Friday, October 28, 2016

Freaky Friday News: October 28, 2016

Giant Hotspot Found in Ireland

The skeleton of Charles Byrne, next to the skeleton of a normal-sized man
Back in the 1780s, a man known as the Irish Giant showed up in London to work at the Cox Museum as what we would call a carnival freak.  He died in 1783 at the young age of 22.  Side note:  his bone growth was that of a 17 year old, showing he would have continued to grow had he lived longer.  He was already just over 7 ft. 7 in. tall.

The Irish Giant, a man called Charles Byrne, was originally from Mid Ulster, in Northern Ireland.  Recently, scientists discovered why Charles Byrne and a large-than-normal percentage of  people from Mid Ulster grow abnormally tall.  It turns out that 1 in 150 people possess a gene defect that causes a noncancerous tumor to grow in the pituitary gland, increasing the amount of growth hormones produced, causing acromegaly or gigantism.

Mid Ulster district in Northern Ireland
The area in red is Mid Ulster, Northern Ireland.

To put this in perspective, 1 in 1,000 people in Belfast have this gene defect, while 1 in 2,000 people have it in the rest of Ireland.  Mind you, not everyone with the gene defect develops gigantism, about 80% are merely carriers with no symptoms.  It's the other 20% that need treatment.

From what we know, around 2,500 years ago someone living in the Mid Ulster area developed a mutation in his or her genes for this particular gene defect.  All the people with this gene defect in Mid Ulster living today are descended from this person.

By the way, I'm calling this a gene defect because the official name is germline aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting-protein mutation.

Should the U.S. Make Voting Mandatory?

One of the biggest general concerns about elections today is how to get more people to actually vote.  The United States has one of the lowest turnout rates in the world, not a good position for a country who sees itself as a proponent of democracy.  I believe that not allowing people to register on the day of an election, as well as the fact that elections are held on Tuesdays, contribute to this problem.  

But even if we stopped worrying about non-existent voter fraud, got rid of voter ID laws, moved elections to Saturday, and allowed same day registration, I wonder how many people would then vote.  Australia had a problem with voter turnout, so the government made voting mandatory.  Now, the country has an average of 91% of its citizens who vote every election.  

Can you imagine what would happen here if 91% of everyone turned up to vote?

So I ask you, do you think the U.S. should make voting mandatory?  

Should the U.S. make voting mandatory?

I don't know...
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