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Gut Reaction

Chris Hardy

Science writer Mary Roach tells Mindy Farabee about the wonders of our digestive tract—and that raw narwhal skin is delicious and arctic char eyeball is not.

In her last book, Packing for Mars, science writer Mary Roach set out to describe the extraordinary engineering feats that keep human bodies functioning in deep space. In her latest, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Roach—whose previous bestsellers have also examined cadavers and the mechanics of coupling—focuses squarely on the earthiest of arenas, tackling the “last taboo” of the body by charting the squishy work of art that is your guts.

AIDS Discrimination?

The Kansas Quarantine

Fuse/Getty

Would a measure passed by the state legislature lead to the quarantine of people with HIV and AIDS? Kansas officials say no—but in a state with anti-sodomy laws still on the books, activists are worried.

When is a quarantine not a quarantine?That is what lawmakers and LGBT advocates in Kansas are arguing about after both houses of the legislature passed a bill that would allow the state to quarantine people afflicted with dangerous infectious diseases. LGBT advocates fear the quarantined could include people with HIV or AIDS, while state officials and backers of the bill insist that it would not.“It is not so far-fetched” that the bill could lead to the quarantine of AIDS patients, said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

That Leg Snap

The Grisliest Injury Yet?

Michael Conroy/AP

The horror of Kevin Ware snapping his leg in the NCAA’s Elite Eight was so shocking that CBS Sports removed the video from its website. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz on what caused the break—and whether they’re on the rise.

Are more awful injuries happening these days?The scene when the Louisville Cardinals’ Kevin Ware sustained a compound fracture of the lower right leg Sunday night was so grisly that network television, hardly the world leader in restraint where the vivid and lurid are concerned, opted to stop replaying video of the injury online. Per reports, bone was sticking through the college basketball player’s skin, the exact definition of a compound fracture and any mother’s nightmare.

SUGAR HIGH

Easter’s Most Fattening Candy

Shaminder Dulai/Newsweek/The Daily Beast

Just in time for the Easter Bunny’s arrival, The Daily Beast compared the nutrition labels on more than 60 holiday treats to figure out which are packed with the most sugar and fat.

Ominvore's Dilemma

What’s in Your Food?

John Bazemore/AP

The recent horsemeat scandal proved we don’t always know what’s in our food. But for reporter Michael Moss, the more frightening revelation is what companies are knowingly putting into our diet.

The ongoing horsemeat scandal, and the recent federal indictments in the 2009 tainted peanuts debacle that left eight people dead and an estimated 19,000 sickened in 43 states, shed new light on a deeply unsettling aspect of the food we put into our bodies. The global food chain has grown so complex, and so beholden to profits, that the largest food companies are losing control of their ingredients. Whenever one of these scandals arises, it often takes the food giants weeks just to figure out if they are using the tainted supplies.

Ignoble Savage

The Paleo Living Sham

AP (R)

Should we live like our hunter-gatherer forebears, run barefoot and eat nothing but meat, nuts, and fruit? Robert Herritt says a new book shows that paleo living is based on a misreading of evolution.

What is it about nostalgia that so effectively scrambles our evaluative faculties? You hardly need to consult Proust to experience this innately human tendency to long for previous times and places probably best left unlonged for: postwar suburbs, high school, the ’90s.Thinking fondly of some gauze-filtered yesteryear where manufacturing jobs abounded and kids played outside more is one thing. But proponents of the so-called paleo lifestyle are taking it back a bit further—all the way to the Pleistocene.

Not So Clean Mind

Bacteria on Your Brain

Sciepro/Science Photo Library, via Corbis

It’s a surprise to researchers who believed the brain-blood barrier created an impenetrable fortress. How are molecules from dirt getting into white matter—and what are they doing up there?

As anyone who’s seen a yogurt commercial knows, our guts are teeming with bacteria. So, too, are our hands, feet, ears, and mouths.But our brains?Until recently, scientists would have said no way. The brain was long thought to be a kind of fortress, separated from the body by a virtually impenetrable barrier of specialized cells. Now, that view is beginning to shift, with increasing evidence that aliens can, and do, sneak in.The latest evidence comes from a team of researchers in Canada, who found that a type of bacteria usually found in soil may make its way into some of our brains.

Holmes Trial

Would Truth Serum Work?

Pool photo by RJ Sangosti

Yes, it’s back. As judge has approved the use of truth serum if the alleged Batman shooter attempts an insanity defense. Kent Sepkowitz on why the serum went away in the first place—and how it might cloud the trial.

The entire clumsy apparatus of the American judicial system is built to shake clean facts out of hesitant individuals. Judges hear testimony, lawyers argue, and juries sit, weighing evidence as each tries to arrive at a simple bare-bones truth. As a job-creation program, the byzantine extravaganza is a marvel of innovation and sustainable growth, but as an efficient way to get to the heart of the matter, well, don’t ask. It’s still Jarndyce v.

BRING IT ON

The Superbugs Are Here!

Rob Carr/AP, file

There’s a scary new superbug showing up in hospitals, resistant to all but one aging antibiotic. But Dr. Kent Sepkowitz says your chances of infection are microscopic, and shouldn’t keep you from getting care you need.

Pity the poor public-health official: in the midst of an epidemic, he must adopt a soothing avuncular tone of near-boredom, a “we’ve seen this, not to worry” sort of yawn to calm people who otherwise seem ready to run screaming into the streets. But on the other hand, in this day of sequestered public-health funding, he has to raise a major ruckus about some other problem that might happen, swearing that the earth may end soon if we don’t wake up now and face the music.

True Breakthrough?

The HIV Cure That Wasn’t

Johns Hopkins Children's Center

Researchers are calling the apparent disappearance of HIV in a baby born with the infection a ‘functional cure,’ and the media is hailing the news. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz on why they should tread more softly.

This week at the 20th annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, a group of researchers announced they had achieved a “functional cure” of a newborn baby with HIV infection. The news made a major splash and raised hopes that a giant step forward in controlling this devastating infection was finally at hand.To which I say—maybe. But probably not. The story is this: a pregnant woman with no prenatal care appeared in premature labor at a small rural hospital.

5 Secrets for Better Health Care

Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon Marty Makary shares the five insider tips to getting top-notch medical care. First stop? The internet.

  1. Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? Play

    Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

  2. The Number: $5.7 Billion Play

    The Number: $5.7 Billion

  3. The War on Waxing? Play

    The War on Waxing?

Books

Healthy Reads

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

The famous Grant Study tracked hundreds of Harvard men from youth to death to determine what predicts contentment.

Waste

Has the War on Cancer Failed?

Unlikely Cures

An Epidemic of Absence

A Selfish Read

What Richard Dawkins Reads

Nicomachean

How to Be Ethical