Celebrating New Year with the otorhinolaryngology crew


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NYE adventures

Happy New Year to ears, noses and throats – and to the people who minister to them!

Julia Werz at Ulm University Hospital, Germany, and three colleagues began the celebration early, publishing the study “New Year’s Eve in otorhinolaryngology: A 16-year retrospective evaluation“.

That celebration comes in three parts. First, a sketch of 16 years of adventures on New Year’s Eve in the otorhinolaryngology department of a single hospital. Simply put: “Pyrotechnics are a long-standing tradition at the turn of the year.”

Next, a collection of minute sketches of the different kinds of adventure. Of the New Year’s Eve-associated emergency presentations: “72% were male, 15.9% were underage. 74% presented for fireworks-related injuries, 19% due to violent altercations.”

And then the deluge – details, details, details of diagnoses and symptoms: “Tinnitus, Hearing loss, Soft tissue injury, Nasal bone fracture, Perforation of the ear drum, Fracture of the midface, Bruised nose, Epistaxis (after trauma), Hyperacusis, Burn, Calvarian skull fracture, Intracerebral hemorrhage, Bent fixation of the patient’s epithesis.”

The covid-19 pandemic, burgeoning in 2020, put a damper on the activity. The low point came fairly early, a pitiful sparsity-bordering-on-absence for anyone who craves heaps of holiday-in-the-hospital pyrotechnic-related excitement. The turn of the year 2021/2022 had the fewest such patients, “with only one New Year’s Eve-associated emergency presentation, due to noise trauma caused by a scare gun”.

Wild geese chased

Wild geese in northern Europe – some of them – have a high time on New Year’s Eve.

Evidence for that appears in a study called “Wild goose chase: Geese flee high and far, and with aftereffects from New Year’s fireworks“. The facts, presented plainly, show what the geese were up to on those nights: “We analyzed GPS tracks of 347 wild migratory geese of four species during eight NYs quantifying the effects of fireworks on individuals. We show that, in parallel with particulate matter increases, during the night of NY geese flew on average 5–16 km further and 40–150 m higher, and more often shifted to new roost sites than on previous nights.”

Fish and arms

Feedback is entranced by the meanings of the title of the old book Heraldry of Fish: Notices of the principal families bearing fish in their arms.

Entranced also by the name of the book’s author, Thomas Moule. Moule is a near case of nominative determinism – his surname is the French word for the kind of shellfish English speakers call a mussel. But mussels, being bivalve molluscs, aren’t fish. And Moule, writing about fish, therefore may not be a pure case of nominative determinism. It’s a bit iffy. Maybe a red herring.

Which brings us back to the book title. Its very first word says the book is about heraldry. Heraldry deals notably with coats of arms. “Coat of arms” is itself a phrase that perplexes and delights young children, who know that their hands and arms go into the sleeves of the kind of coats that keep people warm in winter. The children learn, when omniscient adults explain down to them, that the term “coat of arms” usually isn’t about that kind of coat or that kind of arms.

But back to the title. Back to those “families bearing fish in their arms”. The words plainly say that those families all have family-identity symbols that include drawings of fish. But alternatively, and quite differently, the words plainly say that the people in those families often use their upper limbs to carry one or several cold-blooded, gilled, finned vertebrate animals.

Which meaning – drawings of fish, or actual smelly, floppy fish – did Moule intend?

The book contains many, many drawings of coats of arms. The way to answer this question is to study all the drawings in the book, to see whether they depict people carrying trout or cod or any other variety of fish (but maybe not shellfish). Feedback leaves it as a matter of delight to you, dear reader, to go see for yourself.

Heraldry of Fish: Notices of the principal families bearing fish in their arms, published in 1842 in London, is proof that a book more than a century and a half old can be capable of distracting the thoughts of anyone who chooses to pay too much attention to it.

Caller pre-ID

Anne Tener says she has an ability that should be added to Feedback’s list of trivial superpowers. She writes: “Well before the time of call display and often before the phone even rings, I know who is trying to contact me and sometimes, the nature of the call. This ‘power’ has often come in handy when I would prefer to avoid that particular contact at that moment!”

Is this superpower trivial? Triviality here can be measured by the total number of callers. If all incoming calls are from just one person, recognising who is calling is plainly trivial. In contrast, if a large number of people are phoning Anne, this recognition ability borders on the godlike.

Feedback also notes that Anne Tener, having superior reception clarity, is a case of nominative determinism.

Marc Abrahams created the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony and co-founded the magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Earlier, he worked on unusual ways to use computers. His website is improbable.com

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