What I'm Reading (Aug 13)

Related articles

Here's the lineup: Our immune system has lots of moving parts and they do not always make sense, at least on the first read. ... While the truth may set you free, learning the truth is often hampered by paywalls. ... And a beautiful interactive on a woodblock print that shows: (1) How a picture is worth a thousand words and (2) How culturally interconnected we have been for a lot longer than the past few years.

For all the ink spilled pixels expended, on COVID-19 and the immune system, it might help in putting our response and our attempts at vaccines into perspective if we review how our immune system works. Of course, it’s complicated, and the phrase, we don’t know makes numerous appearances. One last note, it continues to use war metaphors, a linguistic hangover from the hot and cold wars of the mid 20th century when our understanding of immunology began to grow, in describing immune responses. 

“Still, “any virus that can make people sick has to have at least one good trick for evading the immune system,” Crotty says. The new coronavirus seems to rely on early stealth, somehow delaying the launch of the innate immune system, and inhibiting the production of interferons—those molecules that initially block viral replication. “I believe this [delay] is really the key in determining good versus bad outcomes,” says Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale. It creates a brief time window in which the virus can replicate unnoticed before the alarm bells start sounding. Those delays cascade: If the innate branch is slow to mobilize, the adaptive branch will also lag.”

From The Atlantic, Immunology Is Where Intuition Goes to Die


“But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want “Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus—they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness—well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free.”

As the writer continues, that doesn’t mean that everything the New York Times writes is correct. And I would vehemently argue that while the American Council on Science and Health is free, it does contain factual, useful information. That said, it is time again to talk about paywalls and free speech. From Current Affairs, The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free


“How does a single artist — of mass-market pictures, no less — come to embody a national culture?”

From the art critic of the New York Times, Jason Farago, a discussion of a block print by Japanese master Katsushika Hokusai entitled “Ejiri in Suruga Province.” A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion, a beautiful interactive that describes shows the power of a picture in maybe less than a thousand words.