This week's staff picks

Climate change in Norway, saving rare citrus, the blackest black and more
ASBMB Today Staff
By ASBMB Today Staff
February 22, 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.

Working in science was a brutal education. That’s why I left. (Brandon Taylor, BuzzFeed) 

“Do you miss being a scientist?” is a question I have been asked more than a few times since leaving the bench, which always makes me curious to hear the stories of others who are on the receiving end of this question. This essay beautifully describes some of the challenges faced by scientists of diverse backgrounds and is a reminder that there is much work to be done to make science more inclusive.

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

In the Noah’s ark of citrus, caretakers try to stave off a fruit apocalypse (Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times)

Citrus greening continues apace; no interventions have succeeded in stopping its spread in either California or Florida. The handwriting may be on the wall in the Sunshine State — where 90% of groves are estimated to be afflicted by Asian citrus psyllids and the pathogenic bacteria they deliver — and in the Golden State, where the infection in 2017 made inroads into a 1,127–square-mile quarantine zone that includes parts of Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange counties. After infected trees were discovered within two miles of the University of California, Riverside’s 22-acre Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection, curators launched a last stand by cordoning off 1,000 of the collection’s rarest specimens within a 3-acre, $3.5 million netted structure.

— John Arnst, science writer

 Their dark materials  and The secret lives of color   (both from the 99% Invisible podcast)

I heard “The secret lives of color” when it came out last year and loved learning about where pigments come from (fun/sad fact: it takes 250,000 shellfish to produce one pound of Tyrian purple dye) and how colors have been intertwined with human society. I was reminded of this lovely podcast by a new episode out last month about how a simple assumption by the makers of the super-dark substance Vantablack unexpectedly changed the art world, leading to both meaningful and delightfully petty arguments about “the pinkest pink” as well as the development of paints more black than Vantablack. Science is cool.

— Catherine Goodman, scientific editor, Journal of Biological Chemistry

The Pharmacist  (Netflix)

“The Pharmacist” is a heart-wrenching docuseries about how a personal tragedy inspired Dan Schneider, a pharmacist from Louisiana, to take a stand against opioid abuse. It’s raw. The audience is invited to bear witness to Schneider and his family’s grief. We see how his pain brought OxyContin’s devastation of his community into a new focus. And through his quest for answers and justice, the series exposes the greed and coordinated deception that fueled the opioid crisis on a national level. 

— Ally Frick, multimedia and social media content manager

Why we knock on wood (Rosemary V. Hathaway, The Conversation)

As I told the ASBMB Today team when I called dibs on this article, it, honest to God, helped me better understand my nonsuperstitious-but-still-wood-knocking self. Also, ever since reading it, I’ve been noticing just how ingrained (pun unintended but delightful still) knocking on wood is in our culture. For example, I was watching a cheerleading documentary on Netflix, and when a school leader said something about how they’re champions, multiple members of the cheer team and their coach crouched down to knock on the wood flooring of the basketball court. How odd that must have looked to people from cultures without this ritual! 

— Angela Hopp, communications director and ASBMB Today executive editor

Something is happening to Norway (Mads Nyborg Støstad and Patrick Da Silva Sæther, NRK) 

I’m a words person. But this photo/video essay from two Norwegian journalists on the effects of climate change on their country is a powerful testament to the impact of images. I found it really compelling, but be warned: It gave me nightmares about hiking in an Antarctica that resembled California.

Laurel Oldach, science communicator

Slow Burn: Watergate  (Slate podcast hosted by Leon Neyfakh)

I clearly remember the outfit Martha Mitchell wore to Tricia Nixon’s 1971 White House Rose Garden wedding, so when I heard that Mitchell was the focus of this podcast’s first episode, I had to listen. For those of you who didn’t live through Watergate, MM was the wife of Richard Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, and the host of Slow Burn likens her role to that of Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci in the current White House drama. Watergate teemed with colorful characters, many long forgotten, and I look forward to getting reacquainted as I listen to the remaining episodes.  For those of you too young to have witnessed Watergate, this podcast is a comforting reminder that the republic is always teetering. 

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

This article was written by a member or members of the ASBMB Today staff.

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