Ugly, Indeed

Gee, how many of the millions disabled by leprosy do you think will attend England’s “Leper Festival”? This annual event takes place on January 29, World Leprosy Day, in Taddiport, Devon, a hamlet that was a leprosy colony in the Middle Ages. The festivities include a torchlit procession, a “Leper Ball,” and an “Ugly Pageant.” […]

So Much for That Soothing Water Wall

Next time you find yourself transfixed  by one of those indoor water walls, run away. It turns out that they can be giant bacteria incubators flinging droplets of toxins into the air. One such wall, intended to calm visitors at a Wisconsin hospital, infected dozens with Legionnaire’s Disease. Oops. “An Outbreak of Legionnaires Disease Associated […]

Lutefisk: Holiday Culinary Science Courtesy of Garrison Keillor

“Lutefisk is cod that has been dried in a lye solution. It looks like the dessicated cadavers of squirrels run over by trucks, but after it is soaked and reconstituted and the lye is washed out and it’s cooked, it looks more fish-related, though with lutefisk, the window of success is small. It can be […]

The RIPE Stuff

One of the best gifts I received this year was a flat of tomato seedlings from Arthur Allen, author of RIPE: The Search for the Perfect Tomato. After several years of tomato blight in our urban DC garden, my husband and I were excited to receive the plants in April from Art, who, let’s face […]

A Silky Science-inspired Gift You Don’t Have to Be a Geek to Love

A few years ago my brother-in-law gave me a beautiful silk scarf in a wonderful abstract pattern. “Can you tell what it is?” he asked, a kid bursting with a riddle. “A scarf?” I replied. “No! It’s lipoprotein cells!” I examined the delicate array of gold and gray star bursts, and confessed that I would […]

Empathy Is Easier When Medicine Explains Quirks

A couple of recent medical news stories—about Bell’s palsy and misophonia–really struck home, and made me think how harshly people judge others, even members of their own family, because they don’t understand the medical condition underlying odd behavior. I’m not talking about mental illness, but rather little-understood physical conditions that can wreak daily havoc on […]