Well, your tracker just got (further) proof of his own serious beat bias. I finished reading the ScienceTimes. It has some good, even excellent, stuff. Yet, none of the stories got the blood racing. I wondered why. Then looked again. The section has not even one story from the physical sciences. No Chang writing up planets, no Overbye on abstruse cosmology, no Markoff on weird circuitry, no Broad on loose nukes. It’s all life sciences, every last syllable except for two letters to the editor on neutrino velocity. Even the shorts in Observatory – mummies, reindeer, and xenophyophores of the deep sea. The only space story is about what it’s like to die after stepping outside of a spaceship with no spacesuit and that sounds like a health-advice story to me. Is this a first? Other than single-topic special issues, I’d guess yes.
For all that, Benedict Carey‘s section leader on a UC Santa Barbara brain sciences whiz of long standing is absorbing. This is profile writing of the first water – it even captures the spirit by starting off with a lab story by the protagonist, one he tells as a self-effacing joke. It’s about the mystery of self, how we fool ourselves into thinking we have distinct, singular, and coherent consciences inside our heads, and the risks of overdoing court testimony and evidence that relies on neurologists with their growing ability to eavesdrop on the biochemistry and neuroelectricity of thought. Our sober moments, it appears, are exercises in fooling ourselves into thinking them sober moments.
Other headlines to note:
- Natalie Angier – “A Toad-Eat-Toad world,” and Other Tales of Animal Cannibals ;
- Denise Grady ; A Tumor Is No Clearer in Hindsight ; Somebody should have – maybe sombody already has? – written sooner that it’s not at all clear that, while dumb, Steve Jobs’s decision to try alternative treatments such as diet before opting for surgery is what doomed him. We’ll never know whether things were already bleak from the moment of first diagnosis. This piece is a good corrective on a suddenly standard narrative.
- Kate Murphy – In Some Cases, Even Bad Bacteria May Be Good ; Gut bacteria, antibiotics, and health.
- Tara Parker-Pope – Really? The claim: For a More Restful Nap, Avoid Caffeine ; Biggest surprise in the section.
– Charlie Petit