News and Views

The sequoia, the tallest and longest-living tree on Earth, is a wonder of creation. With its massive trunk and staggering verticality, it's difficult not to be awed while in its presence. Adding to that, it is wrapped in fire-resistant bark and it repels damaging insects, making the sequoia virtually indestructible. 

However, it needs water. A lot of it. So in the wake of the multi-year drought in the west and northwest, the question being raised is whether these forestal skyscrapers have been weakened or otherwise compromised. While there's no precise answer to that at this time, arborists are seeing signs that water depletion has had some effects.

Thayer Walker, a well-regarded journalist who wrote an extensive account on the Giant Forest at the Sequoia National Park in...

I have written before about attributing care to individual physicians who lead a ‘team’ rather than to all of the team members. CMS continues to ready the rollout of bundled care packages for acute myocardial infarctions and for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) which gives a unified payment to the hospital or another intermediary to split up among the various team members, surgeons, anesthesiologist, and consultants. Those teams with good outcomes and costs below the benchmark are rewarded, those with costs above the benchmark or with adverse outcomes are penalized. But as I alluded to in my original article, the devil is in the details of the split of rewards and punishment.

Last week, the American...

Since I am a huge proponent of laughter often being good medicine, I didn’t have to look very far to find funny movie scenes that also delivered meaningful medical lessons.

Limiting the number of options became the challenge!

So, here are 5 examples from films where medical knowledge can be extracted from the humor (of note, be aware there is cursing in some of the linked clips and so may be NSFW) :

Space Cowboys (2000)

Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner play former NASA crew members finally getting their shot to go on a repair mission in space. To do so, they must meet the same physical standards, usually by much younger colleagues, to get the go ahead to undertake their dream...

Science writers have long suspected that the anti-GMO movement is linked to the anti-vaccine movement. Indeed, both are predicated upon one of the biggest myths in modern society: "Natural is better."1

In an interview with Science, Seth Mnookin recalled how a public health official warned him that anti-vaxxers were particularly prominent in locations that had a Whole Foods. Mr. Mnookin concluded, "It's those communities with the Prius driving, composting, organic food-eating people."

So, that's why it wasn't surprising when March Against Monsanto, a group that opposes GMOs, became a...

Late last year, a story emerged questioning the validity of a paper that had made a big splash when it was published in Science earlier in 2016.

The paper was high profile, in large part because of its subject — the effect of plastic microbeads on fish. The authors claimed their data showed that young fish preferentially eat plastic microbeads instead of their other food options.

Other scientists said the paper was chock full of mistakes, negligence and even potential fraud. It was such a captivating story that we wrote about it in December of last year,...

Recently, I gave a seminar on "fake news" to professors and grad students at a large public university. Early in my talk, I polled the audience: "How many of you believe climate change is the world's #1 threat?"

Silence. Not a single person raised his or her hand.

Was I speaking in front of a group of science deniers? The College Republicans? Some fringe libertarian club? No, it was a room full of microbiologists.

How could so many incredibly intelligent people overwhelmingly reject what THE SCIENCE says about climate change? Well, they don't. They just don't see it as big of a threat to the world as other things. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of them felt that antibiotic resistance and pandemic disease were the biggest global threats. One person thought...

And, the award for promoting public health and being a patient advocate goes to... Ed Sheeran!

Two weeks in a row, the musician has not only created unforgettable moments for several children battling severe diseases and their families, but he has also utilized his social media and other platforms to showcase much needed attention on Batten Disease and Rett Syndrome. 

Please do not underestimate the meaning of this spotlight. To the individuals directly involved. To those suffering in the shadows. To their loved ones. To the scientific and medical communities in search of a champion. Champions funnel resources to research-- our greatest route to effective therapies and cure. They also buoy spirits in times of immense suffering.

As part of...

The efficacy of birth control is not something that can be agreed or disagreed with. It is both a scientific fact and a key issue in women's health. 

Birth control works. It can and does prevent pregnancy and the ability to choose if and when a pregnancy occurs can make an enormous difference in the life of any and every woman.

If we consult the data, the effectiveness of birth control becomes obvious. Comprehensive data from the Guttmacher Institute states that of the 61 million U.S. women in their childbearing years (15–44), roughly 43 million of them (70%) are 1) sexually active and 2) at risk of unintended pregnancy (meaning that they could become pregnant without...

Supreme Court Justice Roberts is concerned about computer systems making judgments to assist judges in court. Concerned enough to ask a federal court to file a "friend of the court" brief on whether the Supreme Court should hear a case involving a man convicted of a crime whose sentencing was informed by a software program designed to evaluate his risk of recidivism.

The man appealed his conviction saying “his right to due process was violated by a judge’s consideration of a report generated by the software’s secret algorithm, one Mr. Loomis was unable to inspect or challenge.” 

Wisconsin's Supreme Court denied the appeal and the friend...

There's no doubt that Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant scientists to have ever lived. There's also no doubt that he enjoys giving his opinion on topics of which he knows absolutely nothing.

A few years ago, Dr. Hawking got into trouble for claiming, "Philosophy is dead." It was a strange thing for a theoretical physicist to assert, not only because theoretical physics has direct implications for philosophy but because the entire scientific enterprise is predicated upon epistemology. (That's the philosophical discipline that seeks to answer one of the most important questions humanity has ever asked: How do we know what we claim to know?)

Dr. Hawking has also...