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OK, Maybe Joan Rivers Can Still Use It for Her Headaches …

A look at some current research that merits a raised eyebrow or a painful grin.

Botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances in the world. You also know it as Botox. For decades, it has been used in medicine, in tiny doses, to treat overactive muscles and some eye disorders; in fact, the cosmetic potential of botulinum toxin was discovered only a few years ago when a married couple of Vancouver scientists saw patients’ frown lines melt away after treatment for eye muscle ailments.

Now, the American Academy of Neurology has released new guidelines governing the medical use of botulinum toxin. Dr. David M. Simpson, professor of neurology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, led the project, which analyzed all available scientific studies. The guidelines appear in the May 6 issue of Neurology and say botulinum toxin is safe and effective in treating:

Cervical dystonia, a condition of involuntary head tilt
or neck movement
• Spasticity and other forms of muscle overactivity
• Excessive sweating of the armpits and hands
• Involuntary facial contractions
• Involuntary eye closure
• Voice disorders
• Writer’s cramp

Now the bad news: Wrinkles aren’t mentioned, and don’t take it for your headaches. Although botulinum toxin has long been used to treat migraines and chronic-tension headaches, pain guidelines author Dr. Markus Naumann, head of the department of neurology at Augsburg Hospital in Germany, said, “It is no better than placebo injections for these types of headache.” (And it sounded even more definitive in German.)

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got to get down to the plastic surgery clinic to see about this nasty case of crow’s feet — ahem, writer’s cramp — we’ve been noticing.

When the Party Starts to Drag, Mention You Just Finished Reading ...

“Two Sides of the Same Coin? Employing Granger Causality Tests in a Time Series Cross-Section Framework,” by M.V. Hood, III, Quentin Kidd and Irwin L. Morris, in the May issue of Political Analysis.

Astronomical Costs of Texting

Irate parents of cell-phone-happy teenagers have been griping for years that text-messaging costs are out of this world — and now a British space scientist has confirmed it.

Dr. Nigel Bannister of the University of Leicester worked out the cost of obtaining a megabyte of data from the Hubble Space Telescope and compared that to the cost of sending a text message. NASA gave him a figure of £8.85 (roughly $17.25) per megabyte for the transmission of data from the Hubble to Earth. The smaller text message costs about 5 British pence, or 10 American cents.

“The maximum size for a text message is 160 characters, which takes 140 bytes because there are only 7 bits per character in the text-messaging system, and we assume the average price for a text message is 5p,” Bannister said. “There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that’s 1 million/140 = 7,490 text messages to transmit one megabyte. At 5p each, that’s £374.49 per megabyte.”

Bannister’s conservative calculations didn’t include the cost of the ground stations and personnel required to process and archive the data from Hubble, which could drive the cost up to £85 per megabyte. “The bottom line is texting is at least four times more expensive than transmitting data from Hubble,” Bannister said, “and is likely to be substantially more than that.”

The Last Word: Would You Like to Venture Into the Lion's Den?

“I began patron interviews by asking them to describe The Lion’s Den to someone who had never been there. Responses included the obvious (‘It’s a nude bar’), personal connections (‘It’s my second home’), descriptions of the club’s offerings (‘It’s a clean club’), and evaluations (‘It used to be one of the best’). … When I consulted a popular strip club Web site, comments about the club included the following: ‘(The Lion’s Den) makes no pretense of being a gentleman’s club,’ ‘This place is a total dive,’ and ‘(The Lion’s Den) has gone downhill.’” — Kim Price, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, in “Keeping the Dancers in Check: The Gendered Organization of Stripping Work in The Lion’s Den,” in Gender & Society.

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