What I Am Reading June 13th

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — Jun 13, 2024
The polar thaw, slows the Earth's spin; Ozempic's whispers, calorie's tale; Challenger's fate, faith in systems misplaced; IVF's journey and an embryos' fate
Image by Robert Allmann

And one more worry for the perpetually stressed.

“According to a recent paper in Nature, that polar thaw has progressed to such an extent that it’s slowing the rotation of the planet. As the melt runs into the ocean, the extra water gathers around the Earth’s belly, fattening it a bit around the equator and reducing the planet’s angular velocity—or rate of spin. Think of an ice skater slowing her axel by extending her arms and you get the picture….

A slower rate of spin, in turn, alters the time it takes for the planet to rotate once—what we think of as a day—which means the rising and setting of the sun are not happening quite when expect them to, putting a kink in the vast international network of infrastructure that tells us what time it is.”

It is time to employ the leap second! From Nautil.us, How Melting Ice Has Altered Time-Keeping


At this juncture, you would have to be off-planet not to hear the news on Ozempic. But at the bottom of the obesity epidemic is the calorie. I first learned of the calorie in physics as a measure of heat and work. Of course, that is not anywhere near the whole story.

“As she entered her 40s, Peters used stringent and unrelenting discipline to slim what she described as her “too, too solid” body by dropping 70 pounds. That was what she really wanted to tell people about, with a fervency that approached the messianic. She began tailoring her lectures toward the holy grail she had discovered, a tool that she saw as the key to her weight loss: something called the calorie.”

From the Smithsonian Magazine, This Doctor Pioneered Counting Calories a Century Ago, and We’re Still Dealing With the Consequences


“The problem was not really a lack of technical knowledge. Instead, human fallibility from top to bottom was at issue: a toxic combination of financial stress, managerial pressure, a growing tolerance for risk, and an unwillingness to cause disruption and slow down scheduled launches.”

It never hurts to reflect on one of our most significant technological failures, the Challenger. From the Atlantic, What The Challenger Disaster Proved. But the real message, especially in the wake of COVID, is the subtitle, “We take the workings of wide, complicated technological systems on faith. But they depend on people—and, sometimes, people fail.” And for the more conspiratorial amongst us, I would be remiss in not repeating my new favorite pithy quote, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”


My colleague, Dr. Billauer, has written repeatedly about the fraught ethics of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), especially in the post-Roe era. 

“One of the first documents patients sign when starting in vitro fertilization asks them to consider the very end of their treatment: What would they like to do with extra embryos, if they have any? The options generally include disposing of them, donating them to science, giving them to another patient, or keeping them in storage, for a cost.

The idea that one might end up with surplus embryos can seem like a distant wish for those just beginning IVF. … Deciding what to do with the leftovers can be surprisingly emotional and morally thorny; even those who are not religious or who support reproductive autonomy might still feel a sense of responsibility for their embryos. So some patients are turning to a lesser-known alternative: a method called “compassionate transfer.”

From the Atlantic, How Can You Part With the Embryo That Could Have Been Your Child?

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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