Category Archives: Medicine

In death, there is life

the-economist-logoMAX PLANCK, the inventor of quantum theory, once said that science advances one funeral at a time. He meant—or, at least, is presumed to have meant—that the death of a dominant mind in a field liberates others with different points of view to make their cases more freely, without treading on the toes of established authority. It might also rearrange patterns of funding, for they, too, often reflect established hierarchies…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 26 March 2016. To continue reading, click here.

Max Planck, 1933
Max Planck, 1933

Roots of brutality

ns_logoWHY would an apparently normal young adult drop out of college and turn up some time later in a video performing a cold-blooded execution in the name of jihad? It’s a conundrum we have been forced to ponder ever since a group calling itself ISIS declared war on infidels. But 70 years ago we were asking something similar of guards in Nazi concentration camps – and, sadly, there have been plenty of opportunities to ponder the matter in between…

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 14 November 2015. To continue reading, click here.

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Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

 

 

 

A Faustian bargain

economist-logoHUNTINGTON’S disease is awful. It slowly robs its victims of mobility, wits and emotions. And there is no cure. The idea that it might be the obverse of something good sounds, to say the least, counter-intuitive. Yet that is the contention of a small band of neuroscientists who have been studying it. They suggest the underlying cause of Huntington’s, a strange form of genetic mutation called a triplet-repeat expansion, might also be one of the driving forces behind the expansion of the human brain. Huntington’s, these people suspect, may be a price humanity pays for being clever…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 7 March 2015. To continue reading, click here.

Funny feet

ns_logoMY RUNNING shoes have a thick sole and cushioned heel. I bought them five years ago, before the “barefoot” craze for minimalist shoes that would allow people to better emulate how our ancestors ran. Soon after that, reports began appearing of injuries sustained by runners who had adopted these shoes, and lawsuits were filed against some manufacturers. Now the maximally cushioned or “fat” shoe is back in vogue, and suddenly my old shoes look high-tech again…

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 24 January 2015. To continue reading, click here.

Ella Albrecht/Gallerystock
Ella Albrecht/Gallerystock