Re: So, I burnt myself ...
- From: "The Last Conformist" <andreasj@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 18 Aug 2005 04:32:08 -0700
Cyde Weys wrote:
> Two nights ago I was making lasagne and I burnt myself really badly.
> No, I didn't touch the hot pan or rack. I touched the heating element
> ITSELF. Which probably runs at 700 degrees Fahrenheit or more. It was
> the weirdest burn I've ever experienced. I guess I've burnt myself on
> "colder" things than that before, because it always hurts like a bitch
> immediately. Not so with this oven. It didn't hurt at all ... when it
> happened, anyway. I guess it instantly cauterized the wound and killed
> the nerve cells. As soon as I pulled my finger away from the heating
> element I saw white charred skin (with other burns sometimes you don't
> even see any physical evidence until your body starts responding; this
> burn WAS its own physical evidence). And I smelled burnt flesh
> (really, that's not a good smell).
> Then slowly my finger started hurting. And it got worse. And worse.
> Finally, it decided it was going to hurt like a bitch for the whole
> night unless I constantly kept it iced, which I did.
> Now, my finger is "healed". Oh yes, the skin is definitely discolored
> and raised, and smooth. But it's all new skin and I'm no longer
> susceptible to infection. This is also unlike other burns I've
> experienced; there was no blistering involved in this burn.
> Alright, so, by now, you're probably wondering how this is relevant in
> talk.origins. I just wanted to explain the personal story that led me
> to ponder my latest conjecture-filled post. If you'll remember in the
> past these posts are inspired by some real life happening (like me
> trying to cut my hair with an axe or trying to sleep outside but
> getting eaten by mosquitoes; I'm really the genius of talk.origins,
> aren't I?).
> So, I was thinking ... humans, and indeed animals in general, do not
> have good mechanisms for dealing with burn damage. Now hear me out.
> If your skin gets sliced open, your body knows how to heal itself
> effectively. This healing mechanism is an evolved one; over time,
> predators (or just accidental injuries) have caused many wounds, and
> organisms more capable of healing themselves have a better chance of
> survival. The same with broken bones; this is a fairly common injury,
> and we do just about as good a job as is possible healing them. But
> you might be thinking, aren't burns a much more common injury than
> broken bones at least, and perhaps on par with serious cuts? Not so!
> At least, on an evolutionary scale.
> Think of the sources today from which we can burn ourselves. Our
> electrical appliances, for one (like that damned stove). There's
> chemical burns too, but these come from synthetic chemicals. It's not
> like an ancient human ancestor could put a stick in the ground and
> extract hydrochloric acid. There's also burns from lava (rare), and
> burns from lightning strike caused forest fires, though with forest
> fires, you generally either survive or you don't ... they're so hot and
> so massive that if you are injured at all, you're very likely to be
> dead. And then there's of course man-generated fire, though I'm not so
> sure how long it's been around for. Chimpanzees, apes, and probably
> the earlier of our hominid ancestors don't use fire.
> So, for a defensive mechanism to be selected for, it must have had
> significant impact for a long time. All of the significant sources of
> burns I can think of occurred either really recently (the invention of
> fire), or an instant ago (electricity), at least on an evolutionary
> timescale. The correct defense to healing a burn is probably very
> complicated (hell, we still don't know what it would be), and might
> take longer than a few million years to evolve.
> At this point it behooves me to talk about how burn wound healing is
> far from optimal. It is one of the few injuries that we really can't
> do much about in hospitals. Yes, they can bathe your wounds daily, cut
> off the dead skin, and give you skin grafts, but if you go into a
> hospital with any significant percentage of your body burnt there is a
> good chance you're never going home. Burn fatality rates are much
> higher than pretty much any other accidental injury.
> I don't know exactly what a good way to heal burn wounds is, but I know
> we don't possess it. Our body's responses to burn wounds are not very
> effective, and in some cases, the opposite of what is necessary to heal
> as quickly as possible. Compared to the complex and effective system
> of coagulation, scabbing, fibruous scarring, and skin regrowth for
> dealing with cuts, our response to burn wounds is very unevolved. It's
> almost as if our body is trying to respond to burn wounds using the
> same mechanisms it would for cuts, with disastrous effects.
> My overall conclusion is that burns have not been a significant source
> of injury for any good amount of time on the evolutionary timescale.
> Compare this to cuts, which have affected our ancestors for literally
> hundreds of millions of years, and you will begin to understand why our
> body is much better at healing cuts and broken bones than burns.
As a Boy Scout*, I've cut and burnt myself more times than I can count.
On the burning issue, it's amazingly painful to get boiling oil all
over your face and hands.
Still, better than the guy who smashed is left tibia with an axe.
Repairng bones with multiple longitudinal cracks doesn't seem to've
been high on the Designer's list either.
* Technically, I'm a Girl Scout too. The joys of gender equality.
- So, I burnt myself ...
- From: Cyde Weys
- So, I burnt myself ...
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