Notes: Episode 44, Surgery (Part 2)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


12:05 – The best I can do on cannabis being used in traditional Chinese medicine to aid both yin and yang is a hard “maybe”. Part of the problems of discussing TCM, just as there are with any traditional medicines, is that you can have well-respected experts disagree ferociously with each other. It’s about constructing a logic within the framework of a tradition, not about studying the specific effects of procedures or substances on the human body. So yes, I have found evidence of cannabis use to support either (or both), while other herbs are much better defined.

13:18 – And that Emperor’s name was Shen Nung, the Red Emperor, writer of “The Great Herbal” (the dankest book in Chinese medicine, in my opinion) and Father of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He ruled for 140 years, probably because he was blazing it 24/7 (my speculation). This guy even managed to gain renown as one of the Celestial Emperors, likely thanks to his prolific use of the electric lettuce (again, my speculation). Unfortunately, Shen Nung, along with the other two Celestial Emperors, are dated to nearly 5000 years ago, almost certainly didn’t exist, and supposedly contributed to things for which we have absolutely no evidence until much later – in the case of the Great Herbal, it’s “only” 2000 years old. While mythical, the fact that there’s a myth about an emperor who cheefed on the reg and then wrote a book about how good it was for you doesn’t appear in a vacuum. Like the Arthurian legends or the story about how Humphrey Bogart was notoriously greedy with his jazz cigarettes, their veracity is less important than the lessons they teach us about common knowledge, social norms, and cultural beliefs. Long story short, there were for sure some emperors who liked the sticky.

48:26 – Normally I try to be pretty good about making the conversation that’s happening as open as possible, but once in awhile something slips through to show that it’s a real conversation with someone I know. The comment “I don’t have to tell you” regarding 19th century insane asylums is a reference to the fact that Yumiko is currently finishing a degree in psychology – nothing nefarious.

51:28 – The third method was filtration; it should theoretically be possible (and has become practically possible) to remove microbes usually from a liquid using a fine enough filter. However, as Lister noted, this is not helpful for the sanitation of an operating theatre.

1:05:06 – Perhaps I should clarify that my reasons for not believing this story have much more to do with the vast number of problems a transplant poses than anything else. I see no evidence of an understanding of medically inducing death for a transplant, or of transplant rejection and the immune suppression needed to avoid it, or of donated blood, or the surgical techniques required to remove and (more treacherously) replace a heart successfully, or how to bring the patients back to life. Even if there was some rudimentary or accidental understanding of a couple of these aspects, the chances of them having every puzzle piece is so unlikely that without further evidence I’m willing to consider it impossible.

1:05:35 – That name is Theodor Kocher. I get hung up on German names often enough that I really should run through a pronunciation guide some time.

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