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Profiles in Science

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Richard Ellis on the Art of Ocean Life

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

Richard Ellis was playing tennis in Little Compton, R.I., during the summer of “Jaws” when he got a call from fishermen in nearby Sakonnet. They had a dead shark. Would he like to come down to the pier?

Mr. Ellis, a painter and aspiring naturalist who had designed exhibits for the American Museum of Natural History, including its iconic blue whale, hesitated. He already had lots of material for a book he was writing about sharks. The big fish was probably just a sandbar shark, or a blue.

Read William J. Broad’s Article »

Linda Fried on Frailty and Aging

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

The signal public health achievement of the 20th century was the increase of the human life span. Now, as that achievement raises the proportion of the aged around the world, what once seemed an unalloyed blessing is too often regarded as a burden — a financial burden, a health care burden, even a social burden.

“It’s nuts,” said Dr. Linda P. Fried. “To assume defeat from what every one of us as individuals wants suggests we’re not asking the right questions.”

Read Karen Pennar’s Article »

Elizabeth Spelke on Babies and Human Knowledge

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

Seated in a cheerfully cramped monitoring room at the Harvard University Laboratory for Developmental Studies, Elizabeth S. Spelke, a professor of psychology and a pre-eminent researcher of the basic ingredient list from which all human knowledge is constructed, looked on expectantly as her students prepared a boisterous 8-month-old girl with dark curly hair for the onerous task of watching cartoons.

Read Natalie Angier’s Article »

Arnold Relman/Marcia Angell on Health Care Reform

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

The old crusaders are getting just a little creaky: Dr. Arnold S. Relman, 88, has a hearing aid and the hint of a tremor; Dr. Marcia Angell, 72, osteoporosis and arthritic hands. But their voices are as strong as ever.

Colleagues for decades, late-life romantic partners, the pair has occasionally, wistfully, been called American medicine’s royal couple — as if that contentious Tower of Babel could ever support such a topper. In fact, controversy and some considerably less complimentary labels have dogged them as well.

Read Abigail Zuger’s Article »

Michel Sidibé on AIDS and Social Change

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

Shortly after Michel Sidibé became executive director of U.N.AIDS, a court in Senegal sentenced nine gay men, all AIDS educators, to eight years in prison for “unnatural acts.”

Mr. Sidibe flew to Senegal to ask its aging president, Abdoulaye Wade, to pardon the men.

Mr. Sidibé, the son of a Muslim politician from Mali and a white French Catholic, asked the president — who is married to a white Frenchwoman — if he had ever suffered discrimination.

Read Donald McNeil’s Article »

Eric Lander on Math, Genetics and Collaboration

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

His Ph.D. is in pure mathematics, in a subfield so esoteric and specialized that even if someone gets a great result, it can be appreciated by only a few dozen people in the entire world. But he left that world behind and, with no formal training, entered another: the world of molecular biology, medicine and genomics.

As founding director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T., he heads a biology empire and raises money from billionaires.

Read Gina Kolata’s Article »

Nora Volkow on Addiction and the Brain

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

From heroin and cocaine to sex and lies, Tetris and the ponies, the spectrum of human addictions is vast. But for Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the neuroscientist in charge of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, they all boil down to pretty much the same thing.

She must say it a dozen times a day: Addiction is all about the dopamine. The pleasure, pain and devilish problem of control are simply the detritus left by waves of this little molecule surging and retreating deep in the brain.

Read Abigail Zuger’s Article »

Richard Dawkins on Evolution and Atheism

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

You walk out of a soft-falling rain into the living room of an Oxford don, with great walls of books, handsome art and, on the far side of the room, graceful windows onto a luxuriant garden.

Does this man, arguably the world’s most influential evolutionary biologist, spend most of his time here or in the field? Prof. Richard Dawkins smiles faintly. He did not find fame spending dusty days picking at shale in search of ancient trilobites.

Read Michael Powell’s Article »

Steven Pinker on Violence, Language and Twitter

By Thomas Lin and Tony Cenicola

Steven Pinker was a 15-year-old anarchist. He didn’t think people needed a police force to keep the peace. Governments caused the very problems they were supposed to solve.

Besides, it was 1969, said Dr. Pinker, who is now a 57-year-old psychologist at Harvard. “If you weren’t an anarchist,” he said, “you couldn’t get a date.”

At the dinner table, he argued with his parents about human nature.

Read Carl Zimmer’s Article »

Susan Desmond-Hellmann on Translational Science and Leadership

By Thomas Lin and Jim Wilson

The phone call, at home one night last week, came from a student seeking donations for the University of California, San Francisco.

“Well,” Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann told the caller, “I’m actually the chancellor at U.C.S.F.”

The student, seemingly unaware that chancellor meant head of the university, kept up her pitch: The doctor and her husband had given $5,000 in the past, so how about another donation?

Read Denise Grady’s Article »

Michael Gazzaniga on the Brain’s Split Personality

By Thomas Lin and Jim Wilson

The scientists exchanged one last look and held their breath.

Everything was ready. The electrode was in place, threaded between the two hemispheres of a living cat’s brain; the instruments were tuned to pick up the chatter passing from one half to the other. The only thing left was to listen for that electronic whisper, the brain’s own internal code.

The amplifier hissed — the three scientists expectantly leaning closer — and out it came, loud and clear.

Read Benedict Carey’s Article »

 

Vue d`un Pont à l`Entrée de Paramatta (Nouvelle Galles du Sud)

Louis Auguste de Sainson, Vue d`un Pont à l`Entrée de Paramatta (Nouvelle Galles du Sud)

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