2,000 years ago did not perform many CAT scans. Some might think it's a bit short on applicability to the real world in 2011, not to mention being a fucking a priori conclusion in the first place, but I'll give 'em credit for this astonishing discovery.
However the paper notes: “No case of death or a permanent neurological deficit following traumatic brain injury has been found.”
Most of those attacked were wearing helmets at the time but the “vast majority” lost this protective barrier “during the traumatic event”.
Okay, so we can also conclude that wearing a funny little tin hat with horns or wings on can protect you from being smashed on the head with a large rock by enormously fat or extremely short Frenchmen providing that you are also a fucking cartoon character. My my, these useful insights just fucking pile up, don't they?
In a comment piece, Karl Schaller, a neurosurgeon at the University of Geneva, describes the Asterix comics as “very important” in European history and adds: “Fighting against pretension of hegemony by the bad guys – be it on land or on water – has never been illustrated in a more decent, ironical [sic] and sometimes hilarious manner.
“Most interestingly, according to the analysis provided by this paper, it was not that dangerous either, given the low rate of serious injuries.”
Okay, we all get that this is not serious and nobody expects to get any useful new information about diagnosing or treating head injuries, but is it really that interesting that analysing the Asterix books finds that hardly anybody gets badly hurt by things that would be lethal in real life? How exactly is it interesting, and for that matter how is it research as opposed to the kind of amusing list-making exercises that you find on the interwebs? As far as I can see the only difference is that this got published in a medical journal. That it got published, not to mention the fact that it got started, makes me wonder if a few people there have suffered a crack on the head. What's next week, an analysis of the mechanism of magical spells in the Harry Potter books conducted by the physics department of Imperial College and published in the journals of the Royal Society?

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