Mary Carmichael

Stories by Mary Carmichael

  • The Testosterone-Profit Link

    A new study links high testosterone levels in male financial traders to profits, but too much of the hormone can have the opposite effect.
  • Health: Phys. Ed. Is Not Dead

    As a kid, I hated P.E. class so much that the word "kick-ball" still gives me shudders. It was embarrassing (gym shorts) and, worse, it seemed useless, at least to my 12-year-old self. I was already in decent shape, and although some of my classmates didn't get much exercise outside P.E., the class was no remedy—they didn't get much inside it, either. They were always picked last for teams; theyslouched through the motions; on "fun" Fridays, when you could choose to play ball or sit out, they sat. The only kids who liked P.E. were the jocks, who didn't need it. Why, I wondered, didn't we just get rid of the class?Someone must have heard my adolescent prayers, because in the early '90s schools starting cutting back on P.E., and many now fail to offer their students any physical activity at all. Just 3.8 percent of elementary schools and 2.1 percent of high schools had daily gym class in 2006, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. By comparison, in 1991, 42 percent of kids...
  • Do Short Women Live Longer?

    A new study reveals that some short women have a gene linked to longevity. Could the findings help all of us live longer?
  • Survived Cancer, Want Job

    Some childhood cancer survivors try to hide their disabilities; others admit to having problems but don't explain why.
  • A Gene That Helps the Abused

    A genetic variant may protect some abused kids from depression and other long-term effects.
  • Heart Stents: Good or Bad?

    Two new studies answer important questions about drug-eluting stents. But the biggest debate in cardiology isn't over yet.
  • Health Matters: Docs in Doubt

    There's a reason doctors started acting godlike: some patients wanted to believe it wasn't just an act.
  • A Changing Portrait Of DNA

    Every day, it seems, scientists learn something new about how our genes work. The latest insights into the dazzling and complex machinery of life itself.
  • Is Concierge Medicine Worth It?

    Daniel Khani was feeling healthy, but he did have a medical problem or, rather, a problem with medicine: he thought he wasn't getting enough of it. The basic physical he got each year was, well, basic. Khani, a wealthy real-estate investor, was accustomed to better treatment in the rest of his life. So in September, he went to the Concierge Medicine clinic in Los Angeles for what he considered the ultimate in medical care: the same kind the president gets.As part of his Presidential Physical, over two days Khani, 66, underwent a battery of fancy-sounding tests not usually included in a standard exam—"dilated direct opthalmoscopy," "fiberoptic nasolaryngoscopy," several ultrasounds, a tuberculosis test—all of them based on the regimen that White House physicians administer annually. "It made me feel good to be getting the same thing the president's getting," says Khani. Doctors sat with him for hours, lavishing him with personal attention, and they sent him for something even the...
  • Haunted By HIV’s Origins

    Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, is a nice guy—not the sort to seek out international controversy. But last week he found himself deluged with angry e-mails, and the Haitian Embassy and Consulates across the country were fielding hundreds of equally irate phone calls about him. Biology papers don't usually stir up so much fury. But Worobey's latest research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tracks the spread of HIV and suggests that the most common Western strain first hitchhiked its way to America around 1969 in the body of a single person—a person who almost certainly contracted the disease in Haiti.Worobey says "Haitians are blameless for the spread of HIV. They were simply hit earlier." But a lot of Haitians feel offended anyway. Many of HIV's early victims in the West were Haitian immigrants, a link that led to "an adverse immigration policy in the United States and feelings of persecution and denial,"...
  • The Search For Solutions

    A doctor, a banker, an engineer and a scientist are working separately—and together—to bring lifesaving vaccines to children around the world. How inspired individuals can take on and conquer some of the world's biggest problems.
  • You, Too, Can Have A Bionic Body

    Susan Burke’s left knee was humbling her. At 54, she wanted to hike and whitewater raft through the national parks or, at the very least, to stroll around the block with her husband at night, as she’d always done. Instead, she could barely walk from her desk to her office parking lot without popping an Aleve. Her knee wouldn’t leave her alone. Four years earlier, it had started swelling while she was training for an eight-mile trek through Glacier National Park. “I finally decided, ‘All right, I’ll get it checked’,” she says. “The cartilage had worn down to the point of bone on bone.” Burke’s doctor told her she needed a knee replacement, but that wasn’t what she wanted. It was too drastic, and she thought she was too young.Over the next four years, Burke tried to salvage her knee with arthroscopic surgery, pain meds and lowered expectations for hikes that were “shorter than my usual horizons.” But her knee was still crumbling. Finally, she met a fellow adventurer on a plane who had...
  • Study: Your Friends Can Make You Fat

