Sharon Begley

Politicians Really Are Prone to Hypocrisy

Could the seemingly inexhaustible supply of high-profile hypocrites reflect the fact that the media covers the Richard Blumenthals of the world and not your philandering, church-deacon neighbor? In a word, no. They are worse than the rest of us.

DNA: Congress on the Case

The claims of DNA testing companies such as those I describe here are about to get some much-needed scrutiny. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep.

The Thinking Person's Guide to Easing Tourette's

Add Tourette syndrome to the list of psychiatric and neurological disorders that you may be able to think your way out of.That is only a slight exaggeration, but then emphasis is on "slight." The recognition that mental illnesses are biological diseases of the brain is a welcome change from the medieval notion that they are evidence of witchcraft, demonic possession, "refrigerator mothers," and the like, but the conclusion that scientists leapt to—that the only effective treatments for...

Why DNA Doesn't Always Predict Disease

The latest research to throw cold water on the crystal-ball powers of DNA is a paper in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It starts out as a standard genomewide association study (GWAS) in which scientists sequence genomes of people with and without particular diseases and identify genetic variants associated with those illnesses.

Louisiana Considers Bill to Restrict Lawsuits

Just as Louisiana politicians are about to get an up-close-and-personal look at the BP oil spill (it is approaching the shores an hour's drive from Baton Rouge, the state capital), they are considering a bill to "kneecap" all university environmental-law clinics in the state, which have led the way in challenging the historically cozy relationship between state politicians and the petrochemical industry.

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

Bill McKibben doesn't pretend that if we can just rein in our greenhouse-gas emissions everything will be fine. Government actions are so far short of what's needed to avert catastrophic climate change, he says, as to warrant a "don't bother." The message runs counter to that of virtually every green group, which lobbies for both individual action and government policy to control greenhouse emissions.

The Hidden Costs of Extra-Value Meals

See Golden Arches, save less? No, not because we shell out $7.99 for meals we could make at home for $3, but because of how our environment subliminally affects our behavior.

Fat DNA Is Not Destiny

It was enough to make people who believe they have "fat genes" give up. Among 438 adolescents who carry a form of the gene called FTO (fat mass- and obesity-associated) linked to obesity, there was no effect of physical activity on body mass index, found a 2009 study that followed them from infancy to age 15: teens who carry the obesity form of the FTO gene and exercised were no less obese than teens who carry the gene and were couch potatoes.

Court Declares Two Gene Patents Invalid

When the ACLU, joined by a long list of medical and genetics groups, sued to invalidate patents on human genes, the lawyers I spoke to for my recent column were almost unanimous in saying the plaintiffs didn't have a prayer, while the scientists said their arguments were compelling.

Another Reason to Take SAT Prep: Get More for Your Eggs

A younger friend had mentioned that when she was an undergraduate at a public college her eggs were worth $3,000 (judging by what ads placed by fertility clinics in the student paper offered), but when she went to Harvard and then Columbia (as a grad student) they were suddenly worth $8,000.

Exercise and Weight Loss: Abandon All Hope

That sound you hear is another illusion shattering. The twin pillars of advice about maintaining a healthy weight, or losing enough weight to get back to where you should be, are diet and exercise, as Claudia Kalb ably explains in her article on childhood obesity.

What Would Jesus Eat? Supersizing the Last Supper

Domenico Ghirlandaio (detail) "The Last Supper" (c. 1486) / WGA Add one more to the long list of reasons for childhood obesity—from car-centered suburbs to supersizing—that Claudia Kalb described so well in her recent story: depictions of the Last Supper.

Harry Smith's CBS Colonoscopy: Both Too Much and Too Little Information

Finally, someone has said loudly and clearly that the emperor has no clothes—or, more specifically, that the colonoscopy that Harry Smith of the CBS Early Show got, live, on the program a week ago amounted to cheerleading for a procedure whose value is much less than the public has been led to believe.