Just One Suck Can Show A Lot
Now science has found a great benefit from sucking helium:
Examining the lungs.
University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists have devised a new test that involves patients sucking in helium with a little nitrogen through a straw. Then they use MRI scanning technology to see how far the gas has penetrated even the smallest cavities in the lungs. Doctors can then more clearly determine the amount of lung damage a patient with asthma or emphysema has.
The traditional MRI creates images scanning the tissues and tracking the differences in water content. The use of helium actually creates a sharper contrast, and thus a much clearer picture of the lungs. "This approach allows us to look at lung micro-structures that are on the scale of less than a millimeter," reports Sean Fain, the lead author for this research.
Having a much more accurate and detailed scan of a patient's lungs will go a long way towards treating their diseases. "Spotting lung damage at an early stage allows us to evaluate the efficacy of lung therapies as well as better understand the mechanisms underlying the disease," Fain adds.
This is truly an amazing finding, but it makes you wonder just how the hell these scientists came up with this idea. Many times, these discoveries are so novel and goofy, that I'm lead to believe there's a ton of scientists out there just messing around until they disover something new and profound by total accident. Dr. Fain was probably sucking some helium, getting a buzz, and in his helium-induced high thought, "Hey dude, let's suck some helium and watch the gas fill up our bronchials on the MRI!"
For fun, here's a quick list of some famous "accidental" scientific discoveries:
1) Alexander Flemming was studying the flu when he noticed a mold had accidentally invaded one of his petri dishes and killed the staphylococcus bacteria inside. That's how penicillin was discovered.
2)Microwave emitters powered radar equipment in WWI. One of these emitters melted a candybar inside of engineer Percy Spencer's pocket. Voila! The microwave was born.
3)In 1853, George Crum was pissed off at a customer when the guy said that his potato fries were cut too thick. So George took the plate back, sliced the potatoes paper thin, and fried them to a crisp. Although it was done out of anger, it's pretty obvious the customer was more than satisfied with his brand new side order of potato chips.
4)In 1970, Spencer Silver was trying to create a stronger adhesive at the 3M company. Well, Silver's new glue was weak, as it would stick but easily become unstuck. 4 years later, a colleague was singing at his church choir and used paper bookmarks to keep his place in the hymn book, but the darn things kept falling out. So he used Silver's weak-ass glue so his markers would stay in place and not damage the pages. That's how we have Post-It Notes today.
5)In 1992, the clinical trials for a new drug to treat hypertension failed miserably. Those involved with the tests in England weren't able to get their blood pressure levels down to normal with this new drug. The project was almost dumped, until researchers discovered a very interesting side effect to the drug...