What I Got: Three Gifts from the Recovery Ward

1. The Abscess Probably, when I first heard the doctor say to the patient, “The operating rooms are all booked until late tonight so we can just lance it right here, bedside,” that would have been the right time for me to make a little noise. That would have been an appropriate moment to peel […]

Why the Debate over Abortion is Secretly Awesome

I woke up this morning, had a cup of English Breakfast tea, and thought to myself, “This seems like a good point in my career to alienate all of my readers.” So I sat down and wrote a blog post about abortion. If you are even a mildly thoughtful person, it’s a good chance you’re […]

The Baijiu Bender

During a recent reporting trip to central China, I went to a banquet honoring a group of visiting foreign scientists. I’d heard about these banquets: red tablecloths, elaborate dinnerware, a procession of courses long enough to turn eating into an athletic event. But what were these miniature wineglasses, filled so deftly with clear liquid? The […]

The Problem with Patient Zero

On a hot and humid day in October, a man wandered through the city of Mirebalais, Haiti. He was naked, but his neighbors didn’t pay much attention. The man had always been crazy. In fact, townspeople called him “moun fou” — lunatic or fool. He headed toward the bank of the Latem River, where he […]

Avoiding “Contagion”

The box office smash hit “Contagion” features heroic (women!) scientists battling a deadly threat. Its advisers included esteemed researchers who helped keep the film true to science. And public health agencies, such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are using the film to help build public awareness about the real threat posed […]

Battling the Beetles

On a cold, clear June morning high in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, Jesse Logan stopped on a snow-covered hillside and pointed with his ski pole to a large pine tree. A few of its needles were turning red, a sign of trouble. About a dozen people gathered around him on the snow to listen. “We […]

Who’s Afraid of Virginia’s Genes?

The email was the opposite of scary. Subject: “Your Genetic Profile is Ready at 23andMe!” Six weeks earlier, I had mailed the genetic testing company a tube of my own spit. Now it was time for me to “start exploring” the results. I was terrified. I read a lot about genetics, so I knew that […]

Muppet Messaging

American readers will probably recognize the dopey guy on the right as Elmo, of tickling fame, who lives on Sesame Street. But this isn’t Elmo, it’s his doppelgänger, Neno, who appears on Takalani Sesame, the South African version of the show. The blonde is his co-star, Kami, who will also appear on Sesame Square, a […]