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Re: Running around like an Ornitholestes with his head cut off...

Dora & Jamie,

You're both right.  There were apparently people who did indeed look
for confessions (and claims that they extracted them...although that
may well be a self-serving rationalization), and there were also
people interested in doing experiments to test various understandings
of death.

Obviously any specific claims about information gathered in this way
has to be looked at with skepticism, but neurologically there's
apparently no reason that heads shouldn't retain awareness for several
seconds afterwards (at least 5-15 seconds).

But this is getting away from the real point, which is that mammals
are unique among tetrapods in how centralized their nervous system is,
so more coordinated limb motions (ala the chicken with its head cut
off) should be expected to be the primitive tetrapod condition, not a
derived one.


On Fri, Sep 16, 2011 at 8:25 AM, Jaime Headden <qi_leong@hotmail.com> wrote:
>   I wonder if this "activity" of lip reading is anecdotal, but moreover that 
> it's based on the premise that the movement of the jaw after removal of the 
> head was somehow identical to such movement while the head was attached and 
> the body lived. Note these were the people who believed in phlogiston and the 
> principles of vital "humours", elemental alchemy and the properties of 
> "bleeding" to remove "ills" before the germ theory was in any way put 
> forward, and that twitching corpses are somehow demonically possessed. Recall 
> that medieval eastern Europeans up through last century still rebury corpses 
> face down with hewn-wood stakes through their chests in order to prevent them 
> from rising as nosferatu. Earlier, is was believed that erratic and chaotic 
> mutterings of people under the influence of sulfuric inhalation was somehow 
> divine (read, the Oracle at Delphi).
> Cheers,
>  Jaime A. Headden
>  The Bite Stuff (site v2)
>  http://qilong.wordpress.com/
> "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
> "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
> different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
> has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
> his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion 
> Backs)
> ----------------------------------------
>> Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2011 07:59:07 -0500
>> From: villandra@austin.rr.com
>> To: vjalp@mindspring.com; skeletaldrawing@gmail.com; dinosaur@usc.edu
>> Subject: Re: Running around like an Ornitholestes with his head cut off...
>> ?????
>> Parts of this discussion are quite hard to follow. I had to read this post
>> three times to find what Scott is talking about.
>> I bet those lip readers were used somewhere! They had some strange
>> beliefs back then. I very highly doubt it was done everywhere. Now,
>> aristocrats about to be beheaded could often make speeches to the crowd if
>> they wanted to. What would be the purpose of the lip reading - post-death
>> confession, maybe? Making sure they didn't put a curse at the moment of
>> death?
>> Dora
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Jerrold Alpern" <vjalp@mindspring.com>
>> To: <skeletaldrawing@gmail.com>; "Dino List" <dinosaur@usc.edu>
>> Sent: Friday, September 16, 2011 7:46 AM
>> Subject: Re: Running around like an Ornitholestes with his head cut off...
>> > Scott,
>> >
>> > Do you have the sources for those medieval reports of lip readers at
>> > beheadings? Were they ever successful? Did any of them record any words
>> > they had lip read? In England, beheadings were reserved for the
>> > aristocracy, who usually got the chop because of treason. Was this an
>> > attempt to learn the names of unindicted co-conspirators?
>> >
>> > Thanks.
>> >
>> > Jerry Alpern
>> > vjalp@mindspring.com
>> > 917-623-1446
>> >
>> > ----- Original Message -----
>> > From: "Scott Hartman" <skeletaldrawing@gmail.com>
>> > To: "Dino List" <dinosaur@usc.edu>
>> > Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2011 1:52 PM
>> > Subject: Running around like an Ornitholestes with his head cut off...
>> >
>> >
>> >> Since I'm briefly coming out of list retirement today I wanted to
>> >> address the issue of headless chicken running a bit. While the idea
>> >> to put it in the show was not mine, David certainly mentioned it to me
>> >> and I did not shoot it down (and still wouldn't). I'll grant you that
>> >> there isn't much in the professional literature on the subject, but I
>> >> think people are thinking of this from the wrong way (i.e., wondering
>> >> about the distribution of "headless-running" in birds like it's a
>> >> derived condition).
>> >>
>> That said, we have gone a long way down the path of
>> >> nervous system centralization, and if you cut a mammal's head off you
>> >> may get some twitching but it won't run around; our limbs literally
>> >> cannot coordinate themselves without the brain's involvement (although
>> >> morbidly it does appear that the head itself retains some
>> >> coordination, if medieval reports are true that people were employed
>> >> to read lips for up to a minute after a beheading).
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> -Scott
>> >>
>> >> --
>> >> Scott Hartman
>> >> Scientific Advisor/Technical Illustrator
>> >> (307) 921-9750
>> >>
>> >

Scott Hartman
Scientific Advisor/Technical Illustrator
(307) 921-9750
website: www.skeletaldrawing.com
blog: http://skeletaldrawing.blogspot.com/