Science Forward Fall 2017

Dr. Edyta Greer, Macaulay Honors College, Fall 2017

Category: Blog Entry 1 (page 1 of 2)

Healthcare Issue – “I can’t breathe”

When Eric Garner was choked to death by a policeman and the video of him crying out: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” went viral, I felt vindicated. It took this man’s violent death for America to understand the pain of running out of oxygen and that feeling helplessness when nobody understands and nobody bothers to do anything. Personally, I’ve had exercise induced asthma for many years. Most healthy high schoolers can play basketball for more than 3 minutes without gasping for breath and struggling to even hold their breath long enough to take an inhaler. Although I’ve been going to an allergist and taking quick relief inhalers as needed and twice daily asthma medication, it’s not enough. I can’t run up a few flights of stairs without getting winded. I can’t run on the treadmill (even jogging) for nearly as long as I would like to – and which I know my body could handle if I could breathe properly.

I’m not blaming my healthcare provider – this competent doctor provided me with all available treatment possibilities. On the contrary: what I would love to see is improvements in asthma treatment to help those of us silently screaming (because when you can’t breathe – it hurts too much to talk) “I can’t breathe.”

The Miracle Drug

The article was very well written and I loved how the author included a lot of background information as well as conclusive data. It’s format was a little difficult for me to read and took a second to adjust to. Overall I think the writing style of the article was very informative, it gave the right amount of information. It provided a good balance between being statistical and being brief and so that it kept the readers attention without getting too technical. This article’s limited but skillful use of numbers was great in bringing about the importance of this new drug.

I felt as though the article included the molecular drawings because they were a key aspect of the research. Since it took nearly “five years” to come up with the exact structure, it is a proud show case of the researchers work. In addition, it could prove as a means of incentive for other researchers familiar with the drugs, but maybe with different names to conduct research as well.

An article like this might not be in the Times today due it’s detailed information on the research and scientific facts. Many articles today are brief, and in a sense click bait, intended to get the viewers attention. However, I find that more articles like this are needed, for the simple reason while it was lengthy, it was very informative. I actually enjoyed reading this article due to its balance of technical and relatively relevant information. The article kept the readers attention because of the things they could benefit from it while doing a very good job of relaying the hard scientific information that it took to get to these “benefits”.


Blog Entry 1

This article is definitely longer and denser than the New York Times articles of today. It definitely gives a more scientific explanation of the findings, but it does also address the real life impact these findings may have on society and people’s everyday life just as todays New York Times articles do. I think the greater technical detail is an indicator that the readership of the New York Time in 1971 was maybe less broad than it is today; maybe only the highly educated read the newspaper, or at least the New York Times specifically.

While I do think this article is a bit too long and technical for the New York Times today, I do believe there should be a platform for articles like this one today. Articles that are not quite as long or specific as the primary source but also not as general as todays articles tend to be when discussing healthcare and scientific breakthroughs should be available for those who prefer the easy reading format of a newspaper or magazine article but would like to truly understand the science behind the breakthrough being discussed.

As for the inclusion of the molecular drawings I believe these would be informative to those who are scientifically inclined. For others they might simply exhibit if the technical detail to which this article goes. For some it might even be an indicator that the adjacent article is entirely too scientific and technical in nature for them to comprehend anything and to instead skip this article.

joseph Gofman – Blog Entry #1

At first glance, seeing both the title of the article and date in which it was published cast a shadow of doubt over the content of the article for me.  But this fear of reading another nonsensical article about a “Miracle Cure for Cancer” was quickly quelled as the article does not hesitate to jump into some technical concepts right off of the bat. The subject matter,  a group of hormones called prostaglandins, is given a quick background before its current (at the time) potential is delved into. In my own opinion, the way in which the content is laid forth here is challenging to keep up with. The terminology used and pace at which new information is brought up are much higher than would be found within a comparable article in the “New York Times” today. It is hard to retain focus on all of the elements of this story as we the reader are taken from point to point in the form of varying bodies of research. For instance, the end of the second page leading into the start of the third sees a transition from the most recent troubles of prostaglandin research to a seemingly unrelated story that comes in the form of a study of fertility, which is then tied back in through yet another researcher’s work with sheep uteruses.

