News and Views

When you write about science and health, it means you spend a lot of time defending safe food, harmless chemicals, good drugs, etc. And that means there are going to be people out there, like supplement peddlers, journalists who are in bed with sleazy environmental groups, and just plain loonies, who insist that someone must have paid you off because you have the unmitigated gall to say that something is safe when it is, and they say it's not. People and companies make a lot money when you're scared, and don't like anyone defending something you're supposed to be afraid of. Then, they start the name calling. It's almost always the same—corporate shill.

Well, am I? I didn't used to think so until recently, but then I had to stop and wonder. I recently wrote about two issues that...

We all remember Rebecca Black. Oh, do we remember. She sang "Friday," that awful but irresistibly catchy tune (viewed 105 million+ times on YouTube!!), which will forever be a part of our culture. Had she sung about Pi Day, however, perhaps the song would have had a more positive reception.

Today, March 14th (3/14), is Pi Day, because the mathematical number pi is rounded off to 3.14. Pi is an irrational number (meaning it cannot be adequately expressed as a fraction of two whole numbers) that is derived by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter. 

Pi: Not Just Another Number

Pi is much more than a mathematical curiosity. The number comes up over and over again...

As a pediatrician, I always advise don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Urging parents to stay strong --especially in those vulnerable moments. See the big picture. Follow through with consequences for bad behavior. Easy to do in an office visit, but hard to achieve day in day out for twenty years— even with the best of intentions.

Sadly, the concept of withholding a lollipop for bad behavior isn’t necessarily transferable to media organizations when they under, over or inadequately inform the public with respect to science and health claims. Even though heightened public anxiety and co-opting of physician office visits to debunk medical myths perpetuated by such imprecise information are very tangible adverse effects, somehow the messenger continues to go unscathed.

Instant...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes it clear that their regulations on our foods, drugs, cosmetics, etc. are not created in a vacuum, rather they are "formed with the public’s help."

The mainstay of this public interaction is through providing an open comment period. The FDA states, "By law, anyone can participate in the rule-making process by commenting in writing. FDA routinely allows plenty of time for public input (typically 60 days) and carefully considers these comments when it draws up a final rule." 

But, who are the "public" that provide comments on these issues?

From the looks of it - not scientists. 

One month ago, we wrote a story "...

According to Reuter’s World News, “Panamanian former dictator, CIA spy and convicted cocaine trafficker Manuel Noriega was in a coma on Tuesday after suffering a hemorrhage from an operation to remove a benign brain tumor, representatives for the 83-year-old said.” 

Here, we will address some basic tenets in neurosurgery (aka brain surgery) and how operating in this area of the body is often a delicate dance. It all comes down to real estate.

First, it is important to understand that tumors in the brain can be benign or malignant (aka cancerous). It is the location and ease of accessibility that dictates the level of surgical resection complexity. A benign tumor tickling the brain stem, for...

Mass shootings and terrorism. These two topics continue to strike fear into the hearts of Americans everywhere.

It makes sense why. Their randomness instills us with fear. The shooters often look deranged, and the images shown in the media are gruesome. And because of the cynical (but true) journalistic maxim, "If it bleeds, it leads," we are guaranteed weeks of discussion after every incident.

But boring things are far deadlier. According to the most recent data from the CDC, accidents killed 136,053 Americans in 2014, making them the #4 leading cause of death1. Included in that number is accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, which kills on average 374 people every single year2...

A common question I hear again and again is, "How do I know if a news story is fake?" There is no easy answer1. It helps to be well informed, and it requires a conscious suspension of credulity combined with a gut instinct honed over years of experience. 

If journalism as a whole is bad (and it is), science journalism is even worse. Not only is it susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it is uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism. Every week, it seems, an everyday food is either going to cure cancer or kill us all. 

One thing experience has taught us is that some news outlets are better than others. Some journalists really do care about reporting the news as it is rather than the way they would like...

Most of us have an imaginary cleaning list in our heads we dreadfully whip out on the weekend and try to get through as fast as possible. More often than not, our cleaning lists are similar: clean bathrooms, dust, vacuum, dishes, laundry. The occasional 'window cleaning' might pop up if the sun is shining on them the right way. 

Sanitizing the TV remote control or shower curtain rarely comes to mind, yet those are just some of the items that carry the most germs in your house — and no, you're not off the hook if you don't have kids. 

Lucky for us, experts in cleaning (who knew they were out there?) have compiled a checklist of household chores and their frequency to help us keep our germs at bay. A team of the Good Housekeeping Institute has identified the tasks...

Question: How long can an image of one's face be used to accurately identify that person?

As Mission: Impossible moviegoers know from seeing Ethan Hunt and other fugitives chased all over the globe, computer-driven facial recognition is an essential tool for law enforcement. Hundreds – if not thousands – of images flash across the screen in a matter of seconds, and then the identify of the elusive perpetrator becomes known.

OK, now that's Hollywood's version of how this scientific instrument is applied. 

In the real world, however, government agencies and customs officials on every continent rely on facial recognition – and that fact raises the issue of the reliability of the photos in their databases. So, as security continues to play a heightened role...

For the first time, President Trump is giving a speech to a joint session of Congress*. Since the President has a habit of keeping us all guessing, here is a wish-list of things we would like to hear Mr. Trump talk about.

Healthcare reform. The Affordable Care Act had good intentions. It is obviously within society's best interest to have as many people covered by health insurance as possible. However, the ACA is flawed. Medical costs keep rising. CNN Money reported in September 2016 that "[p]rices for medicine, doctor appointments and health insurance rose the most last month since 1984." Our award-winning resident pediatrician, Dr. Jamie Wells,...