What I'm Reading (May 23)

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — May 23, 2024
Metaphors illuminate the complex, yet their light dims with time. Managers desire control; makers desire time Historical myths spread far and wide Peanut butter, a liquid, who would have thought?
Image by Lubov Lisitsa from Pixabay

Metaphors help explain complex or foreign topics, but they have a shelf life.

“In short, the textbooks paint a picture of a cellular ‘assembly line’ where genes issue instructions for the manufacture of proteins that do the work of the body from day to day. This textbook description of the cell matches, almost word for word, a social institution. The picture of the cytoplasm and its organelles performing the work of ‘manufacturing,’ ‘packaging’ and ‘shipping’ molecules according to ‘instructions’ from the genes eerily evokes the social hierarchy of executives ordering the manual labour of toiling masses. The only problem is that the cell is not a ‘factory.’ It does not have a ‘control centre.’ As the feminist scholar Emily Martin observes, the assumption of centralised control distorts our understanding of the cell.”

Indeed, as Aeon reports, A Cell Is Not A Factory


This is an old article that I reread recently and still find true. Interestingly, one of the individuals mentioned at the end who is thanked for editing is a now familiar name, Sam Altman, the AI guy.

“There are two types of schedule, which I'll call the manager's schedule and the maker's schedule. The manager's schedule is for bosses. It's embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one-hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you're doing every hour.

Most powerful people are on the manager's schedule. It's the schedule of command. But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.

When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster.”

From Paul Graham, Maker’s Schedules, Manager’s Schedules


Hardly a day goes by when we do not hear about science’s replication crisis. But there are others; frankly, I have been duped more than once.

“Historical myths, often based on mere misunderstanding, but occasionally on bias or fraud, spread like wildfire. People just love to share unusual and interesting facts, and history is replete with things that are both unusual and true. So much that is surprising or shocking has happened, that it can take only years or decades of familiarity with a particular niche of history in order to smell a rat. Not only do myths spread rapidly, but they survive — far longer, I suspect, than in scientific fields.”

From The Age of Invention, Does History have a Replication Crisis?


Often wrong, never in doubt is a family motto in my home. So it was with just a little embarrassment that I found that in physics, gravel is a fluid.

“Any material that flows continuously when a shearing force is applied is a fluid. Think of a shearing force as a cutting action through a substance that causes it to flow continuously. For example, moving your arm causes the surrounding air to change shape – or deform, to use the physics term – and flow out of the way. The same thing happens to water when your arm takes a swim stroke.”

From The Conversation, Peanut butter is a liquid – the physics of this and other unexpected fluids

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.

Recent articles by this author: