Drugs, money and misleading evidence

IN the race to find treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19, it’s more essential than ever that society can trust drug companies seeking regulatory approval. The Illusion of Evidence-Based Medicine is the latest in a long line of books that caution us not to hold out much hope…

This article was first published in Nature on 29 June 2020. To continue reading, click here.


Body consciousness

PARTS of Ann Arbor bring The Truman Show to mind, with their wood-frame houses and white picket fences. Home to the University of Michigan, the city oozes middle-class prosperity and security. So, while doing research there a decade ago, Sarah Garfinkel was shocked to discover that young veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan felt terrified even in Ann Arbor. “It broke my heart,” she says. And it changed the course of her career…

Charles Babbage’s brain (in a vat)

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 27 June 2020. To continue reading, click here.

Europe’s first farmers

EIGHT thousand years ago small bands of seminomadic hunter-gatherers were the only human beings roaming Europe’s lush, green forests. Archaeological digs in caves and elsewhere have turned up evidence of their Mesolithic technology: flint-tipped tools with which they fished, hunted deer and aurochs (a now extinct species of ox), and gathered wild plants. Many had dark hair and blue eyes, recent genetic studies suggest, and the few skeletons unearthed so far indicate that they were quite tall and muscular. Their languages remain mysterious to this day…

First farmer of the Linear Pottery Culture in Neolithic Central Europe. Illustration: Karol Schauer, State Museum of Prehistory in Halle (Saale), Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Scientific American. To continue reading, click here.

Poison centre cases rise under Covid-19

THE official US advice has been to disinfect high-touch surfaces to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Taking that advice to the extreme, Lisa filled a sink with a mixture of 10% bleach solution, vinegar and hot water and soaked her vegetables and other food in it. Soon, she noticed a powerful odour of chlorine in the kitchen and was having difficulty breathing…

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 8 June 2020. To continue reading, click here.

Are we underestimating how many people are resistant to Covid-19?

DURING the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, cities were in general affected worse than smaller conurbations or rural areas. Yet in Italy, Rome was relatively spared while the villages of Lombardy experienced very high rates of sickness and death. Then again, one Lombard village – Ferrara Erbognone – stood out for not recording a single case of Covid-19 at the height of the wave. Nobody knows why…

The Lombard village spared by the plague

This article first appeared in The Observer on 7 June 2020. To continue reading, click here.

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