17 October 2010

A sublime pain index

QI is a wonderful tv programme which has intriduced me to so many fascinating facts and subjects, including .tmesis (an abso-bloody-lutely great word!), Little Titch, the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine or Thomas Midgley the scientist who gave the world CFCs and leaded petrol.

Last Friday the porgramme introduced me to entomologist Justin O Schidt who has devoted his life to cataloguing pain induced by insect stings. He has created the Schmidt pain index which ranks insect pain from 0 (little effect) to 4 (bloody awful!). As a good and conscientious scientist he has endured all the pain himself. What's better is his absolutely delightful descriptions of the pain?

Here is an extract published on Wikipedia:

* 1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.

* 1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.

* 1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.

* 2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.

* 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.

* 2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.

* 3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.

* 3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.

* 4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.

* 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

I doubt there is a scale that describes its subjects in such a glorious way! Justin O Schmidt is truly a scientist among scientists!


susan said...

I think he must have spent as long studying English composition as he did biology. Good find.

James Higham said...

Insect masochism - fascinating.

nursemyra said...


jams o donnell said...

It's wonderful eh Susan?

Utterly so and in the cause of science too James!

Great eh, Nursie!

JD said...

I liked Ross Noble's comment.

He said "Is no. 10 on the index listening to Westlife?"


I agree it is a very entertaining programme full of bizarre information.

Knatolee said...

Funny you should mention this. He is extensively and hilariously quoted in a book I am reading called "Keeping the bees: why all bees are at risk and what we can do to save them" by Laurence Packer. I think his description of a honeybee sting is dead on.

Ruth said...

What fabulous descriptions - I actually winced when I read some of these!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

A bit of maso, isn't MR Schmidt?

jams o donnell said...

I liked that one too JD!

Now that sounds like a damned good read Knatolee. I had a hive of wild honey bees in the garden a few years back. Glad I never got stung!

Or just dedicated to his work Mon ami!

roman said...

I'm in pain just reading the pain descriptions.

jams o donnell said...

Haha Roman!

Stan said...

Wonderfully vivid descriptions! I hope it worth the pain he must have gone through.

jams o donnell said...

They're amazing aren't they!

CherryPie said...

Rather him than me on the testing stage!

jams o donnell said...