2012 Summer Olympics: The Virtues of Contradiction

The Olympics are obviously a contradictory event, says David Brooks. An opening ceremony which celebrates virtues of unity and equality are shortly followed by fierce competition.

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When the summer Olympics open tonight, the ceremony will be a considered celebration of humanity's positive qualities: unity, friendship, compassion and equality. But the spirit of togetherness with which the games will begin can be expected to end sharply the following day when competition starts. "After the opening ceremony is over, the Olympics turn into a celebration of the competitive virtues: tenacity, courage, excellence, supremacy, discipline and conflict," says David Brooks at the New York Times. "The smiling goes away and the grim-faced games begin."

What's the Big Idea?

These seemingly contradictory stances should not bother us, says Brooks. Quite the opposite. The tension of the modern games is a mirror of our complex society and demonstrates the necessity of complex solutions. Brooks regrets the polarization of politics in which virtues are pitted against each other as though they were mutually exclusive. "One party becomes the party of economic security and the other becomes the party of creative destruction. The right course is usually to push hard in both directions, to be a house creatively divided against itself, to thrive amid the contradictions."

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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