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The Fear Factor

October 5th, 2009 | Posted in The New Yorker, Articles | No Comments
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View the PDF On April 21st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that two children in Southern California had developed a “febrile respiratory illness” caused by a flu virus that had never before been recognized in humans. The C.D.C. referred to the infection, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report , as a swine-flu virus, because some of its genes matched genes found in pigs. It was a deeply unfortunate—and largely misleading—choice of words.

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Big Foot

February 28th, 2008 | Posted in The New Yorker, Articles | No Comments
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Download the PDF In measuring carbon emissions, it's easy to confuse morality and science.
by Michael Specter

A little more than a year ago, Sir Terry Leahy, who is the chief executive of the Tesco chain of supermarkets, Britain’s largest retailer, delivered a speech to a group called the Forum for the Future, about the implications of climate change. Leahy had never before addressed the issue in public, but his remarks left little doubt that he recognized the magnitude of the problem. “I am not a scientist,” he said. “But I listen when the scientists say that, if we fail to mitigate climate change, the environmental, social, and economic consequences will be stark and severe. . . . There comes a moment when it is clear what you must do. I am determined that Tesco should be a leader in helping to create a low-carbon economy. Read more »

Darwin’s Surprise

December 3rd, 2007 | Posted in The New Yorker, Articles | No Comments
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Download the PDF Why are evolutionary biologists bringing back extinct deadly viruses?
by Michael Specter

Thierry Heidmann’s office, adjacent to the laboratory he runs at the Institut Gustave Roussy, on the southern edge of Paris, could pass for a museum of genetic catastrophe. Files devoted to the world’s most horrifying infectious diseases fill the cabinets and line the shelves. There are thick folders for smallpox, Ebola virus, and various forms of influenza. Read more »

A Reporter at Large – Political Science

March 13th, 2006 | Posted in The New Yorker, Articles | No Comments
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Download the PDFThe Bush Administration's war on the laboratory.
by Michael Specter

On December 1st, Merck & Company applied to the Food and Drug Administration for a license to sell a vaccine that it has developed to protect women against the human papillomavirus. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States; more than half of all Americans become infected at some point in their lives. The virus is also the primary cause of cervical cancer, which kills nearly five thousand American women every year and hundreds of thousands more in the developing world. Read more »

Rethinking the Brain

July 23rd, 2001 | Posted in The New Yorker, Articles | No Comments
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Download the PDF How the songs of canaries upset a fundamental principle of science.
by Michael Specter

Fernando Nottebohm has lived transfixed by the melodies of songbirds. He is sixty now, and it has been decades since he left the plains of Argentina–first to study agriculture in Nebraska, then zoology at Berkeley, before coming to rest, in 1967, at Rockefeller University, in New York. But his interest in birds has sustained him since his earliest childhood. Read more »