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Beyond the Book Articles
Medicine, Science and Tech

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Ethnology (01/13)
Ethnology is a section of anthropology that analyzes the differences between religion, language, technologies and other social structures of people as categorized by race, nationality or ethnicity. Its goals are broad – to understand the history of human beings and the creation of our various social norms (as defined by race, ...
Clockwork (10/12)
At the heart of Angelmaker is an immensely intricate clockwork device. When we hear the word 'clockwork' we generally think of old-fashioned non-digital timepieces. The term, however, refers to any mechanical device that uses a combination of springs and gears to function. In addition to wind-up watches and clocks, wind-up toys, old ...
Achondroplasia (07/12)
In Rachel DeWoskin's novel, Big Girl Small, Judy Lohden has achondroplasia, a genetic bone growth disorder that results in short-limbed dwarfism (responsible for about 70% of all dwarfism cases). The word 'achondroplasia' literally means 'without cartilage formation,' however, the term is a bit of a misnomer as the body of a person with ...
Alzheimer's Disease & Alice LaPlante (05/12)
Alzheimer's Disease
For more information about Alzheimer's, see the backstory to Still Alice.

Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante's debut novel, Turn of Mind has received an overwhelming amount of praise and has been selected by Indie Booksellers for the July 2011 Indie Next List.

Though this is her first novel, LaPlante is certainly ...
What is Cerebral Palsy? (05/12)
Melody has cerebral palsy. So does Mark, my camp counselor friend. Both of them are in wheelchairs, and are unable to walk, and need aid to talk and eat. But one of the children at the camp where I worked has cerebral palsy and he can walk and talk and eat just fine.

So then, what is cerebral palsy exactly?

Cerebral palsy ...
Amnesia (02/12)
Amnesia, also known as 'amnestic syndrome,' refers to a person's inability to retrieve memories or pieces of information from the brain and occurs when the areas of the brain responsible for recovering stored information become compromised by physical or psychological damage.

Several structures located deep within the brain, such ...
Treating Pedophiles (02/12)
Margaux Fragoso says in the afterword of Tiger, Tiger that one of the reasons she wrote the book was to bring attention to the need for treatment of pedophiles. The current system focuses on the treatment of the child victims, and punishment for the perpetrators. As a victim herself, she believes the best thing would be to find a way ...
Treatment of the Mentally Ill (02/12)
In Andrew Taylor's The Anatomy of Ghosts, while recovering from his ordeal, Frank Oldershaw is first held at a home for the mentally disturbed. Although the process used to treat him there seems brutal and oppressive to modern sensibilities, for the time period it was considered quite advanced and progressive.

Throughout the ...
The Frontiers of Alzheimer's Research (11/11)
The World Alzheimer Report estimates that there are upwards of 35 million people living with dementia worldwide, two-thirds of whom are women, with Alzheimer's accounting for about two-thirds of cases. By 2050 it is expected that 115 million people will be living with dementia.

In the United States there are approximately 5.3 million...
Heterochromia (11/11)
Pearl has one brown eye and one blue eye. Amiel says to her that this means 'tu eres de dos mundos. You are of two worlds.' Pearl's uncle says it means that she can see fairies and peaceful ghosts.


But what is it exactly?

Heterochromia simply means a difference in coloration and is caused by a relative excess or lack ...

Schizophrenia (09/11)
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that distorts a person's sense of reality. It impedes a person's ability to regulate his or her emotions and often makes socializing, decision making and logical thinking very difficult. As set forth by the US National Library of Medicine, there are multiple kinds of ...
Human Microbes (08/11)
In an article in The Daily Telegraph, Dr. Roy Sleator, a lecturer at Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland, states that, 'We are, in essence, only 10 percent human. The rest is pure microbe.' In a June 2011 report, National Public Radio's Science Desk Correspondent, Robert Krulwich, agrees. Yes, he says, our bodies do indeed consist of...
Peanuts and Anaphylaxis (04/11)
When asked in an interview if there was any particular event that inspired Mr. Peanut, Adam Ross responded that: 'In 1995, my father told me the strangest, most suspicious story about my cousin, who had severe peanut allergies and was also morbidly obese. According to her husband, he arrived home to find her sitting at the kitchen ...
Flotation Tanks (04/11)
'My head will keep on racing throughout this, I have no doubt,' declares the speaker at the beginning of 'Saturday Teatime' as she embarks on her first experience in the device known as a flotation tank, sensory deprivation tank, or isolation tank. And as she predicts, her thoughts do indeed surge in multiple directions, dredging up ...
Social Darwinism (04/11)
It may seem that the concept of globalization is a very new one, and that the growth of free trade and its accompanying controversy belong to our era alone. In fact, the 1860s saw an explosion of trade between nations, accompanied by a doctrine of free markets unbridled by government intervention. Unlike today, though, many of the...
The Rockefeller Institute & The History of Penicillin (04/11)
The Rockefeller Institute
The Rockefeller Institute features prominently in A Fierce Radiance. While Dr. James Stanton and the other researchers depicted in the novel are fictional, the Institute is a real place dedicated to biomedical research.   It was founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller Sr., philanthropist and owner ...
The Googol, the Googolplex and Other Really Big Numbers (04/11)

Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real 'wow, that's big,' time... Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we're trying to get across here.
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the ...

Prime Numbers (04/11)
Prime numbers are apparently a big deal in the math world - a place I have visited but not inhabited often. Most of us probably remember that prime numbers are numbers only divisible by themselves and 1, but otherwise don't know (or care) much about them.

The ancient Greeks were the first to give serious study to prime numbers, as ...
Mesothelioma & Familial Dysautonomia (04/11)
Two devastating diseases precipitate the health care crises of So Much for That. Glynis develops mesothelioma, a type of invasive cancer that is associated with exposure to asbestos. This type of cancer typically starts in the lungs but can affect the entire mesothelium - the tissue that lines many internal organs. Not only is ...
HPV Vaccines (03/11)
Cervical cancer, the disease that killed Henrietta Lacks, strikes 11,000-13,000 women in the United States every year, killing 4,000. While the Pap smear (developed by Greek scientist Georgio Papanikolaou) remains the most widely used and effective method for detecting pre-cancerous cells on the cervix, a new vaccine protects women from ...
Artificial Photosynthesis (03/11)
Much of the science upon which Beard stakes his reputation (even though he may have gleaned it unethically) deals with the concept of artificial photosynthesis, a real proposed solution to energy consumption problems, one that Beard himself explains eloquently and convincingly in a speech to a group of businesspeople and investors. ...
It's All Relative (03/11)
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is, at its heart, about frames of reference. If I were in a dark, windowless train with no bumps that was going in one direction at a constant speed, then I would think I was standing still, but my sister on the train platform would see me speeding away from her. According to Einstein, if I then looked...
Is Perpetual Motion Just a "Dream?" (02/11)
In The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Prospero claims to have created a perpetual motion engine that can run his Zeppelin indefinitely; supposedly, it will never run out of energy, and will never need a new influx of energy. Is that possible in the real world? According to scientists, no. That doesn't mean that mankind hasn't tried to produce...
Traumatic Brain Injury (02/11)
Tai's fellow investigator and sometimes-bodyguard, Trey Seaver, is coping with the cognitive changes resulting from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that he received in a car accident which damaged his frontal lobe. While he has no lasting motor skill injuries, he is unable to display a normal range of emotions, and can be 'triggered' into a ...
Evolutionary Ideas Before Darwin (11/10)
The theory of evolution states that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor; complex creatures evolve over a long period of time from simpler organisms. Evolution is not concerned with the origin of Earth or of the Universe, but attempts to explain why different living things have developed and diversified since life ...
Too Much Happiness=Ecstasy? (11/10)
Munro's stories often contain mysterious elements that deepen their appeal, leaving the reader with something extra to savor, like a fine mint after an especially flavorful dinner. No story in the collection better exemplifies this than 'Too Much Happiness,' a tale brimming with sadness that nonetheless ends in ecstasy. The chemical ...
Mary Anning's Fossils (11/10)
he cliffs and beaches of Lyme Regis, in Dorset on the south coast of England, are fertile hunting grounds for creatures who lived in what were equatorial seas in the early Jurassic period, around 190 million years ago. Here is a look at some of the fossil types Mary Anning discovers in Remarkable Creatures:

Ammonites are distant ...
Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (11/10)
Although Tim Farnsworth's condition never receives an official diagnosis in The Unnamed, his relentless walking might seem to belong to the category of obsessive/compulsive disorders.

Obsessions are defined as recurrent, unavoidable thoughts, and compulsions are categorized as repetitive behaviors. Obsessive/compulsive disorder (OCD) ...
Birth Control and Childbirth in the 19th Century (08/10)
Dorothea Gibson’s daughter-in-law says, 'They (fathers) do not become dissolved into parenthood the way we [women] do.' Truer words may never have been spoken – at least as far as the 19th Century was concerned.

Dissolved? Dorothea (Dodo) Gibson floundered under the toll of eight closely spaced children plus several ...
Hurricanes (06/10)
The term 'hurricane' is believed to originate with the Carib people of the West Indies (after whom the Caribbean was named). Historians believe that the Carib word huracan was probably derived from the Mayan storm god, Hunraken or the K'iche god of thunder and lightning, Hurakan. K'iche (in Spanish Quiché) is a part of the Mayan ...
Horology, the art of time (04/10)
Protagonist George Crosby's love for repairing clocks is a prominent theme in Tinkers, which includes references to a fictional 1783 book called The Reasonable Horologist.

