Sharon Begley

Given a Choice, Get Anything Other Than Lung Cancer

It's no secret that oncologists and cancer researchers have made pitifully little progress against lung cancer, even compared to the less-than-stellar progress against other cancers, as I explained in a recent story.

Now It's Serious: As the World Warms, Lemmings Take a Hit

Sure, effects of global warming such as more-intense hurricanes and exacerbated drought/flood cycles are no picnic, but now things are getting really dire: as the world, especially the top of the world, warms, the periodic explosion and crash of lemming populations is history.

Begley: Bring On the 'Reality- Based Community'

It took a while to discern the guiding ideology behind the Bush administration's poisonous science policies. The real problem wasn't tax cuts and war spending, even though the combination did strangle domestic programs so severely that scientists at the nation's premier physics lab were ordered to take unpaid leave, and the government is allocating 13 percent less to biomedical research in 2009 than it did in 2004.

The Accidental Stem-Cell Advocate

The debate over research on embryonic stem cells can seem pretty abstract, so if you want to get a real feel for the effect of President Bush's ban on the use of federal money for studies of new stem-cell lines see if you can catch a screening of a documentary called The Accidental Advocate.

Election 2008: How Much Do Looks Count?

Say what you will about Sarah Palin's experience, competence and views on (to pick just two of Lab Notes' favorites) creationism and climate change, give her this: she's got that whole beauty queen thing going for her.

Surprise: Scientists for Obama

Let's not kid ourselves: an endorsement by scientists is unlikely to sway many voters next week. But the decision by 76 American Nobel laureates—including all three of the Americans who won one of the science prizes this year—is notable for one thing: if you think ordinary Americans believe the last eight years have been a nightmare, you should see how scientists feel.

Found? King Solomon's Mines

King Solomon, who assumed the throne of the kingdom of Israel after the death of his father King David, was renowned for his great wealth no less than for his great wisdom.

'Out!' Called the Ref. Challenge?

Memo to tennis players: because of the way the human visual system works, referees are more likely to call "out" a ball that actually lands in, rather than call "in" a ball that in fact lands outside the line.

Race and Health--or Not

In our gene-obsessed society, whenever one group differs from another on some measure of health, laypeople as well as experts reflexively leap to a genetic explanation.

Animals. Acupuncture. Huh?

As coincidence would have it, I finished reading the terrific new book, "Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science," by physicist Robert Park, on the very morning that I came across a story about using acupuncture in animals.

Be Smart, Live Longer

A number of recent studies have been finding that people who score lower on intelligence tests (notice how careful I am not to say "smarter people") tend to die earlier than those who score higher.

What Am I Bid for This Nice Ivory?

As of a few minutes ago, you could buy a lovely carving made of African-elephant ivory on eBay for $1,100, an ivory mermaid for $300, an ivory napkin ring for $99 and more: all of the ivory is described as "pre-ban," meaning it was "harvested" (such a benign word for ripping tusks out of slaughtered elephants) before the international community banned the sale of elephant ivory in 1989.

Help Mouse with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Win $1 Million.

Add another group to the growing list of those who realize that if we wait around for the current way of doing biomedical science to produce cures for disease, those cures will forever be "10 years off," as researchers in cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and just about everything else have assured me (and everyone else) for years and years.   This time it is a group focused on ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig's disease, that has decided the traditional way of finding cures...

Solar and Wind Energy in a World of $70-a-Barrel Oil: RIP?

When oil was $147 a barrel and money was sloshing through the financial system like water, renewable energy seemed like a slam dunk: wind and solar projects attracted bank loans and private-equity money, and the higher cost of generating electricity from green sources compared to fossil fuels seemed like it might soon be a thing of the past.

How Is the Arctic Like the Wicked Witch of the West?*

It wouldn't be early autumn without the annual "Arctic report card," which tracks recent changes at the top of the planet. Produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the U.S. Commerce Department, this year's report card documents a continued decrease in the extent of summer sea ice, which experts call "a dramatic illustration of the pronounced impact increased global temperatures are having on the Arctic regions." The scientists also found autumn temperatures  "a...

Stem Cells: Blindness, Yes; Parkinson's, Probably Not

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening at the annual meeting of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, at Rockefeller University, where the organizers were firm taskmasters: the scientists presenting studies had to focus not on esoterica but on translational research—that is, the kind that promises to help patients.

Tuberculosis: The Cow Didn't Do It

The animals that humans share the planet with are and have been reservoirs for all sorts of nasty diseases (deer ticks and Lyme disease; mosquitoes and malaria; Ebola and lord-knows-what wildlife reservoir), but here's one case where the beasts were accused unjustly.

Nobel Predictions: Score!

Score one for the crystal-ball gazers at Thomson Reuters Scientific! As I blogged last week, every year the editors and researchers there forecast the Nobel Prize winners, and although they struck out on physics and medicine they nailed chemistry: Roger Tsien of UC San Diego shares this year's chem Nobel with Osamu Shimomura of the Marine Biological Lab and Martin Chalfie of Columbia University for discovering and developing green fluorescent protein.

The Deadly Dozen

If you look on the bright side, when you think of the health effects of climate change you probably think of fewer sub-zero spells and, therefore, fewer cold-related illnesses and deaths.

Don't Believe What You Read, Redux

In 2005, John P. A. Ioannidis of Greece's University of Ioannina School of Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston shook up the world of science with his provocatively-titled, and frighteningly-well reasoned, paper, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False" in PLoS Medicine.

The Nobel Prizes: Place Your Bets

It may not pack quite the excitement as betting on the presidential race, but for science enthusiasts there is nothing like predicting the winners of this year's Nobel prizes.

Feeling Powerless? Do I Have a Conspiracy Theory for You

Control freaks have a bad name, but they shouldn't. When you feel you have some control over your work, you feel less stress even when the actual task is identical to when someone is standing over you ordering you to finish; when you can control, or even when you just believe (incorrectly) that you can control the duration of painful shocks, they don't hurt as much.

Urban Black Bears: Live Fast, Die Young

If it pains you to see a wild animal like these black bear cubs in a dumpster, think how they feel—especially since bears lured to urban areas by the availability of garbage die at such high rates that not even getting fat on human detritus and reproducing while still teenagers (in human years) can compensate for their higher mortality, according to the first study of overall impact of urban areas on black bears.   It has long been known that garbage attracts bears and causes them to ditch...

Fat Baby Girls and Breast Cancer

We all know two things that affect our health as adults: how we live our lives (diet, exercise, stress reduction, exposure to toxic compounds and the like) and the genetic endowment we got from our parents (genes that raise the risk of cancer, for instance).

No Freezing in the Dark or Drinking Warm Beer

Energy efficiency got a bad name at approximately the moment that a cardigan-wearing President Jimmy Carter gave a televised address to the nation in 1977 and told us all to turn down the thermostats.