If a fingerprint can tell someone who you are, a “breathprint” could reveal how you’re doing.
For the past two decades, Dweik has been studying the molecular patterns in breath that can reveal what’s happening inside the body. In the same way that a pocket of air above the water level in a closed container carries signature molecules that reflect the composition of that water, our breath is directly linked to what’s happening in our blood.
"A lot of people just think breath is what’s in your lungs," Dweik told me. "We realize now that anything in your body that is eventually in the blood can be measured in your breath."
That includes diseases like lung cancer, liver disease, heart disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease, all of which have “really distinct signatures in the breath,” Dweik says. And the medical implications are major: Breath-testing devices—think of them as Breathalyzers that detect disease rather than alcohol—can be just as accurate as traditional blood testing or biopsies, only cheaper and far less invasive.
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"It would scare me to death to have him work there."
Terry Monkaba is talking about her son Ben, and the prospect of him finding a job at a Las Vegas casino. Many parents might feel that way, but Monkaba’s anxiety goes deeper. That’s because Ben, 28, has Williams Syndrome.
Once called “cocktail personality syndrome,” Williams Syndrome—particularly as it affects children—has captivated science writers for the past decade. In 2008’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks describes visiting Berkshire Hills Music Academy, where he was immediately received by unusually friendly children. “They all seemed extraordinarily sociable and inquisitive,” he writes, “and though I had met none of these campers before, they instantly greeted me in the most friendly and familiar way—I could have been an old friend or an uncle, rather than a stranger.”
Nearly every government program has grown over the past few decades, except the one that helps poor, unmarried parents.
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Above his desk at Rutgers University, psychology professor Barry Komisaruk has a framed image of what female brain activity looks like during orgasm. It looks like a sunset. Every major region of her brain ignites at the height of climax. He is the first to record such an image, and in recent years has used his research to improve women’s lives.
It started with hormones and doves. Back in the 1950s, Komisaruk, a behavioral neuroscientist and an author of The Science of Orgasm and The Orgasm Answer Guide, was looking at what he called “invisible forces that act at a distance” or, more specifically, at how neurons produced consciousness. He was anesthetizing doves, clamping them down, and drilling minuscule holes in their skulls to then implant hormone crystals into their brains. He was studying how hormone production stimulates behavior, and how behavior stimulates hormone production. This was his initial claim to fame, and the beginning of a long series of sexual behavioral studies that eventually revealed important facts about women, pleasure, and pain.
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Preeminent scientists are warning about serious threats to human life in the not-distant future, including superintelligent computers. Most people don’t care.
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Every time I panic unreasonably over some minor bodily abnormality—which is often—I take to the Internet. I’m far from the only one—72 percent of Internet users have looked online for health information in the past year, according to Pew Research. And though as a responsible health editor, I should of course say that if you really think something’s wrong, you should go to the doctor, I know that even if you do go to the doctor, chances are you’ll Google whatever she tells you anyway.
Wikipedia being the sixth-largest site on the whole wide Internet, these people searching for medical information online are often going to end up there. Whether or not they should be doing it, they are. I am. Patients are, and so are doctors. Which is why efforts to improve the quality of Wikipedia’s medical information are important—if you can’t lead people away from the fountain of crowd-sourced knowledge, you can at least try to unmuddy the waters.
Here’s what it looks like when a sprawling, diverse nation tries to cover everybody.
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Every workday, Dr. Jessica Nitardy leaves her home near El Paso, Texas and drives for more than an hour to the Mexican border. She crosses immigration and heads to her dental practice in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which until recently was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
But the patients she sees aren’t Mexican—almost all are American.
“I can count my Mexican patients on my fingers,” she told me in a phone interview. “No, they all come from Austin, Houston, even Florida, Colorado, Alaska … ”
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Sixteenth-century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory is one of history’s most famous female serial killers. She tortured and killed scores of girls, often her own servants, in myriad horrible ways—sticking pins under their fingernails, even biting their flesh. But the less-verifiable rumor that has dogged her legacy is that she bathed in the blood of virgins, believing it would keep her youthful. It didn’t work. She died in 1614.
Fast-forward to the present, when modern medicine has extended our life expectancy considerably, without the use of young blood—until now.
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