For a reader such as myself who may only be finding out about this subject matter through this content, there is simply too much here to digest.  The author does a great job of providing setting, context, and findings but when all of this amounts to 8 pages of in-depth coverage of a dozen sparely connected points the takeaway is minimal. Adding physical images and models to this also did little to help me understand what I was already having trouble comprehending. Overall I thought the article was extremely interesting, but as a college student pursuing a major in science, it left me scratching my head more than I would have liked.

Blog Entry 1: The New Mystery – Maybe Miracle – Drug

I found The New Mystery – Maybe Miracle – Drug, published in December of 1971, to be extremely fascinating article, full of controlled excitement and optimism.

While the article was longer than I initially anticipated, I felt as though it was very thorough and could not have been shortened very much. Certainly, it is much more factual and technical than the grand majority of New York Times articles posted today, however I think the richness of the article derives from its completeness, and perhaps some might say its boringness. Even just attempting to recall the doctors and researchers quoted or mentioned gives an idea of how much work went into extracting information from numerous trusted sources. In the first two pages alone, the article either mentions or quotes Dr. Sultan Karim, Dr. Reimert Ravenhold, a Catholic laywoman, a New York Biochemist, employees from The Upjohn Company, Dr. Maurine Golbiatt, Professor Ulf S. von Euler. Prof Sune Bergstrom, Dr. David Weisblat, and Dr. W. Vogt. Clearly this article was thoroughly researched and carefully crafted, as opposed to being churned out by the author and publisher. And while the article required my full attention and some rereading, finishing it was fulfilling. I actually felt as though I learned and understood prostaglandins to a very basic degree.

Continuing the compare and contrast of this article to current journalism trends, I fully appreciated the nuanced view that the article tied in towards the end. There was no definitive statement given to tie up the ending; instead, counterarguments were given:

  • “Some prostaglandin research has not yet advanced beyond the stage of fascinating speculation. Prostaglandins in excess seem to [do some bad things].”
  • “(…) Scientists recognize that they really know very little about [prostaglandins].”
  • “Even in their relation to the body’s hormone system, the prostaglandins present a confusing picture.”
  • Finally and most importantly: “Although the therapeutic dividends of prostaglandin research promise to be extraordinary, there seems little disposition to rush imperfectly understood drugs into the marketplace. As Yale’s Dr. Speroff says: ‘The future of prostaglandin research may well have a critical relevance to human welfare. …Enthusiasm is justified but enthusiasm has to be tempered by caution to avoid poor studies, inefficient effort and premature use.’”

YES! This is the type of nuanced and well-researched journalism that should be prevalent nowadays. The article made brief mention of opinions in the section about the use of prostaglandin in contraception and abortion, however the majority of the article was reserved for factual information and testimonies from reliable sources. There were no definitive conclusions, or clickbait openings and endings. As I mentioned in the first sentence of this post, the author employed controlled excitement and optimism. Clearly, prostaglandins offered great potential at the time, but I felt Lawrence Galton, the author, restraining himself from easily making potentially misleading overstatements. By doing so, he stops readers from jumping to false conclusions, or having misrepresented ideas in mind. The article’s ending was very open, providing the analogy of the field of prostaglandins being a vast territory, where the scientific community is only at the frontier. While this ending may frustrate some, as no concrete conclusion is being provided, I found it to be restrained and absolutely valid.

The fact that this article was published in 1971 makes it all the more fascinating as we can now approach it in hindsight. From my blurry recollection of my medical studies in France, I vividly remember my plump, rosy-faced professor lecturing at length on “prostaglandines” and their effects on the female body during different stages of pregnancy. Perhaps the joy I found thinking “oh yeah, I remember hearing about that” gave me an unfair bias towards enjoying the article, however, the point remains: the author was right. The information that was fresh and groundbreaking nearly 50 years ago is being taught today as introductory material. While the territory is large, the scientific community has certainly made strides in discovering and mapping out areas past the frontier.

This article, although outdated, was a great choice as its message (specifically the one I extracted), was more important than its content. The shocking thoroughness and dull nuance of this article speaks to the quality of the articles we’ve been fed in our lifetime, and have grown accustom to. Perhaps the molecular structures were unnecessary for the general readership this New York Times article was geared to, but the content was factual and well-presented, clear of any blatant bias or overstatement. Presented in this fashion, the readers make use of their own science senses to process, in their own way, the information in The New Mystery – Maybe Miracle – Drug.

