What I'm Reading (Oct. 7)

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — Oct 07, 2021
Being an inspector for Michelin, the origins of the CT scan, the hygiene hypothesis appears as a call for biodiversity, the politics of writing about science in the age of COVID
Image by Perfecto_Capucine from Pixabay

Anyone that looks at my silhouette will recognize that I enjoy a good meal or two. I am a foodie, going all the way back to watching Julia Child on PBS in the ’70s.

“What people don’t understand fully, your 10 meals a week, you are probably lucky to get one starred restaurant a week or a star contender, and the other meals are pretty mediocre. And that’s kind of a drudge. And you get into awkward situations, when at the end of you finishing your region, you have an extra restaurant to go to where you haven’t factored it in. So you do dinner at 6 pm, and you do another dinner at 8 pm. So it’s lunch, dinner and dinner. I have done it a couple of times. You know, you are careful, you eat half of the dessert, you eat sensibly. I’m not talking about eating at Michelin starred restaurants twice in a row, usually, these are fairly ordinary restaurants.”

Ah, the trials and tribulation of being an inspector for the Michelin guide. Here is the inside scoop, Confessions of a Michelin Inspector. From Luxeat, by way of the Browser.

I am old enough, as a physician, to remember a time before CT scans. Then, to identify a mass, radiologists would employ a technique developed in the ’40s, tomography, where multiple X-ray images were taken moving the radiation source and film simultaneously and changing the depth of field so you could see various layers. Computerized tomography replaced that older technique.

“While on a forced holiday to ponder his future and what he might do for the company, Hounsfield met a physician who complained about the poor quality of X-rays of the brain. Plain X-rays show marvelous details of bones, but the brain is an amorphous blob of tissue – on an X-ray it all looks like fog. This got Hounsfield thinking about his old idea of finding hidden structures without opening the box.”

From The Conversation, 50 years ago, the first CT scan let doctors see inside a living skull – thanks to an eccentric engineer at the Beatles’ record company


“There is this ‘biodiversity hypothesis,’ that in the absence of diverse environmental microbiota, people are more likely to get immune-mediated diseases,” says Aki Sinkkonen, an evolutionary ecologist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland. “But no one had really tested this with children.”

The biodiversity hypothesis is a new form of the hygiene hypothesis, suggesting that our increasingly hygienic, less bio diversified environments are impairing our immune response. Wired brings an interesting study to our attention, What Forest Floor Playgrounds Teach Us About Kids and Germs

Science and politics have always been intertwined and entangled. The volume has significantly increased because of our more interconnected world. 

When done properly, covering science trains a writer to bring clarity to complexity, to embrace nuance, to understand that everything new is built upon old foundations, and to probe the unknown while delimiting the bounds of their own ignorance. The best science writers learn that science is not a procession of facts and breakthroughs, but an erratic stumble toward gradually diminished uncertainty; that peer-reviewed publications are not gospel and even prestigious journals are polluted by nonsense; and that the scientific endeavor is plagued by all-too-human failings such as hubris.”

That holds for a good physician, so I feel that I might be doubly blessed or at least instructed. From The Atlantic, What Even Counts as Science Writing Anymore?


Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA

Director of Medicine

Dr. Charles Dinerstein, M.D., MBA, FACS is Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. He has over 25 years of experience as a vascular surgeon.

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