Science, Health and Saving Things
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Are your friends making you fat?
A couple of months ago, about 80 people - some of whom knew each other and some of whom did not - gathered in a small lecture room at Nuffield College, Oxford, to hear a man give a lecture about how, if one of them suddenly got fat, the chances are that others would get fat, too. The same applied to happiness: if someone in the room spent the next week elated, that joy would probably become infectious. And the same for smoking: if a man in the room finally managed to quit, the chances were good that his friend sitting two rows in front of him would quit as well. And then, a short while later, a friend of his friend whom he didn't know would do the same thing.
Catch it! Bin it! Profit from it!
On 30 September 2009, Professor David Salisbury, the Department of Health's Director of Immunisation, sent a detailed letter to the people who were responsible for our future wellbeing during this swine flu outbreak. The recipients included all "Flu Directors and Co-ordinators" and "Pandemic Influenza Leads" in every health authority and NHS primary care trust in England, a rigorously marshalled and prepared bunch, several hundred in total. The letter concerned the new flu vaccine, which was three weeks from being widely available and couldn't come soon enough. After a lull over the summer, the outbreak was on the rise again: within two weeks of Salisbury's letter, it rose to an estimated 27,000 new cases in a week, double the total of a fortnight before. The greatest rise had been seen in people below 25.
The Portman Clinic
Seventy-five years ago, a middle-aged woman walked into a London clinic to receive help with her violent temper. She'd attacked her employer and was judged to be worthy of psychological examination. There are a few more things known about her case, but the details are less significant than the fact that she was the first recorded appointment at the new clinical wing of the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency.
Our Disappearing Bees
Beekeeping, once the lazy hobby of men and women in summer hats, has become the preserve of entomologists, epidemiologists, propagandists and technical specialists. It has also become an occupation for the not badly off, particularly if one is in the market for the WBC Starter Kit. The WBC - a traditional, double-walled hive with a sloping roof, which makes it safe from bad weather and woodpeckers - has been hard to beat for more than a century, each one coming as it does in cedar, with one lift that has a porch, two lifts with a roof, a brood chamber with 10 frames, a steel queen excluder, a 'super' with 10 frames and a crown board. The £500 kit also includes a bee suit, gloves, a stainless-steel smoker, smoker string, a stainless steel hive tool, four pints of rapid feeder and the Guide to Bees and Honey by Ted Hooper.
In September 2006, something unusual started happening to my thirst. I was drinking more than I had ever done before, mostly water, and after one glass I wanted another. For a day or so I felt quite pleased; it was an involuntary detox, the sort of health regime I had always promised myself. But then the bathroom breaks became a bit of a drag, and I began to feel unwell. I felt lethargic, developed headaches, became hungry, started looking gaunt. Because I knew a little bit about these things, I thought I might have diabetes.