What I'm Reading (Oct. 11)

Related articles

“… the hot flavors in spices, the mouth-puckering tannins in wines, or the stink of Brussels sprouts. They are the antibacterials, antifungals, and grazing deterrents of the plant world. In the right amount, these slightly noxious substances, which help plants survive, may leave you stronger."

Parallel studies, meanwhile, have undercut decades-old assumptions about the dangers of free radicals. Rather than killing us, these volatile molecules, in the right amount, may improve our health. Our quest to neutralize them with antioxidant supplements may be doing more harm than good.”

After last week’s nutritional furor over the recommendations for eating or not eating red meat, a new essay from Nautil.us entitled, Fruits and Vegetables Are Trying to Kill You. And it is not just those vegetables, like kale; the problem also includes all those anti-oxidant supplements we buy may be doing more harm than good. Don’t be put off by the title; it is an exciting look at mitochondrial energy production and the creation of reactive oxygen species – free radicals. It introduces you to hormesis, the idea that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; at least when given in small doses. (15-minute read)

Horns are considered a menace in the commercial dairy business and typically get burned off, so the startup had set out to use engineering to make a more humane livestock industry. … While most Americans find it unethical to use genetic engineering to make livestock meatier or more nutritious, according to a 2018 Pew poll, public attitudes toward making welfare improvements are less known.”

From Wired, A Cow, a Controversy, and a Dashed Dream of More Humane Farms. Using CRISPR technology, scientists developed a hornless cow, to make their life as our food source more humane. But the technology left behind its transmitting plasmid. In this cautionary tale, you see the debate and its aftermath about what does and does not constitute a GMO through the eyes of the scientists and their cows. (10-minute read)

The podcast, Anthropocene review, is a tongue in cheek 5-star review of “different facets of the human-centered planet” by author John Green. In this episode, (about 15-minutes of listening, ten if reading) he discusses and scores 

“…two forms of ingesting poisons. On the one hand, we have chemotherapy, a medical intervention to treat cancer. On the other hand, we have a hot-dog eating contest.” 

The description of the give and take between Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut for eating supremacy has a poignancy you will not expect. Green concludes his thoughts on chemotherapy with a quote from Siddhartha Mukherjee. 

“Resilience, inventiveness, and survivorship—qualities often ascribed to great physicians—are reflected qualities, emanating first from those who struggle with illness and only then mirrored by those who treat them.”  

I have written previously about Hans Rosling. He was a communicator of both science and optimism. Even when considering data, his cup was always more full than empty. David McCandless works in the field of infographics – creating images that convey data, and he seems to be picking up part of Dr. Rosling's optimistic legacy. He has a new website featuring beautiful infographics, Beautiful News. Even better, you can access the data used in creating these visual markers of science’s and humanities' good news.