Smartphone psychiatry? How NIMH director Tom Insel turned from brain scanners to social tech

Around this time, Insel told me recently, he’d just finished a talk describing the wonderful things the NIMH was discovering about the brain when a man in the audience said, “You don’t get it.” “Excuse me?,” Insel said. “I don’t get what?” “Our house is on fire,” the man said, “and you’re telling us about […]

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On Ending Blindness

I spent much of last winter working on a story about what it might take to end global blindness. I’m tickled to see the result now on and inside the cover of September’s National Geographic. The four-section story is about determination in the face of tough odds. Here’s a snip from the first section, about gene therapy fashioned by a group led by […]

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“He Thinks He’s Untouchable”. Buzzfeed outs another serial harasser. 

Accountability journalism ain’t quite dead yet. Azeen Ghorayshi with another great scoop on horrid behavior. One of the employees was an administrator whom Katze had hired, at an unusually high salary, on the implicit condition that she submit to his sexual demands. He personally rewarded this woman, known as Mary Roe in some court documents, with […]

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The Selfish Gene is a static meme, and that ain’t science

Richard Dawkins’s “The Selfish Gene,” book and meme, is now 40 years old. Has it served its purpose? And how do we talk about whether it has? When I argued not long ago that his ‘selfish-gene’ model obscures richer emerging views of genetics and evolution, the responses ranged from enthusiastic agreement to objections both civil and savage. I naturally […]

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Two Sharp Takes on Mukherjee’s The Gene

Nathaniel Comfort, “Genes Are Overrated”: Mukherjee gives us a Whig history of the gene, told with verve and color, if not scrupulous accuracy. The gene, he tells us, was first described by the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel, in the mid-19th century. Tragically, no one noticed—not even the great Charles Darwin. “If Darwin had actually read” the reference […]

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How Failure Is Moving Science Forward

Psychology, biomedicine and numerous other fields of science have fallen into a crisis of confidence recently, after seminal findings could not be replicated in subsequent studies. These widespread problems with reproducibility underscore a problem that I discussed here last year — namely, that science is really, really hard. Even relatively straightforward questions cannot be definitively […]

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Brooke Borel’s strange story about Kevin Folta interviewing himself, among other (mis)adventures

  The Kevin Folta/GMO/Monsanto/Right-to-Know/conflict-of-interest variety show and bazaar — a saga about a food scientist who took $25,000 from Monsanto without disclosing he did so but seems to have thought that was probably more or less okay — just got more bizarre, as Brooke Borel describes in a strange and deftly told story in Buzzfeed. This is conflict-of-interest as tragicomedy. I […]

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