This week's staff picks

Semicolons, drug development, bad hikers and more
ASBMB Today Staff
By ASBMB Today Staff
February 08, 2020

At the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, we love to read as much as we love to write. We also love to talk about what we’re reading or watching or listening to. Our office is always buzzing (either with not-so-hushed voices or the ping of email deliveries) as we share the inspiring, emotionally compelling, fascinating or simply funny articles, podcasts or videos we can’t stop reading/watching/listening to/scrolling through. So, we figured, why not keep the conversation going?

Here’s a compilation of our staff’s favorites for the week. Enjoy, and feel free to tweet us (@ASBMB) your thoughts.

Pause and effect: The past and future of punctuation marks (Florence Hazrat, History Today)

From describing your research in detail in a manuscript to sharing the key points of your work on social media, over the course of a day you may find yourself communicating in myriad written formats. It is easier than ever to communicate science to a wider audience, but complicated concepts can become inaccessible with an incorrectly placed comma. As the daughter of a retired English teacher, I have found myself in many a debate over the Oxford comma and what place semicolons have in scientific writing. Because of these experiences, it comes as no surprise that this article caught my eye. While it doesn’t necessarily settle either of those debates, this article does remind us to pause and consider how readers interact with the words on a page — or screen — and not just the concepts behind them.

— Kirsten Block, director of education, professional development and outreach

Forks Over Knives  (Netflix)

I would like to recommend “Forks Over Knives,” a documentary I watched on Netflix over the weekend. Here’s how Netflix describes it: “According to the research of two food scientists, the popularity of processed foods has led to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.” I actually enjoyed learning about the research behind the documentary.

— Robin Crawford, senior meetings coordinator

The global burden of medical innovation  (Dana Goldman and Darius Lakdawalla, Brookings)

It’s an election year and primary season is in full swing. Not surprisingly, a talking point in every candidate’s stump speech is what they’ll do to address the cost of healthcare, particularly the cost of pharmaceuticals. This week, while researching candidates and the viability of their proposed solutions to this very real problem, I came across this (in my opinion) fascinating article regarding the global burden of healthcare. It was originally published by the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California as a global health white paper. In it, the authors discuss the relationship between drug spending and drug discovery, America’s contribution to pharmaceutical innovation and profits, and policy solutions that might help bring down drug prices without harming drug discovery.

— Anand Rao, science communicator

Helvetica (Netflix)

Right about now you are probably wondering, what is her fascination with a typeface? I think it all started when I was a kid living in Germany. One of our school field trips was to a type foundry to see how printing began, and there was born my love of heavy metal machines and all the letters you could ever want. I’m fairly certain that I’m the only person I know who has watched “Helvetica” in its entirety, but I know there are others out there who will. I’m not giving up!

Lisa Schnabel, senior designer

Carolyn Bertozzi’s glycorevolution  (Lisa Jarvis, C&EN)

Stanford University professor Carolyn Bertozzi is famous for developing biorthogonal chemistry, but her work goes way beyond that. Lisa Jarvis at C&EN writes about Bertozzi’s current entrepreneurial work and why she’s so highly regarded by her numerous and successful students. I especially liked the description of Bertozzi as “a scientific slide trombone in a sea of trumpets and clarinets.”

Laurel Oldach, science communicator 

Hikers behaving badly: Appalachian Trail partying raises ire  (The Associated Press)

Well, the title of this story gives it all away. A bunch of entitled jerks are ruining everything. It’s gotten so bad that they might even change the northern endpoint. 

— Angela Hopp, communications director and ASBMB Today executive editor

The art of dying (Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker)

When I was younger, I thought more often about dying than I do now. Maybe because that pit-of-the-stomach dread of not existing was balanced by a belief that I had a while to go. Now that I’m well into the second half of my life, I’d rather think about writing. Peter Schjeldahl is clearly someone who thinks about both. Facing a terminal diagnosis, he spools through his life in beautiful unsparing prose. It’s often funny and never maudlin. It ends with “Take death for a walk in your minds, folks. Either you’ll be glad you did or, keeling over suddenly, you won’t be out anything.”

Comfort Dorn, ASBMB Today managing editor
ASBMB Today Staff
ASBMB Today Staff

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