Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The late “Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson test rode a Ducati 900 for Cycle World Magazine in the 1990s. Cycle World wanted him to ride a Harley-Davidson Road King. Thompson called “BS”. Thompson said:

“I got uppity and said I'd rather have a Ducati superbike. It seemed like a chic decision at the time, and my friends on the superbike circuit got very excited. "Hot damn," they said, "We will take it to the track and blow the bastards away.’

"Balls," I said. "Never mind the track. The track is for punks. We are Road People. We are Café Racers."

Ducati, probably realizing that a perpetually soused and stoned sociopath like Thompson would likely wad up a 916, (then the marquee superbike in the Ducati lineup) instead delivered a 900 Supersport.

The 900 Supersport is no slouch, however. Thompson described the 900 Supersport as a “BOTTOMLESS PIT OF TORQUE”. [Emphasis Thompson’s].

Thompson’s ride report and musings became hallowed verse in motorcycle journalism and moto-literature. And Thompson introduced a character that will live as long in motorcycle lore as Evil Knievel, Sonny Barger, or Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando in “The Wild One”).

In the Ride Report, entitled “The Song of the Sausage Creature”, Thompson introduces the eponoymous “Sausage Creature”. The Sausage Creature is the fate that may await all risk takers, and any other poor schlub that gets an asphalt makeover. Here is what Thompson said, anticipating what could happen when wadding up a bike at a high rate of speed:

I was hunched over the tank like a person diving into a pool that got emptied yesterday. Whacko! Bashed into the concrete bottom, flesh ripped off, a Sausage Creature with no teeth, f-cked-up for the rest of its life.

The Sausage Creature…


An amazing article in LiveScience introduced an amazing creature, a kind of “Sausage Creature.” It is a Naked Mole Rat, an animal that lives in Central East Africa, in oxygen-starved burrows two meters underground.

The Naked Mole Rat is an albino creature with nearly useless eyes. It is the only cold-blooded mammal. It lives in environments with 5-10% concentrations of Carbon Dioixide. The atmosphere has about 0.1% CO2.

The pink skinned little guy looks like a sausage with bucked teeth and little feet. But this little creature has an “edge”. He is impervious to pain from acid, or from capsaicin, the substance that makes chili peppers “hot”.

The researchers discovered that when unconscious mole rats had their paws injected with a slight dose of acid, "about what you'd experience with lemon juice," Park said, as well as some capsaicin — the active ingredient of chili peppers — the rodents showed no pain.

"Their insensitivity to acid was very surprising," Park told LiveScience. "Every animal tested — from fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and all other mammals — every animal is sensitive to acid."

To explore their pain resistance further, the researchers used a modified cold sore virus to carry genes for Substance P to just one rear foot of each tested rodent. Park and his colleagues found the DNA restored the naked mole rats' ability to feel the burning sensation other mammals experience from capsaicin.

Scientists theorize naked mole rats evolved this insensitivity to acid due to underground living. The rodents exhale high levels of carbon dioxide, and in such tight, poorly ventilated spaces it builds up in tissues, making them more acidic. In response, the mole rats became desensitized to acid.

"To give you an idea of what they experience, we normally all breathe in carbon dioxide levels of less than 0.1 percent. If people are exposed to an air mixture with as low as 5 percent carbon dioxide, we'll feel a sharp, burning, stinging sensation in our eyes and nose," Park said. "We hypothesize that naked mole rats live in up to 10 percent carbon dioxide."


Researcher Gary Lewin, a neuroscientist at the Max Delbrück Institute for Molecular Medicine in Germany, noted, "People may say, 'So what — it's weird, but what has it to do with human pain?' I think that is wrong, unimaginative and short sighted."

Lewin noted that all vertebrate pain-receptor systems "are built in a highly similar way, so the mole rat may tell us how you can unbuild the system."

Specifically, Park noted this research adds to existing knowledge about Substance P. "This is important specifically to the long-term, secondary-order inflammatory pain. It's the pain that can last for hours or days when you pull a muscle or have a surgical procedure," he explained.

As such, these findings might shed new light on chronic pain. Park said,
"We're learning which nerve fibers are important for which kinds of pain, so we'll be able to develop new strategies and targets."

Lewin added, "We really do not understand the molecular mechanism of acid sensing in humans, although it is thought to be pretty important in inflammatory pain. An animal that naturally lacks such a mechanism may help us identify what the mechanism actually is."

Park next plans to study distantly related animals that dwell in similar circumstances, such as the Mexican free-tailed bat and the Alaskan marmot, which both spend large amounts of time in high carbon dioxide caves or burrows. "How are they surviving down there? It'd be interesting if we saw some parallels there with the naked mole rats," Park said.



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