Even ants smell better than we do

A recently published study has announced that ants can be trained to detect the presence of cancer in humans (“An ant’s sense of smell is so strong, it can sniff out cancer”, Dino Grandoni, 1/24/2023) . Their thin antennae detect chemicals in a very specific way: Stretching out their pair of thin sensory appendages atop…

Another kind of AI: Alternative Intelligence

We’re starting the new year with daily news feeds and timelines auguring the centrality of ChatGPT and AI to human life. The venerable New York Times publishes opinion pieces ranging from the threat to democracy posed by ChatGPT to extolling the greatest film never made . Whether opinion makers seek to make us fearful of…

Of Memory and Madeleines

Listening to the River Café Table 4 podcast interview with the director Alfonso Cuarón, I paused to take in something he said that spoke directly to me. “I think it’s the same with any creative endeavor, [whether] this is a technical endeavor or an artistic endeavor. I think that everything comes from the concept. You…

Cancer doesn’t wait

In the past two weeks, my family has been rocked by news of two friends with cancer – one diagnosis, one death. After two years of grim front-page Covid statistics, bumped now from headlines by the carnage of war, it’s understandable that quotidian nightmares draw less attention. Last month, the CDC noted that screening rates…

A critical point of view

Failure to scale a promising idea is often the result of failing to evaluate the idea critically: interrogate both what’s wrong with the idea, and what could go wrong in expanding it. Let’s spend some time doing just that. The Office for Science and Society (OSS)  at McGill University in Montreal seeks to bring critical…

The Worth of a Life

A walk in the almost-spring air launched my day. Recent sunny days have banished the snowy vestiges, and Ellie and I enjoyed our separate but simultaneous walks: me with my eyes to the trees; she with her nose to the grass. We breakfasted on our return, and while Ellie settled in for a post-breakfast snooze,…

A Way to Live Safely Despite Covid

With the decline in recent days of the Omicron surge, a rising chorus of opinion advises us to learn to live with Covid. Unfortunately, the daily death rates from Covid (currently averaging ~2500) remind us that living with Covid implies also dying from it. Despite the ongoing funerals, anti-mandate sentiment is finding little resistance from…

A case for adoption

What does it take for a technology innovation to tip over from niche adoption to mass acceptance? I don’t have to make a case for adopting a pup to share your home. If it’s right for you, you’ll do it. What’s on my mind today is how something new takes off from being a novelty…

More than just a good nose

The human mind is profoundly adept in comparative analysis. Each day brings many fundamental decisions: what to eat, how to get it, who to trust, how and where to spend the minutes between waking and sleeping. We rely on comparisons to make those decisions (oatmeal or donuts?), evaluating options based on how they’ll satisfy our…

Inter-Species Travel

Last week’s post Health has no boundaries made passing mention to Covid infections in mink populations. An article in the New York Times Magazine this week provides much more context for those mink farm infections: “Animals That Infect Humans Are Scary. It’s Worse When We Infect Them Back.” (by Sonia Shah, published 19 January 2022)….