Horology encompasses both the science of measuring time and the art of making time pieces.  Thus, horologists include watchmakers, clockmakers, scholars, ...
Waardenburg Syndrome (04/10)
Half Italian, half-Scottish forensic expert Enzo Macleod has distinctive good looks: long hair with a streak of white pulled back in a ponytail, and eyes of different colors. This is because Macleod has a genetic syndrome, called Waardenburg Syndrome, affecting hair color, eye pigmentation and sometimes hearing. It's so named for the ...
Preventing Drowning (04/10)
In Bird Lake Moon, the tragic drowning of Spencer's four-year-old brother haunts his family during their return visit to Bird Lake. As we approach the summer months, it is wise to ponder the following tragic statistics presented by the Orange County Fire Authority:

'Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-...
Parapsychology vs. Skepticism (03/10)
While the Washburn Library is a purely fictional invention, it does have an analog in the real world: the Rhine Research Center, once known as the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, and home to the Institute for Parapsychology until 2002. Formerly affiliated with Duke University, the Rhine now operates independently a short ...
Eating Disorders (03/10)
Lia's anorexia and Cassie's bulimia represent two of the three most common eating disorders identified by the National Mental Health Information Center. Ninety percent of those who have eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25, but they can also manifest in teenage boys, and adult men and women of all ages. It's estimated ...
Non-Traditional Cancer Therapies (03/10)
Cancer is the term used to describe any malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division.  A cancer is described as Stage 4 when it has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. When we first meet Nicola, she has already undergone surgery and chemotherapy. Below are some of the ...
The Hippocratic Oath (02/10)
The title, Cutting for Stone, refers to a line in the Hippocratic Oath, and to the last name of the three main characters, all of them surgeons. As Abraham Verghese quotes it, the line from the Oath reads 'I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest. I will leave this operation to be performed by ...
Acromegaly (02/10)
Truly Plaice, the protagonist of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, is referred to as a 'giant' even as a child. It is not until mid-way through the book that a physician provides the name of the disease that afflicts her: Acromegaly.

Acromegaly comes from the Latin acron, for extremity, and megas, meaning large. It was ...
A Short History of Archeology (01/10)
The fictional John Somerville's interest in archeology was typical for his time. Most so-called archeologists of the period were, like him, self-taught because there were virtually no academic courses offered. Additionally, his desire to secure a rich benefactor to fund his excavations was standard operating procedure in the field; for ...
Selective Mutism - a childhood anxiety disorder (08/09)
Isabelle is not diagnosed in December but were she to be, she would probably be diagnosed with Selective Mutism, a childhood anxiety disorder. Some therapists might even diagnose her with Traumatic Mutism because of the immediate onset and her total silence. Most children with SM are not completely silent all the time. They are silent...
Biogas Digesters (07/09)
In The Big Necessity Rose George introduces readers to biogas digesters in rural China. Biogas digesters (often shortened to biodigesters) are permanent structures, usually constructed of cement, in which waste (human, animal and agricultural leftovers) decompose in the lower section causing the micro-organisms to release methane that is ...
Capgras Syndrome (05/09)
The idea of simulacrum, or impostors, has long been a subject of fascination in fiction, and Capgras syndrome, or variations on its symptoms, often crop up in short stories and novels. Most recently, The Echo Maker by Richard Powers revolves around a character who suffers from Capgras syndrome after he suffers a head injury in a ...
Eating Disorders and Body Self-Image (04/09)
Eating Disorders

Does Kirsten eat too much and for all the wrong reasons? According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout western countries. According to US estimates from the National Institute of...
Alzheimer's Disease (04/09)
First described by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive brain disorder in which the nerve cells in the brain gradually die off. It afflicts an estimated 26 million people world-wide, and of those, approximately 4.5 million live in the United States. ...
Quack Medicine (01/09)
In the nineteenth century, when even mainstream medical therapies included painful bloodletting and leeching, quack* medicine didn't seem quite so quacky.

If you wanted your hair to grow, you could don a Thermocap to send just the right amount of heat to your follicles. If your eyes were weak, you could apply the Neu-Vita ...
Ichthyology (08/08)
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology that studies fish. This includes skeletal fish, cartilaginous fish and jawless fish.

There are at least 25,000 fish species in existence. Each year, about 250 new species are discovered and described.

The largest species of fish known is theWhale Shark, which can grow to up to 50 feet in length and can ...
Poliomyelitis (07/08)
Poliomyelitis, more commonly known as Polio, is a viral disease that has plagued humans since ancient times. It is transmitted primarily through direct fecal-oral contact. However, it can also be transmitted by indirect contact with infectious saliva or feces or by contaminated sewage or water.

In over 90% of cases there are no symptoms ...
Uranium and Nuclear Power (05/08)
According to theUranium Information Center:
  • Over half of the world's production of uranium is from mines in Australia and Canada.
  • 8 mining companies account for almost 80% of production.
  • Nuclear energy supplies over 16% of the world's electricity.
  • 31 countries use nuclear energy to generate electricity.
  • 80% of France's electricity is from ...
Twins (04/07)
Conjoined twins occur in about 40,000 births but only about once in every 200,000 live births. Craniopagus-twins occur in only about one in every 10 million ...
All About Water (03/07)
Did you know?

  • The earth contains about 1.1 quadrillion acre-feet of water, but 97% is seawater.
  • Of the remaining 28 trillion acre-feet of freshwater on or near the surface, two-thirds is locked up as ice.
  • Only the remaining 9.7 trillion acre-feet is in liquid form, mostly in underground aquifers.
  • However, what is ...

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