Becoming the Plague

Readers may be surprised to learn that the Bubonic Plague, aka The Black Death, is still around. Up to 2000 cases a year are reported to the World Health Organization. Most cases currently occur in Africa (32 people died in a 2013 outbreak in Madagascar), but Los Angeles suffered a Plague outbreak as late as […]

The Iron Chancellor Tries a Little Tenderness

“Call it socialism or whatever you like. It is the same to me.” Olga Khazan in The Atlantic looks at how Germany has tackled the problem of high cost breakthrough drugs. The solution, the seeds of which were sown by Otto von Bismarck, involves a healthy dose of common sense: “Almost every German belongs to one […]

Hamlet Fly

Olivier as Hamlet. Confused, crafty, mad or mutant? Out today in Science: fruit flies with mutated FoxP genes take “longer than wild-type flies to form decisions of similar or reduced accuracy”– in other words, they waste a lot of time before making a mistake. “We were surprised,” Dr. Miesenböck said. “The original thought was that the […]

The Black Death

Maybe we have focused too much on the negative aspects of the Plague: “By targeting frail people of all ages, and killing them by the hundreds of thousands within an extremely short period of time, the Black Death might have represented a strong force of natural selection and removed the weakest individuals on a very […]

This is How the World Ends

A variation on a theme OT previously discussed in the case of smallpox: how does the thing that kills you actually kill you. Here is a somewhat surprising answer for another major cause of death, cancer: “The terminal event in most cancer patients is a clot blocking something vital.” (Caveat emptor, this particular link is to an […]

Beauty and Truth

This one is an oldie-but-goldie: Philip Ball asks “is beauty truth in science?” Personally, OT is not so sure. But he is willing to believe any theory 1982 Nastassja Kinski cares to expound. A short sample: “Einstein himself seemed rather indifferent to the experimental tests, however. The first came in 1919, when the British physicist […]

Return of the Bell Curve

It’s the fuckin’ gene that does the runnin’. The horse got nothin’ to do with it.- The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984). It seems that not a day goes by without an overblown claim for a gene being made. The gene for homosexuality has been cloned. Scientists have found the gene for intelligence. Genetic basis of […]

Print the Legend

Phineas Gage (1823-1860) & his little friend. Protecting patient anonymity is an important part of clinical research- from those little black bars over the eyes to complex data coding protocols, every effort is made to protect privacy. The initials or aliases that litter the medical literature often hide fascinating, touching lives, like that of Henrietta […]

ZEEV PANCER (1957-2014)

Image by Madalena Parreira. You are not a real scientist until you make a discovery. And if you make a great discovery, you’re a great scientist– E.O. Wilson. Once upon a dinner, many years ago, a young OT was seated next to a Grand Old Man of Science. Grand asked Opposing, in a gruff old […]