IN April 1789, Lieutenant William Bligh set off from the Pacific island of Tahiti to sail halfway round the world to Jamaica. Twenty-three days into the voyage, his crew mutinied. They set him adrift in the Bounty’s launch, along with 18 men who were loyal to him, and dumped the ship’s cargo overboard. That cargo included 1000 breadfruit plants destined for the Jamaican sugar plantations, whose owners were clamouring for a cheap and reliable source of food for their slaves….
This article was first published in New Scientist on 28 June 2014. To continue reading, click here.
The Morges literary festival is this year playing host to anglophone writers Val McDermid, Andy McNab, Louise Doughty and Martin Sixsmith – of Philomena fame – among others. I’ll be one of the lucky animatrices asking the questions. This festival just goes from strength to strength. The lakefront at Morges is a fabulous place to be when the sun is shining, which may be one reason why writers like to stop there come the rentrée. It runs over the weekend of 5-7 September and the programme is here. Entry is free.
ONE day in 1991, neurologist Warren Strittmatter asked his boss to look at some bewildering data. Strittmatter was studying amyloid-β, the main component of the molecular clumps found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. He was hunting for amyloid-binding proteins in the fluid that buffers the brain and spinal cord, and had fished out one called apolipoprotein E (ApoE), which had no obvious connection with the disease…
This article was inspired by an Ernst Strüngmann forum on brain diseases in March 2014 and first published in Nature on 6 June 2014. To continue reading, click here.
The following is an excerpt from Louis Theroux’s 2012 BBC documentary Extreme Love: Dementia. Don’t miss the bit where Nancy comes into the room and says to her husband and Louis, “I want you.”
MANGANISM has been known about since the 19th century, when miners exposed to ores containing manganese, a silvery metal, began to totter, slur their speech and behave like someone inebriated. The poisoning was irreversible, and soon ended in psychosis and death. Nowadays, the doses workers are exposed to are far lower and manganism is rare. But new research suggests it could be some way from being eradicated entirely. The metal’s detrimental effects on human health may be subtle but widespread, contributing to diseases known by other names…
This article was first published in the Economist on 24 April 2014. To continue reading, click here.
FROM music to medicine is an unusual career path, but Victor Candia is an unusual man. In 1993, when he was preparing to graduate as a guitarist from the University of Music in Trossingen, Germany, he noticed that the fingers of his left hand were starting to curl up as he played. It felt to him as if a magnet in his palm were preventing him from opening them. A week later, he could not play at all. He had succumbed to what doctors call focal dystonia, golfers call the yips, and instrumentalists and scribblers, respectively, call musician’s cramp and writer’s cramp…
This article first appeared in the Economist on 27 March 2014. To continue reading, click here.