This week's staff picks

ASBMB Today Staff
By ASBMB Today Staff
March 07, 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.

She had a loud, nonstop crunching noise in her head that doctors couldn’t quiet (Sandra G. Boodman, Washington Post)

Growing up, I had recurring middle ear infections. Besides the acute discomfort they caused, they also resulted in a very loyal tinnitus with sometimes kaleidoscopic sound impressions, ranging from the usual static high-pitched squeak to sudden clicks and faint percussion beats. So this article immediately got my attention. First, I was reminded that as annoying as they sometimes may be, my hearing problems are comparatively mild. But I also learned that the tiny bones in the middle ear can actually fracture (for example, when one applies too much pressure to the ear). And most of all, the piece makes again the case that it is invaluable to have a medical professional who takes the time to listen before making a diagnosis.

 — Martin Spiering, technical editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research

Journey to the Microcosmos (YouTube)

The world is large and full of insurmountable problems, and I often feel small and insignificant. At times like these, I’m soothed by the fascinating complexity of things even smaller and more insignificant! This YouTube channel is full of brief, stunningly produced glimpses of the microscopic world and its creatures. The videos are narrated with a nature documentarian’s spellbinding flair for weaving stories out of the surprisingly familiar behaviors of these distant genetic cousins of ours. I love to watch with friends and debate over which single-celled organism would win in a fight — or a tiny beauty pageant. If (like me) you find yourself assigning personalities to inanimate objects or picking favorites when watching raindrops race down a window, I suspect you’ll love this channel as well.

 — Vic De Luz, publications department executive assistant

Bubonic plague was so deadly an English village quarantined itself to save others  (Zach Purser Brown, Washington Post)

This is an interesting story of self-sacrifice and unprecedented foresight to stop a pandemic in 17th-century England.

 — Benjamin Corb, public affairs director 

Taking Portraits of Strangers (featuring Gabrielle Motola) (Sean Tucker, YouTube)

One of my favorite photographers on YouTube, Sean Tucker, has recently started interviewing peers and colleagues on his channel (on subjects like balancing your photography with a busy life, finding a direction in your photography, law and ethics in street photography, etc.). This interview with portrait and travel photographer Gabrielle Motola is great for many reasons, but I particularly like her explanation of how she had to learn to “get out of her own way” when it comes to talking with strangers. As someone who would love to photograph people I don’t already know, I could learn a lot from Motola’s approach to connecting with her subjects.

 — Emily Huff, publications manager for Molecular & Cellular Proteomics

I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. (Lauren Hough, Huffington Post)

I don’t even really know what to say about this essay. It’s been too long since I read something like it — I at least know that. It lacks a clear timeline, which reflects the blur of the labor described. As an editor, I instinctively wanted to add subheadings, but those too would provide artificial definition where there was none. It is thick with half-memories of the gross and despicable products of the pathological aphorism “The customer is always right.” I now know I should tip cable techs.

 — Angela Hopp, communications director and ASBMB Today executive editor 

The Mind, Explained (Netflix)

I keep rewatching this fascinating limited series about how our mind works, like why it’s important that we dream even though the dreams themselves are meaningless and how psychedelics like ayahuasca could literally change your mind. The series is divided into five 20-minute segments loaded with snazzy visuals and narrated by the lovely Emma Stone — perfect to watch during my commute on the D.C. Metro. 

 — Saddiq Zahari, Molecular & Cellular Proteomics editor for manuscript integrity

Super Science Friends (Brett Jubinville, YouTube)

This animated series is about a group of time-traveling super-powered scientists assembled by Winston Churchill in a last-ditch effort to turn the tides of WWII. The team includes Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Tapputi and a teenage clone of Albert Einstein. Episodes in the series reimagine important moments like Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity and Tesla’s rivalry with Thomas Edison.

 — Stephanie Paxson, diversity and undergraduate education coordinator 

Science as Story (Creative Nonfiction)

Creative Nonfiction is just wonderful. (Credit to Angela Hopp for introducing me to it!) I’m using this staff pick to share its program called “Science as Story,” which is “designed to showcase how narrative can help us understand and appreciate the sciences’ impact on our daily lives.” The program includes five public lectures (that you can see if you’ll be in Pittsburgh … which I really should be more often to visit my adorable nieces), five Q&As in-person and streamed online, and a science writing fellowship from April 22 to May 27 (also in Pittsburgh). For those interested, the writing fellowship is free and designed for “scientists seeking to explore narrative, or anyone exploring ways to tell a science-focused story.” The deadline to apply for the fellowship is 11:59 p.m., March 8 (that’s tomorrow). Happy writing!

 — Ally Frick, multimedia and social media content manager

Comfort food: Welsh cookies (P.J. Hamel, King Arthur Flour)

A small but very proud contingent of my ancestors came from Wales, and luckily for me, they’re the ones who taught my Grandma how to bake. She’s 90 now but still cranks out innumerable Welsh cookies for Christmas. My sister recently made some for St. David’s Day, the feast of the patron saint of Wales, which falls at the beginning of March. Soft, chewy and raisin-studded, they’re a bit like a cross between a cookie and an English muffin. If you, like me are, feeling a little nostalgic for simpler times, why not try them out?

Serve next to a vase of daffodils. Spring is coming.

 — Laurel Oldach, science communicator

(Note: Some of these links require subscriptions.)
ASBMB Today Staff
ASBMB Today Staff

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