The New Mystery

My first reaction while reading through the article was that it is difficult to follow. First of all, this is a topic that is heavily based on scientific terminology. For example, the doctors who are part of the study are quoted often, and they reference things I can’t understand. One example of this is, “may dilate the cervix but not result in expulsion of the conceptus raises the possibility of their use prior to curettage,” where there is a multitude of terms that I would need defined. Clearly this is intended for a specific audience with a background in health and chemistry. There are even pictures of molecular compounds included, which would be great for a scientist who is researching this topic. Comparing this to the purposes of the New York Times articles written today, I would say even health and science articles are intended for more general audiences in modern day.

Not only are the words in the article difficult to follow, but there is just too much information. In only eight pages the authors talk about prostaglandins in induced labor, as contraceptives, and in relation to hypertension; just to name a couple of things. Although it is all referring to prostaglandins, this is too large a topic to cover in one article. That is like writing an article about the circulatory system, but not specifying one area. I think I would actually enjoy reading more in depth about one of the topics covered rather than read superficially about all these topics.

Another thing I would critique about this article is that it is clearly written in the preliminary stages of research in this topic. A lot of the studies mentioned are empirically based or little is yet known, which makes me question the validity of the article. If I am reading a lengthy article from the New York Times, I want to make sure that it is solid information. However, if this is in fact the most up to date research, then it is worth sharing with the public.

Blog Post 1: Response to Science Article

Reading “The New Mystery – Maybe Miracle – Drug” gives a strong contrast to modern New York Times article. I find the article to be really long. I was thinking “If this is the popular article, then how long is the journal article.” Compared to modern science popular articles that I read, this 1971 article contains thorough evidence and higher level complexity. I can see many instances of knowledge sense and data sense, when the author describes the research and its importance. I see number sense when the author shows the level of success in the induction of labor or abortion. I liked the fact that the statistical data is not overwhelming, but just enough to see the function of prostaglandins. The many findings and questions seem to leave the question unanswered, leading to stronger interests. As described in the article, research is not simple finding, but an exploration through facts that can last many years and through the hands of other scientists. An example of what I mean is Professor Ulf S. von Euler encouraging a younger colleague to continue his work.

Looking at the placement of the molecular drawings and images of scientists, I find that the pictures correspond to the text rather than appear as a chronology of history. Mentioning Dr. Sultan H. M. Karim, a scientist who studied the hormone in the 1960s first, Galton establishes why is this hormone worth the research. The next two scientists who had pictures printed on this article are Professor Ulf S. von Euler and Professor Sune Bergstrom. Both scientists made major contribution to prostaglandins, but one was from the 1930s and the other from the 1950s. While both scientists were before Dr. Karim, Galton chooses to present them after. His decision to do might be that Galton wants to present a path of discovery rather than facts. Overlapping scientists from different time is used to help convey the idea that through many years of research, the pieces of the puzzle are built one by one, leading to a product waiting to be changed up again. In this way, the author writes using a less fixed structure, opting for a structure where he can add more connections and research evidence. This story-telling style makes the article more interesting to read. The information and facts provided becomes details that enrich the main idea, rather than being burdensome.

After reading this article I realized that I underestimated the abilities of the freelance writers of New York Times. If the level of requirements for popular articles today is the same as that of 1970s, then the level of information in each article is worth a read.

Blog Entry 1 (David Mashkevich)

After reading the 1971 New York Times article, I immediately noticed some differences in writing style when compared to similar scientific articles published today. Overall, this article was much more process-oriented, offering relevant details to support the claims outlined in the scientific study. The author tells the story and process of the scientific innovation, presenting findings in the order that they were discovered. In particular, the author devotes paragraphs of the text to state the credentials of particular researchers. For instance, the end of the first page contains a section discussing the history of prostaglandin research, which names specific studies and their findings. The section gives context to the current study and I found it interesting that the author gives the location and names of those involved in previous studies. I speculate that this was done to justify the credibility of those who contributed to the outlined research, as few people would have been able to verify that on their own. Information was not as readily available in the 1970s, and readers would likely have had to make several calls to verify the work of researchers named in the article. However, an article in today’s newspaper may have contained links/references to these previous studies – so that readers could conduct their own background checks.

