Category Archives: Science

Cicada Songs, Ebola Dreams

I’ve read several popular books about diseases recently: Rabid, The Hot ZoneSmallpoxDisease, Spillover, and  Deadly Outbreaks. More books on a single topic than usual, but not with any project in mind. It just happened, the way it happens to folks who start to read books by Michael Connelly or Rex Stout. Several focussed on diseases that leap from animals to humans (“zoonotic” diseases). No curious person could resist daydreaming about some of the unsolved mysteries one encounters when reading about diseases like Ebola and Marburg. You play detective in your brain and then you almost certainly come up with your own crackpot theory, just like I did. Continue reading →

Goats and Pigs, Iodine and Thiamine: a Hypothesis

It’s easy to decide that iodine deficiency plays some role in neurological diseases like ALS and Alzheimers. For over fifty years we’ve known that you’re much likelier to get one of these diseases if you spent your infancy in a region that’s deficient in iodine. Another example: exposure to the fungicide maneb dramatically increases the chances of getting a neurological disease from a toxin; maneb works by disrupting the use of iodine in animals. Our instincts shout that iodine must be involved; but we can’t say it out loud. Although iodine deficiency remains the number one cause of mental retardation in the world, we can’t prove it has a role in Alzheimer’s or ALS. No one has found a smoking gun. Continue reading →

Nearing Pond Scum Time

I’ve been working on a book about the various theories people use to explain the causes of ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s called “Revenge of the Pond Scum,” for reasons that may not be obvious at first. A dozen scientists and doctors have read sections relating to their specialties or theories and suggested a few minor changes, which I happily made. One of those scientists, who coordinates the efforts of several university teams studying ALS said my book “helped me to think about ALS.” Another said “It’s a very, very fascinating book indeed!” Continue reading →

Science Writers’ Group

Yesterday I attended a little get together for science writers in Boulder. I may not have paid close enough attention to the instructions, however. I remembered it was at one o’clock at a restaurant called the “brewing something.” Luckily, the address was memorable: 2525 Arapahoe. I googled it, the arrow pointed a  block or so east of famous McGuckin’s Hardware which I have frequented for decades. That made sense: McGuckin’s is on Folsom, which is the same as 24th Street. A block or so east of McGuckin’s there must be a new brew pub.  At 12:30  I left Broomfield and aimed for Boulder, leaving myself plenty of time to drop off my Timex for a battery replacement on the way. Continue reading →

The Indiana Jones of Iodine

A review of “The Iodine Trail: Exploring Iodine Deficiency and its Prevention around the World” by John B. Stanbury. Review by Kenn Amdahl

John Stanbury is the Indiana Jones of iodine researchers; his life would make a great movie. Over decades, he traveled to dozens of countries, meeting stars and dictators and local tribesmen while documenting and studying the effects of iodine deficiency in local populations. This book is only partly about the science. It feels more like his journal, his letters, his notes. If you read it with the mind set that you have opened a box of notes that Indiana Jones’ transcribed while on adventure and can use those to write the blockbuster screenplay, you’ll love it. If you’re hoping for an action packed adventure story itself, or a scientific abstract about iodine deficiency, you’ll be disappointed. It’s sort of in between. Continue reading →

Write, Re-write, Fact check, THEN edit

When you write a nonfiction book containing many facts and descriptions of other people’s theories along with your own experiences, you just about have to tackle the project in phases. You write it, then you rewrite it, you check your facts, you rewrite again, then you edit. After all that, you send it to “final readers” who mock your use of passive verbs and goofy sentence constructions. Based on that, you rewrite again. Then you get someone else to edit it for grammar and typos that you miss because you’ve been staring at the same words for so many months. After that, you start sending copies to people for blurbs and reviews.

The book I’m working on now, Revenge of the Pond Scum, is such a book. Continue reading →

The Color Green

Every so often, I google my own name. Mostly this is to locate people who have scanned one of my books and are selling the PDF without the inconvenience of paying me a royalty. I am not kind to those people. I get too many hits (some days 50,000, some days 12,000. No idea why it changes so dramatically)  to look at each of them (and let’s face it, most of them come from this website and Facebook). So I restrict most searches to mentions made within the last week. Today’s search contained some eye-openers. Continue reading →