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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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A new book takes science to task, and it couldn’t come at a better time

Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images

As a science journalist and former researcher, I was terrified by British psychologist Stuart Ritchie’s new book, . Ritchie lays out all of the ways in which modern science has failed, with a plethora of shocking and embarrassing examples, many involving famous studies. He lists negligence in scientific methods, bias in the search for answers, hyping up of a study’s results, and flat-out fraud as being science’s four horsemen of the apocalypse, and he cites scandal after scandal in the fields of medicine, biology, and especially his own discipline of psychology as evidence. …


New research from Johns Hopkins University shed light on one of the most bizarre coronavirus mysteries: why many people with Covid-19 lose their sense of smell. This phenomenon, known as anosmia, was documented in up to 57% of Covid-19 patients in one study, but little was known about its cause. Until now: As Dana Smith writes at the Medium Coronavirus Blog, the loss of smell may be linked to the cells that make up the nose’s odor-detecting areas. They have significantly more ACE2 receptors — crucial for the coronavirus to enter cells — than other cells in the nose.

Scary…


Photography: Meron Menghistab

Immunologist and new mother Megan O’Connor works nonstop to help her team move their Covid-19 vaccine forward

Around mid-March, when the novel coronavirus was beginning to make its way through the U.S., Megan O’Connor had just returned to work after six months of maternity leave.

Even in the weeks after she had her baby daughter, O’Connor, an immunologist, hadn’t stopped working. “Science doesn’t stop just because you are on a break,” she says. In spare moments while taking care of her newborn, O’Connor spent time at home analyzing experimental data and writing grants. Maternity leave felt isolating for her, and O’Connor says she was eager to go back to work and reclaim her identity as a scientist.


The world may be at a standstill, but science marches on

Environmentalist taking water sample
Environmentalist taking water sample
Photo: Sean Justice/Getty Images

Along with practically everything else, the pandemic has put a moratorium on countless field studies and clinical trials that aren’t Covid-19-related. For example, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies’ fieldwork involving mapping the disrupted circadian rhythms of night-shift workers like firefighters had to be put on hold because firefighters are needed as first responders to viral outbreaks now. At Cornell University, a study on how insects fly involving genetically engineered fruit flies came to a halt when the physics labs were shuttered, and a month’s worth of fly breeding had to be thrown out.

Some of these setbacks could cause…


A medical ethicist dives into the millions of dollars raised for risky medical treatments

Image: Z Wei/Getty

As I was shopping in my small Connecticut town this week, I kept running into people raising money. The sailing team was asking for donations in front of the supermarket. The gymnastics team was fundraising with a car wash. A veterans group was fundraising in front of the hardware store. Each group represented a well-established, 21st-century form of crowdsourcing: people asking for financial support from neighbors, strangers, and passersby.

There is nothing wrong with such fundraising. I skipped the car wash, but I did throw a few dollars toward the sailors and the vets. Why? While I did not know…


Reasonable Doubt

Experts think lucid dreaming could be therapeutic. How to achieve the dream state is complicated.

Credit: fromdrawing/Moment/Getty

In late January 2019, roughly half the world’s dream researchers — about 50 people — gathered on the sixth floor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) media lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the first-ever “Dream Engineering” workshop hosted by the MIT Dream Lab, which was formed a year and a half ago.

One theme of the two-day workshop was lucid dreaming — a phenomena where people realize they’re having a dream while they’re dreaming. “It’s such an exhilarating feeling to lucid dream. It’s like a drug—it’s that powerful,” says Tore Nielsen, a professor of psychiatry at the University…


A dynamo young researcher has discovered that a pill could help address the loneliness epidemic and the aggression that often comes with it

Credit: ibreakstock/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Loneliness was once seen as a minor social woe — a misfortune affecting nursing home patients and extreme introverts — but lately, researchers have begun to view it as something of a public health crisis. Loneliness seems to exacerbate dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, even cancer. It’s as bad for one’s health as a pack-a-day smoking habit. Meanwhile, at least one in four Americans today report that they don’t feel close to people, and those numbers appear to be worsening.

Despite a growing body of research into the problem, we’re still fumbling for solutions. Treatments fall into four main categories…

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