- Rebecca Baumgartner turns a gimlet eye on landfill nonfiction.
(I also have to wonder how many of the conclusions from these endlessly recycled studies are even valid, given the replicability crisis in psychology and other fields. If the Gorilla Experiment turns out not to have been valid this whole time, then I am even angrier about having to read about it 4,000 times.)
- Bilirubin reductase is the enzyme responsible for making your pee yellow.
- Progress was made in 2023 on six neglected tropical diseases. (Hey, former colleagues, a little copy edit love is needed.)
- Bad day from black rock: Casey Ruken tells the story of the Chesapeake Bay asteroid.
It was as if Earth got shot with a bullet.
- Perhaps I should give Appropriate another look. Jesse Green did.
- Ted Williams puts in a good word for—euyurrgh—sea lampreys.
In their native habitat, marine lampreys are “keystone species” supporting vast aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems….
Environmental consultant Stephen Gephard, formerly Connecticut’s anadromous-fish chief, calls lampreys “environmental engineers” as important to native ecosystems as beavers.
- Rhitu Chatterjee reports on a low tech-low cost (less than two bucks) intervention that can dramatically reduce maternal deaths due to postpartum hemorrhage.
- May Truong’s photos, Sarah Lyall’s words: Striker, the Samoyed who never won Westminster’s best in show. But he still pauses to strike a pose.
- This is why I leave little notes: T. Rex reckons with the afterlife.
- One more bit of the hot type era is gone: the New York Times is dispensing with datelines. Hanaa’ Tameez has the writeup.
- He may pass on before we get to zero, but Jimmy Carter. Made. This. Happen. Guinea worm: A nasty parasite is nearly eradicated, but the push for zero cases will require patience, by Kimberly Paul.
- This project can’t move fast enough. The W&OD’s crossing of Wiehle Avenue is bananas dangerous. Groundbreaking of new bridge over Wiehle Avenue set for next month, by Fatimah Waseem.
- So that’s why I’m not a White House-advising economist with five textbooks published. Utahraptor: “Nah, every time I [have regrets] an alternate timeline version of my self parachutes in and beats me up.”
After 40 years of work, Guinea worm disease is nearing eradication, but we’re not there yet. A reservoir in other animals is a hindrance to getting rid of it entirely.
Our (MacPhee and Preston Marx) hypothesis gained some credence from well examined instances of widespread population collapses due to disease in the modern era, such as the rinderpest epizootic in eastern Africa in the 1890s, which attacked most of the region’s native even-toed ungulates and caused appalling mortality. Some species were very seriously affected, with one subspecies of hartebeest disappearing in the early twentieth century in possible correlation with the disease’s outbreak. A more recent example of a disease-induced disaster was the die-off of more than 80 percent of the central Asiatic wild herd of saiga antelope (Saiga tartarica …) in 2015-2016 from hemorrhagic septicemia, or blood poisoning due to bacterial infection. There are still other examples of almost unbelievable mortality in wild animals within breathtakingly short intervals, all of which underlines the fact that there is really nothing in ordinary nature that can bring down the standing crop of a species as quickly as emerging infectious diseases.Ross D. E. MacPhee, End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World’s Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals (2018), pp. 181-182
On the centenary of gifted, careful researcher Rosalind Franklin, a reminder of the obstacles she overcame.
[James] Watson and his Cambridge collaborator and eventual fellow Nobel Laureate Francis Crick were not doing laboratory research on the structure of DNA, but they were actively attempting to build a model of it. Franklin’s image provided them with a breakthrough. Franklin was a cautious scientist, believing that modeling should await airtight scientific evidence. But Watson and Crick were less hesitant and became convinced that their double helix model must be correct.
- Converting 35% of the acreage of a coffee farm to shade-grown culture can maximize revenue, according to new research by Amanda Rodewald et al. and summarized by Gustave Axelson. Depending on the premium paid for shade-grown coffee, that percentage can go as high as 85%.
- A smartphone attachment can test for the presence of norovirus in a drinking water sample and produce results in five minutes. The promising prototype comes from the biomedical engineering lab of Jeong-Yeol Yoon. Joe Palca reports.
In the wake of hurricanes and other storms, flooding can cause sewage systems to overflow, potentially mixing with water intended for drinking. Municipal water system managers would breathe easier if they could be certain they didn’t have to worry at all about norovirus contamination.
- How to cross a river. The water at Huntley Meadows Park is never this fast or cold.
- Melissa Errico submits a “self-tape” audition.
Joe Palca and Susie Neilson report on a phone-sized device that can test for cholera in 30 minutes. It’s the work of Katherine Clayton and colleagues at Purdue University.
Still early days; more field tests are planned.
[Clayton] knows making a cholera test doesn’t put her on a fast track for financial success.
Instead, she says, her background in engineering has made her feel a sense of obligation to help find solutions to global problems: “That’s what I enjoy — knowing what the future could look like.”
Justin Kaplan explains what additional skills a Doctor of Osteopathy brings to the examining room:
Put simply, “we as DOs were holistic before holistic became cool,” says William Mayo, president of the American Osteopathic Association. DOs are trained to look at the patient’s mind, body and spirit, he says. “You don’t just look at the particular illness, you look at the patient behind the illness and approach it that way.”
My mother used to work in hospital public relations in the 1970s, and the culture in her hospital at the time was to look down on “osteopaths,” as if they weren’t real doctors. She didn’t elaborate. It’s a good thing I haven’t listened to her, because one of the doctors that has treated me recently is a DO.
Dogs as hosts are presenting an obstacle to eradication of Guinea Worm disease, reports Michaeleen Doucleff. There’s a possibility that dogs are being infected by eating frogs. Your parasitology WOTD is paratenic; the frogs would be paratenic hosts, not obligate for the development of the parasite but serving to maintain the life cycle.
Not yet in commercial production but promising: a tabletop device that can detect gluten proteins in food at the 5 ppm level in 120 seconds.
Cryptococcal meningitis is a debilitating and lethal fungal disease that afflicts persons with compromised immune symptoms. Of the many neglected diseases, tropical and otherwise, it may be the most overlooked.
There is no day named for its awareness, no celebrity ambassador to champion its demise. The World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with addressing cryptococcal meningitis is a team of one.
That’s also the number of times cryptococcal meningitis is mentioned in the 500-plus pages of the latest UNAIDS report.
Not since 2009 has it been mentioned in The New York Times.
Immuno Mycologics in Norman, Okla. is developing an assay that can detect the disease while it’s still at treatable stages in its progress.
Patrick Adams has the report.
Worldwide cases of Guinea worm have been reduced by 5 orders of magnitude in the span of 30 years: one human generation. And a lot of the credit goes to The Carter Center, established by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.
Perhaps most astonishingly, the disease is facing eradication due to public health education and dirt-cheap technology: water filters. Chew on that, Big Pharma.