    The list of reasons a person might pack on too many pounds is already plenty long: genes, hormone disorders, a couch-potato lifestyle, love of cheeseburgers. Thanks to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, you can add another culprit to the list: friends.Obesity spreads through social networks, according to the study, so if your friends put on weight, you’re more likely to put on the pounds, too. Your family members or spouse can also influence you; as they get heavier, you’re more likely to gain along with them. But, your friends—even if they don’t live anywhere near you—have the most sway. A close friend’s weight gain can even be downright dangerous.“If your close friend becomes obese in a given time interval, there’s triple the risk that you will follow suit,” says Nicholas Christakis, a coauthor of the study, which was published Wednesday and a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School. “Before you know it you have an obesity epidemic, where we're...
  • Weird Stuff That Could Save the World

    God, as the hymn goes, may have made all things bright and beautiful, but for sheer weirdness first prize should go to a man-made creation instead: aerogel. A solid that's up to 99 percent gas, it is rigid to a light touch, soft to a stronger one, and shatters like glass if it's put under too much pressure too quickly; it's one of the most enigmatic of materials, as well as one of the most versatile.It can withstand the heat of a direct flame; engineers use it for insulation on oil rigs and for warmth in the insoles of hiking boots worn in the coldest temperatures on Earth. NASA uses it to trap comet dust blowing through the universe at six kilometers per second. It even works as casual, sporty jewelry—AeroGem sells a key chain with an aerogel bob on the end, and a pendant "hermetically sealed inside silver-over-titanium end caps for added strength and long-lasting, waterproof durability."The most recent headlines about aerogels, however, don't have anything to do with oil rigs or...
  • Doctors Debate Over Lyme Disease

    There's a debate raging over Lyme disease, although you'd never know it unless you've been paying close attention—because on the surface it sounds like the dullest argument imaginable. Last year, the Infectious Diseases Society of America issued new guidelines saying physicians should treat Lyme with antibiotics for no longer than 30 days. Some docs think that's wrong. It's a seemingly straightforward difference of opinion. So why has the debate dissolved into animosity, with one side suggesting that its opponents have no credibility and the other slinging deeply personal insults on the Web? And why has it now spilled out of medical journals and into the office of a state attorney general? Clearly, something other than ticks is bugging a lot of doctors.Lyme disease—the most common insect-borne ailment in America, with roughly 20,000 cases diagnosed each year and more undetected—is transmitted mostly by a well-known pest, the deer tick. But the real culprit is something even nastier,...
  • Who's the Smart Sibling?

    Ten weeks ago, Bo Cleveland and his wife embarked on a highly unscientific experiment—they gave birth to their first child. For now, Cleveland is too exhausted to even consider having another baby, but eventually, he will. In fact, he's already planned an egalitarian strategy for raising the rest of his family. Little Arthur won't get any extra attention just because he's the firstborn, and, says his father, he probably won't be much smarter than his future siblings, either. It's the sort of thing many parents would say, but it's a bit surprising coming from Cleveland, who studies birth order and IQ at Pennsylvania State University. As he knows too well, a study published recently in the journal Science suggests that firstborns do turn out sharper than their brothers and sisters, no matter how parents try to compensate. Is Cleveland wrong? Is Arthur destined to be the smart sibling just because he had the good luck to be born first?For decades, scientists have been squabbling over...
  • Joycelyn Elders on the Clash of Politics, Science

    On Thursday, President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. James Holsinger, faced blunt questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing about how he would react if he were pressured to put politics before science. "I would resign," Holsinger said.If history is any indication, he's likely to be tested on that promise. Earlier in the week, three former surgeons general—including Dr. Richard Carmona, the most recent occupant of that august office—testified before Congress that he felt intense political pressure. Carmona, who left office in July, said that the Bush administration had delayed his reports and changed his speeches on controversial issues such as smoking and stem cells. "Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," he testified. That came as no surprise to Joycelyn Elders, who served as surgeon general from 1993 to 1994 under President Bill Clinton; she was asked to step...
  • Diabetes: A 'Disease of Poverty'?

    Diabetes kills as many as AIDS, and is a big problem in poor countries. Dr. Martin Silink, head of the International Diabetes Federation, spoke with Mary Carmichael. ...
  • New Study Suggests Firstborns are Smarter

    For decades, scientists have been squabbling over the importance of  birth order like siblings fighting over a toy. Some of them say being a first-, middle- or lastborn has significant effects on intelligence. Others say that’s nonsense. The spat goes back at least as far as Alfred Adler, a Freud-era psychologist who argued that firstborns had an edge. Other psychologists found his theory easy to believe—middle and youngest kids already had a bad rap, thanks to everything from primogeniture laws to the prodigal son. When they set out to confirm the birth-order effects Adler had predicted, they found some evidence. Dozens of studies over the next several decades showed small differences in IQ, scholastic aptitude tests and other measures of achievement. So did “anecdata” suggesting that firstborns were more likely to win Nobel Prizes. Now a new study, published today in the journal Science suggests that firstborns do indeed turn out sharper than their brothers and sisters, no matter...