Monday, April 27, 2015

News Briefs 4.27.15

Human Head Transplant Probably Not a Metal Gear Solid Publicity Stunt

Neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Turin, Italy, has gained a lot of media attention for wanting to become the first surgeon to perform a human head transplant. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan of NYU medical school has criticized Canavero for drawing attention and enjoying the limelight, saying if he was serious about the procedure's validity he'd be in a lab actually trying to do successful, sustainable head transplants on animals rather than talking about jumping straight to a human subject.

Head transplants have been performed on dogs, rats, and monkeys in the past, though for the most part, the animals died within minutes or hours or days. Even then, most were not much more than technically living, capable of a few twitching motions and sometimes base functions such as respiration. Kind of monstrous for something Dr. Canavero calls “head anastomosis venture,” or “heaven surgery” for short. And Dr. Canavero has been vocal for the past few years about wanting to perform the surgery on a human volunteer, trying to crowd source the 12.9 million USD required for such a procedure. Well ok.

I honestly thought this was from MGS but no it's a real photoshoot with this actual licensed doctor.
So, Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear is an action-adventure war-themed video game franchise that is probably at least tangentially familiar to you, but just in case it's not: it's a rugged manly power fantasy game with guns and knives and inexplicably underdressed female characters . Plus a creepy doctor. A really familiar creepy doctor.


The moment someone noted the resemblance, conspiracy theories started popping up all over the internet. Is Canavero's reputation as a sketchy, morally bankrupt doctor no more than a publicity stunt for Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain? The internet thinks so, as it is wont to do. There's a private military organization in Metal Gear called “Outer Heaven.” And the doctor appears in a hospital which is very soon bombed to hell, implying he's a corrupt bad guy. And, okay, Dr. Canavero has published scientific papers about phantom pain. There's a very good case for the doctor in MGS being based off of Dr. Canavero, at the very least.

Of course, Dr. Canavero denies any involvement, as well as the suggestion that his passion for performing the first head transplant is an elaborate PR stunt for a video game. He is, however, very interested in how much a copy of the game costs, how many people would potentially be purchasing a copy, and how those figures stack against the 12.9 million dollars he needs to make his dream a reality.

In short, Dr. Canavero's lawyer is demanding compensation for Konami using his likeness without permission. It will be really interesting if this somehow results in a human head transplant. In spite of the violent opposition he is encountering since the procedure is unethical and terrifying, he's determined to complete the procedure by 2017.

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Nepal Faces Heavy Casualties After Earthquake

On Saturday morning, the 25th of April, a massive earthquake struck Nepal, its epicenter near the capital of Kathmandu.



Initial reports estimated 1,300 hundred dead, but the count has risen since then to more than 2,400 dead and over 5,900 injured. The earthquake on Saturday registered a magnitude of 7.8. For some context, the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 and killed 316,000 people had a magnitude of 7.0, and the earthquake that struck the east coast of Honshu, Japan in 2011 had a magnitude of 9.0 and killed nearly 21,000. This is already the deadliest earthquake since then. At least a dozen aftershocks have been recorded, one with a magnitude of 6.7. Nepal is located on the Himalayan Frontal Fault, an active fault on its southern border with India.



The shockwaves spread across the entire country, leveling villages and historic temples, and caused avalanches on Mount Everest, killing at least 18 climbers and injuring 41. Dan Fredinburg, an executive at Google, was among those killed.



Much of the capital city was rendered impassable, both by the destruction caused by the earthquake and subsequent tremors, but also by thousands of refugees seeking shelter from surrounding areas effected by the quake. The Nepali government has begun opening relief stations, but its infrastructure is spread increasingly thin; the relief stations have proven largely inadequate and the military and police force are, for the most, part unable to address the looting beginning to occur. Much of the country is without electricity and gas supplies have already begun to dwindle. Caring for those displaced and recovering the country is impossible without foreign relief aid; here are several organizations already planning recovery programs, along with information on donating.

-Ivan

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