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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

October 2013

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Thursday 31st October 2013

It’s two years since I wrote about Halloween but I thought I’d return to it today because, thanks to the wonder that is Twitter, I think I’ve found how the idea of toxic sweets being handing out to children came about.

It began with the American Association of Poison Control Centres tweeting its annual warning about poisons in the sweets given out to children knocking on neighbourhood doors as part of the ‘Trick or Treat’ ritual. That Tweet was Re-tweeted by others and then @ToxTalk, the Twitter identity of ToxTalk ‘a toxicology podcast produced by the Division of Toxicology, Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’ provided a link to an archive of a 1984 story...more

Sunday 27th October 2013

I don’t know where the summer went. As the south of the UK prepares for what is forecast to be a very severe storm, I realised that it is five months since I had a root around in the archives of Popular Science magazine.

I decided to search for ‘nightshade’ because I’m still hoping to discover why so many people claim that Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade, is actually deadly nightshade when that common name should be applied to Atropa belladonna...more

Wednesday 23rd October 2013

I’ve been thinking, again, about the way people cling to discredited beliefs. Sometimes, I wonder how the human race has ever managed to make any progress at all. The willingness of what can seem to be the overwhelming majority of people to cling to set beliefs in spite of clear indications that those beliefs are wrong must, surely, have retarded human progress.

On a smaller scale, it has, certainly, cost lives. The first investigation into Dr. Harold Shipman concluded there was no truth to the notion that he was a murderer based, largely, on the fact that he was doctor and, therefore, could not be a murderer...more

Monday 21st October 2013

I was going to write a piece about how familiarity leads to news fatigue. How something dreadful attracts little reporting because it happens regularly. Take, for example, the news from India that more than 40 people have died from drinking illegal alcohol (almost certainly made with methanol). It is a story that seems to have only attracted the attention of the Independent

I confess to doing the same myself. That Peter Hitchens has made a fool of himself in two debates about drug policy, and an even greater fool of himself in the blog entries he has written, to date, about those debates hardly seems worth mentioning. (If you are interested, Prof Alex Stevens has written a piece for ‘Talking Drugs’ summarising the debates.) And I nearly did it again this morning by thinking that yet another piece saying the Daily Mail is a dreadful publication is redundant..more

Friday 18th October 2013

The latest video in my ‘Poisonous Plants 1-2-1’ series is about Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort. This is quite a special plant because it has been responsible for a great many accidental poisonings and its misuse as a herbal medicine has also caused great harm.

The plant page in the A to Z section is one of the longest on this site because there is a great deal to its full story. It fits many of the key topics when considering poisonous plants...more

Friday 11th October 2013

I’ve uploaded the second of my ‘Poisonous Plants 1-2-1’ videos. Today’s is about the most popular poisonous plant, Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade.

The reason I call it ‘most popular’ is that the anonymous visitor statistics I get from my hosting company show that the largest reason people come to my site is because they have done an image search for deadly nightshade...more

Wednesday 9th October 2013

Today sees the launch of a new project. Doesn’t that sound portentous? Or, do I mean pretentious?

Ever since I started this website and started writing my book, ‘Is That Cat Dead?’, at about the same time, I’ve realised that there are different ways to present information to suit the requirements of different audiences. Sometimes, I believe, information is better suited to one medium rather than another. I deliberately did not include illustrations in the book because there are so many images available online showing plants in all stages of growth, flowering and bearing fruit. One small image in a book cannot hope to provide reliable identification help...more

Tuesday 8th October 2013

I said, yesterday, that I was working on a piece about what a ‘fatal dose’ really means but another story caught my eye so I’m broadening it to a more general look at some of the things that are wrong but still widely believed.

In part, people seem to cling to discredited beliefs because they want to continue to believe in the subject concerned and are, therefore, dismissive of work that undermines the basis for the belief. But, there is also the question of beliefs that have not been widely discredited because very few people are aware that the basis has been challenged...more

Monday 7th October 2013

My wife needed a blood test, last Thursday, and the doctor struggled for a couple of minutes only managing to fill about half a syringe before deciding to give up and try a different vein. To distract my wife’s attention from what was becoming a stressful procedure, I said ‘That’s the difference between TV and the real world. On CSI, if they find one drop of blood, they can tell what your granny had for breakfast. In reality, it takes a lot of blood to get an accurate cross match’.

Then, on Friday, my Google alert for ‘ricin’, the toxin found in Ricinus communis, the castor oil plant, took me to a story that made the same point very clearly..more

Tuesday 1st October 2013

I’ve been having another look at WhatDoTheyKnow and the information it has on Cannabis sativa, marijuana. Though the FoI information I wrote about before came up in a search for ‘cannabis’ it was about drug ‘Stop and Search’ in general so I thought I’d look for information specific to cannabis.

There was a reason for doing this now and writing about it today. This evening, at the University of Kent, there is to be a debate between Prof. Alex Stevens and Peter Hitchens about drug decriminalisation. I think I wish I could be there but I can’t be sure...more

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