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Don Sapatkin has a really interesting piece up at philly.com right now. It chronicles the origin of the “patient zero” narrative. If you’re not familiar, the story is that all known cases of HIV in the United States can be traced back to a single, unusually promiscuous individual, a flight attendant from Canada named Gaetan Dugas. While a lot of people have known this to be bunk basically since it was published, many others seem to believe it. I first encountered it on a message board where it was posted as an interesting factoid.

HIV-budding-Color

What Sapatkin's article reveals is that the entire “Patient Zero” story was a calculated PR strategy by HIV researchers and public health officials who had become desperate to bring the disease into the public eye. According to the people quoted in the article, it worked. According to others, the effect on Dugas was ruinous, and his treatment utterly inhumane.

The description for this picture is careful to mention that Mary Alice McWhinnie was the first woman to serve as chief scientist at an Arctic research station. Retrieved from Wikimedia commons, presumed to be public domain. Originally uploaded by the Smithsonian Institution.Christie Aschwanden has an excellent piece up at XX Science, with a simple experiment you can do at home to identify sexism in science journalism! As a long-time fan of the Bechdel Test, I’m easily convinced that science journalism warrants a similar instrument. Finkbeiner’s test is interesting because, unlike the Bechdel Test (which primarily reveals a lack of individuality and agency in fictional women), it has components specifically designed to call attention to “benevolent” sexism. Having applied the test, I believe that science journalism has made great strides forward, and finally achieved routine tokenism. Baby steps.

I recently received a letter from the Editors Association of Canada informing me that I’ve passed the last of my exams and successfully earned the right to put the letters CPE after my name: I’m a certified professional editor. The copy itself was very clean,...

Brendan Borell has written a scathing attack on the WHO, published in Slate last week. Because of the basics of the story, I thought I knew what I was in for: someone is advocating the use of a cheap “natural” remedy instead of a well-understood synthetic drug. They’re anecdotally reporting extreme efficacy and no drawbacks. Meanwhile, medical authorities are tearing out their hair and imploring people to stick to the stuff that works.

That’s how stories about herbal medicine typically go in my world. But this isn’t quite one of them.

“Although the tea itself has traditionally been used in treatment, not prevention, in China, a randomized controlled trial on this farm showed that workers who drank it regularly reduced their risk of suffering from multiple episodes of malaria by one-third.”

Randomized controlled trial you say?

“Soon afterward, a researcher named Patrick Ogwang with the Ugandan Ministry of Health documented a decline of malaria incidence among almost 300 workers drinking the tea, and followed up with the randomized controlled trial demonstrating

The first thing I need to tell you about the snapping shrimp is that I did not make it up. This is science. Really. The “snapping” part of this crustacean’s name refers to the action of a special arm it has—just the one. The limb is...