Did You Hear the One About the Former Scientist?


A biologist walks into a comedy club…

Actually, the story begins earlier. A biologist who had abandoned academia and was working in San Francisco on contract as a computer programmer for Charles Schwab walked into a Laundromat …

The former biologist was Tim Lee. After completing his undergraduate biology degree at the University of California, San Diego, he worked at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for a while before he realized he needed a doctorate to do the interesting work. But by the time he finished his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, he had realized he hated academia.

Continue reading “Did You Hear the One About the Former Scientist?”

You’ve Conquered the Escape Room. But Can You Escape the Lab?

A physicist at the University of Illinois devised an immersive game in which teams solve science puzzles to unlock a mystery — before it’s too late.

By Kenneth Chang

URBANA, Ill. — It was 10 p.m., and we were locked in a room at the mall.

It had been a long day. I had woken up at 5 that morning to finish writing an article. Then I had spent a day talking to University of Illinois students and professors. The physics department had invited me and two other science writers to visit, part of an effort to help science and engineering students better explain what they do.

I had had a few glasses of wine at dinner.

And now here I was in a locked room at Lincoln Square Mall, straining to recall my ancient physics education in order to get out.

Continue reading “You’ve Conquered the Escape Room. But Can You Escape the Lab?”

The Elephant’s Superb Nose

By James Gorman

In the world of noses, the elephant’s trunk clearly stands out for its size, flexibility, strength and slightly creepy gripping ability.

Go ahead, try to pluck a leaf with your nostrils and see how you fare. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the elephant’s sense of smell is also outstanding.

Continue reading “The Elephant’s Superb Nose”

Look What the Cat Dragged In: Parasites

Researchers found that house cats that roam outdoors were more likely to pick up diseases than indoor cats.

By JoAnna Klein

You got a kitten. Congratulations! You’ve joined the club of more than 36 million Americans with pet cats. Now, will your kitty be an indoor cat or an outdoor cat?

You may want to keep it indoors, suggests a study published Tuesday in Biology Letters. After comparing nearly two dozen studies from around the world, researchers found that outdoor cats were nearly three times more likely to contract a parasitic infection than indoor cats.

Continue reading “Look What the Cat Dragged In: Parasites”

Like ‘Uber for Organs’: Drone Delivers Kidney to Maryland Woman

By Karen Zraick

A custom-made drone delivered a kidney this month to a Maryland woman who had waited eight years for a lifesaving transplant.

While it was only a short test flight — less than three miles in total — the team that created the drone at the University of Maryland says it was a worldwide first and a crucial step in its quest to speed up the delicate and time-sensitive task of delivering donated organs.

The team’s leader, Dr. Joseph R. Scalea, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said he pursued the project after constant frustration over organs taking too long to reach his patients. After organs are removed from a donor, they become less healthy with each passing second. He recalled one case when a kidney from Alabama took 29 hours to reach his hospital.

Continue reading “Like ‘Uber for Organs’: Drone Delivers Kidney to Maryland Woman”

How Big Tobacco Got a New Generation Hooked

It’s using the slick, high-tech disguise of vaping.

By Alex Bogusky

Twenty years ago, as a creative director, I helped create a commercial for the Truth campaign to introduce its effort to prevent cigarette smoking by young people. The spot was simply footage of tobacco executives all testifying, “I believe nicotine is not addictive.” All we did was add a laugh track.

The effect of my campaign and others was to help a generation of young people see the tobacco companies as they really were. Companies that lied not just to the government but the public, with misleading ad campaigns aimed at teenagers, their “growth market.”

Continue reading “How Big Tobacco Got a New Generation Hooked”

The Myth of Testosterone

It is not the “male sex hormone,” nor is it the key to athletic performance. Why do we insist otherwise?

By Katrina Karkazis and Rebecca M. Jordan-Young

his article has been updated to reflect news developments.

On Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that female athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone could not compete as women unless they made efforts to reduce the hormone in their bodies.

The ruling came in a case brought by the middle-distance runner Caster Semenya against the International Association of Athletics Federations that challenged longstanding myths about the presumed masculinity of testosterone and its role in the body. Her loss demonstrates just how entrenched those myths have become.

Continue reading “The Myth of Testosterone”

The Passion, and the Risks, of Mountaineering

A Sunday Review article asked “Are Mountain Climbers Selfish?” Readers respond.

To the Editor:

Re “Are Mountain Climbers Selfish?” (Sunday Review, April 28):

Francis Sanzaro’s opinion that alpinists “can’t fall out of love” with climbing is undeniably true. Climbers spend very little time worrying or even considering their death; they are in it for the grace, beauty and exhilaration of moving in the mountains.

As Mr. Sanzaro points out, accusations of selfishness usually do not come from climbers’ family and friends; it is only in the world of non-climbers that there is any controversy. For whatever reason, the spectacle of someone clinging to a mountain, and then falling, is like catnip to the public. While passion may not be dimmed by criticism, it can be spurred on by adulation and profit.

Continue reading “The Passion, and the Risks, of Mountaineering”

When One of the World’s Most Visible Athletes Is Told She Can’t Be One

I wish we heard more about women’s spectacular victories than their testosterone.

By Lindsay Crouse

Just two days after a rule was upheld that would prevent her from competing in her best event, Caster Semenya cruised to a victory over an elite field in the 800 meters in Doha on Friday.

It was a fitting — and wonderfully characteristic — response to a ruling by the Court Arbitration for Sport that will go into effect on Wednesday, prohibiting her from racing against women in that event unless she reduces the level of natural testosterone in her body. And it encapsulated how Semenya, a gay black woman from a South African township, has dealt with a decade of almost unimaginable adversity: with the kind of poise and stoicism few of us are able or ever compelled to muster.

Continue reading “When One of the World’s Most Visible Athletes Is Told She Can’t Be One”

Men Invented ‘Likability.’ Guess Who Benefits.

It was pushed by Madison Avenue and preached by self-help gurus. Then it entered politics.

By Claire Bond Potter

If the supposedly unlikable Hillary Clinton didn’t break the highest, hardest glass ceiling in 2016, she made enough cracks in it to encourage others to try again: Six women are competing for the Democratic nomination today. But guess what? We don’t seem to like them either.

As Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and others jumped into the race, each seemed to affirm the new power of women in 2019, a power that was born when President Trump was sworn into office, exploded during #MeToo and came into its own during the 2018 midterms.

Continue reading “Men Invented ‘Likability.’ Guess Who Benefits.”