Tag Archives: biology

10 Fun Facts about Vax

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are a-changing, there is a crispness in the air, and you’re finding it impossible to NOT purchase Halloween candy that you will inevitably eat and have to buy again anyway.  Oh, and your local pharmacy, Facebook feed, tv, magazines, and just about any other media outlet are reminding you to go get your flu shot.

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When air becomes breath

red-crabCancer.

It’s a word everyone recognizes, but no know truly understands.  Even when it ravishes through your own body, setting up impenetrable fortresses, and taking over each territory in an ugly game of Risk, it is near impossible to comprehend.

That’s because cancer is an enigma. For life, we need death.  For the proper formation and function of our organs, cells need to die.  Though cancer may be the cause of death for so many, cancer is enigmatically immortality.  The agelessness of cancerous cells is what results in the shutdown of organ systems and ultimately death.

Death is as natural a process as life, and yet we grapple for understanding in its wake.  Being the salient individuals we are, comprehending our own mortality is an impossible endeavor, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.  No one in our time has put it in quite the same context as Dr. Paul Kalanithi in his posthumous memoir When Breath Becomes Air.

This article is not a review of his book, which was one of the few I’ve ever read front to back in a single sitting–it’s short, but also exceedingly captivating.  This is, simply and meaninglessly, my appreciation for Kalanithi’s life and exploration of his own mortality, in his own words. Continue reading When air becomes breath

Cool as a cave

Mammoth caves - Historic entrance
Mammoth caves – Historic entrance

It was hotter than hot–over 90 degrees with a thick southern humidity that hits you like a bus when you step outside.  As I pulled on my long sleeve shirt, I chuckled at the thought of wearing it on the surface, 250 feet above my current location.  It was 55 degrees where I stood and boy was it fabulous.

With 405 miles of mapped cavities and some unknown distance of unmapped offshoots, Mammoth caves in Kentucky is the longest cave system in the world.  I experienced a mere few miles of this wonder, with at least a couple of those miles intertwining and overlapping each other like spaghetti in a bowl.  However little distance walked, crawled, & climbed, it was undoubtedly one of the coolest adventures of my life–both figuratively and literally. Continue reading Cool as a cave

Growing up in the dark

Wikipedia.com
Fruit fly (Drosophila) via Wikipedia.com

No, I’m not talking about unearthing some hidden family secret (you can exhale a sigh of relief, mom).  Here I refer to fruit flies growing up in the dark as participants in a 62-year long experiment at Kyoto University in Japan.  More than 1,500 generations of flies have been reared in total darkness ever since Syuiti Mori shut the blinds on his flies in 1954 starting one of the longest laboratory experiment on evolution.   Continue reading Growing up in the dark

Thing explainer explained

In his new book, Thing explainer: complicated stuff in simple words, Randall Munroe uses the top ten hundred words in the language spoken most in the world and lots of pictures to explain how some things work.  In a world with too many big words, this book is great.  However, some of the top words, simple enough alone, are still changed for others and one of the big words that tell you what the book is (marked above) isn’t even in the top words!  Despite several wrong word choices, Thing explainer hits the mark for interestingly explaining things.

courtesy of xkcd.com
courtesy of xkcd.com

Continue reading Thing explainer explained

Honey, I shrunk the grad students

microI finally got around to reading Michael Crichton’s posthumous novel Micro, finished after Crichton’s death by another popular sci-fi author Richard Preston.  Since I first tore through Jurassic Park in 7th grade (more 20 years ago…yikes!), I have been a huge fan of Crichton’s imaginative worlds of science fiction.  Not to mention  that I was so inspired by Preston’s The Hot Zone that I entered the fields of infectious diseases and immunology for my career.  So imagine my disappointment to discover that Micro is little more than a science-themed knock-off of the wacky Rick Moranis comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Continue reading Honey, I shrunk the grad students

Tom Brady–poster child for pseudoscience?

tombradyI have to admit, it hurts me a little–ok A LOT–to write this piece.  I’ve probably done a bit more research than was needed because I was hesitant to come to the realization that I’ve lost respect for one of my favorite athletes.  This feeling doesn’t take away 4 championships from a franchise with arguably the best NFL coach of all time, but it does still hurt.

Because Tom Brady may just be the newest poster child for pseudoscience.  What an idiot.

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The Ebola Frenzy

Earlier this month, Facebook and Twitter were loaded with posts like this one from Donald Trump:

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.13.10 AM

There was immediate and wide-spread panic among U.S. citizens, perpetuated by reports like this, and this.

At first, I too, was alarmed at the thought of bringing such a deadly disease to America.  Then I thought about the virus life cycle, how it infects humans, and how it spreads and I was, at least somewhat, relieved.  Continue reading The Ebola Frenzy