Gay Genes, Death Papers, Parasites, Neanderthals, & Anja Niedringhaus. My Reads of the Week

An Afghan walks in a river bed. Photo by the late Anja Niedringhaus
An Afghan walks in a river bed. Photo by the late Anja Niedringhaus

The world has lost a truly splendid photographer — Anja Niedringhaus, murdered this week in Afghanistan. This was a determined, brave journalist and an unbelievably sensitive artist, finely attuned to both the technical demands and possibilities of every image and, even more exquisitely, the humanity of those in the frame. This is a terrible, terrible loss.  Afghanistan: Seen Through the Lens of Anja Niedringhaus, shows some of her stunning work. The BBC also has a great selection, as does Niedringhaus’s own site. Below is a video tribute from her AP colleagues. She made it easy for them: It’s just her photos, and it’s amazing. They don’t make many like this. 

Sympathies and wishes for strong recovery for her colleague Kathy Gannon, who was also shot, and wounded, in the same attack.


Top Tier

Two splendid reads in the New Yorker: From a new contributor there, Kathryn Schulz, a brilliant and funny look at death certificates; and veteran John McPhee on his adventures and misadventures in interviewing. (Paywall. What? You’re not a subscriber to The New Yorker? You should fix that. Seriously.)

An Adaptation From ‘Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,’ by Michael Lewis. Another astounding romp from Michael Lewis. Here again you see the heart of the Lewis magic: Make action about agency. Somebody wants something. What will they do to get it?

And good GOD this is rich stuff: Erica Wagner on the startlingly frank neurosurgeon Henry Marsh: Life and death at his fingertips: watching a brain surgeon at work

The Drugging of the American Boy – Esquire. How ADHD ran amok.

A Patient in Minnesota Has Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever. The invaluable Maryn McKenna on hemorrhagic fevers on planes, panic, safety, and WTF you should actually worry about.

The Murders at the Lake Michael Hall and Texas Monthly bring the big, as only Texas Monthly and a handful of others can.

Wiring the Brain: Gay genes? Yeah, but no, well kind of… but, so what? by Kevin Mitchell. A reminder we are all mutants, and what that means.

This is how to give a TED talk. Ed Yong: Suicidal crickets, zombie roaches and other parasite tales. Ed also this week informs us of The Worst Places To Get Stung By A Bee: Nostril, Lip, Penis  In case you have a choice.


Arts, crafts, culture, politics

Philip Seymour Hoffman On Acting: An ‘Exhausting’ And ‘Satisfying’ Art : NPR. A beautiful thing, this.

Want to write great narrative? Study screenwriting. Fabulous advice for nonfiction writers struggling (as we all do) to shape stories.

Cynicism in Public Life Contest, John Roberts Edition. A find critique by James Fallows.

Saturday Night Live turned me into a man. I’m a black female scientist. Oops. Great stuff from Dr. Rubidium


Mind, Brain, & Behavior

Why? The Columbine killers’ true intent. A fine book trailer about a book I’m now reading, riveted, moved, and deeply impressed.

Bipolar disorder ravaged my friend’s life – Kristin Ohlson. I can hardly overstate how much I like this piece. Riveting read of a good man’s breakdown, a friend’s failed efforts to save him, and the horrific way our health-care system leaves the mentally ill behind.

Should a robot decide when to kill? It gets complicated. (Mind and brain category? This is about decisions made without those.)

Our most confident memories can be completely wrong. The vagaries of certainty meet the vagaries of memory.

Blazing Trails in Brain Science, a profile of National Institute of Health director Thomas Insel.

Flying Through Inner Space. Carl Zimmer takes you zipping through the brain.

Can brain imaging tell us much about the mind? Catherine Loveday thinks not. Matt Wall says Oh yes it does.


Evolution, genetics, anthropology

Human evolution: The Neanderthal in the family. Ewen Callaway on the disruptive power of really old DNA.

Fun map shows how the upright ape conquered the world. That would be us.

I had my DNA analyzed, and all I got was this lousy story | Ars Technica. Plus some sorta bad news he expected.

An Ancient Evolutionary Advantage?  Emily Willingham with a primer on a new analysis of what Neanderthal genes may have done for us.


Other science-y goodness

“Given this kind of write-up, I was ready to really like this paper.”  Quite a few studies show that early childhood interventions pay off later in improved health. Anne Buchanan finds this isn’t one of them.

Simple Invention For Sealing Gunshot Wounds Gets FDA Approval | Popular Science Amazing little invention, may save many a life.