I also believe that while the article does a great job of explaining the scientific innovation outlined in the research study, something like this would never be published in today’s New York Times. This is largely due to major changes in the way we receive and interpret information in today’s world. More so than ever, it has become important to condense information and deliver key points in as few words as possible, and information now moves quicker than ever before. This is directly reflected by the aforementioned differences between the two articles, and readers must now conduct their own due diligence if they wish to learn more about the process of scientific research and verify the credibility of the publisher/author of a scientific study. Unfortunately, this opens the door for more inaccurate reporting and falsified information to leak into popular media, which our Hot Topic presentations helped us identify.

Thus, this article presents a great amount of valuable scientific information and background of those involved in the scientific study, but only because readers would not have had the resources to find that information on their own.

Blog Entry 1

For starters, I think this article is quite interesting. It seems that in December of 1971 prostaglandins was an up-and-coming field of research with potential for breakthroughs in the treatment of various diseases. The author, Lawrence Galton, does a nice job of clarifying complex scientific concepts for the lay reader. However, I think that basic high school knowledge of biology and chemistry is required to understand even the simplified version presented in this article. Additionally, the article is rather long and would probably not hold the attention of today’s readers since we live in a generation where people expect information on demand, at their fingertips, and very very quickly. I doubt most people trying to stay abreast of the news will take the time (for me it was over an hour) to read an in-depth article on some hormones which may be used in the future of medicine. We hire unpaid interns for that kind of work.

Anyhow, as I was reading through the article I had a few questions and comments about the content. Firstly, the article notes that “…easily available abortion became legal in July 1970…” – a crucial point to focus on because this article was written only a little over a year after this law was implemented! Logically during the early 1970’s the public would have been embroiled in the ethics of abortion (and the author does bring down differing opinions of scientists) which would make this article particularly important at the time.

Another point of interest is that the article mentions “…a Welsh psychologist…who discovered a substance which caused powerful contractions of the uterus during menstruation…” Although the article merely breezes past this earlier usage of prostaglandins, I wonder if science in the 70’s and science today has utilized further research on this topic. How would society be changed in women could take a substance speeding up menstruation to a few hours instead of up to a week? This concept is mind blowing and even more surprising is that nobody seems to be discussing it.

When discussing the use of prostaglandins to induce labor, the article notes that oxytocin “failed to induce labor in 44” out of 100 patients. I was thinking it’s a failure on the author’s part that he didn’t declare what the time constraints for labor induction are. Obviously, eventually every pregnant woman will give birth. The question in my mind is how short after the drug was delivered would a birth be considered “medically induced” as opposed to naturally occurring.

Lastly, the article notes that in addition to inducing abortion, prostaglandins can be added to semen so that sperm travel faster through the fallopian tubes to arrive at the egg. In both processes, the prostaglandins cause the uterine lining to contract. I was particularly fascinated that the same hormone group known as prostaglandins may play a role in opposite fertility processes.

Blog Entry 1

After reading the article “The New Mystery-Maybe Miracle-Drug,” I realized that although it was definitely a lot more scientific than a New York Times article we’d see today, I enjoyed reading it.  I think the author did a great job in writing a really comprehensive article on prostaglandins and all its possible uses as well as descriptions of past research and a basic history of the research’s beginnings.  At first, I thought that the article was not a good article for general readership because I felt that it was too scientific in both the terminology and excessive explanations of scientists and their findings with this compound.  But after I finished reading it, I understood the bigger picture of the article and it seems to me that the main purpose of the author writing it was to inform readers of this exciting, pioneering compound that could potentially solve many health issues.  The author never asserted that prostaglandins could actually solve these health issues, and he was clear that these implicated uses are still in progress being researched.

I compared the way Lawrence Galton wrote his article to the author of the article that I did for my Hot Topic presentation. Galton wrote his article in a way that I don’t really see much in today’s New York Times articles- it was extremely detailed with information that doesn’t seem fit for just anyone to read.  This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing.  The author of the article that I did for my Hot Topic presentation seemed to sensationalize the findings from the research it was reporting about and hadn’t done a good job in being clear about the research.  It was definitely written for general readership because everything was put in very simple terms.  Galton, on the other hand, although he did use scientific jargon that not an everyday reader would understand, he did a thorough job of including plenty of background information to lay the foundation for his reporting on prostaglandins.  By doing so, it gives the readers a better understanding of this new initiative that could potentially solve many health issues at the time.  He did however include unnecessary information such as the diagram of the molecule and other seemingly trivial information about prostaglandins.  But overall, I think that Galton’s writing style did a good job to effectively present his reporting in a comprehensive manner.

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