Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.


These days, microplastics seem to have displaced methane and carbon dioxide as the environmental bogy man. And not that we shouldn’t worry about all pollution sources, but it turns out that, once again, driving is a big problem–not just for global warming but for microplastics as well: “Driving is not just an air pollution and […]

Another win for semaglutide

While I don’t find this surprising, it underscores the power of modern pharmacology. Many drugs deliver only incremental improvement, but semaglutide–like anti-hypertensives and statins–looks transformative for many people. “The diabetes and weight loss drug semaglutide significantly reduced symptoms and improved quality of life in people with obesity and the most common form of heart failure […]

Non-fungible tokens

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) first came to my attention just a couple years ago. Apparently, anything could be an NFT. Per Investopedia: “Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are assets that have been tokenized via a blockchain. They are assigned unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from other tokens. “NFTs can be traded and exchanged for money, […]

COVID reminders

Now that COVID seems to be surging again, some timely reminders are in order: • keep your vaccination status current. The vaccine won’t keep you from being infected, but it will most likely keep you out of the ED and the morgue; • the outcome of COVID infection isn’t binary: death or survival. A third […]

Why do physicians make so much?

According to this WaPo article, the average physician in the US earns $350K/yr. I didn’t click through to the actual data, but from the first table, I’m guessing that “average” means median, not mean. And physician income isn’t a Gaussian distribution—there’s a long right-hand tail for the specialties. Why is this? It looks to me […]

Yellow rain and the natural origin of a “bioweapon”

A recent discussion thread concerning the “lab leak” hypothesis for the origin of SARS-CoV-2 reminded me of another conspiracy theory involving claims of a bioweapon that also probably had a natural origin. The US government claimed that the Soviet Union was using trichothecene mycotoxins as biological weapons in Southeast Asia in the mid-1970s. In support […]

SARS-CoV-2 was probably not released from a research lab

I’m a molecular biologist who also has an undergrad degree in microbiology. Those facts and the additional facts that (a) I was in the Moderna phase III trial and (b) my medical school is one of ten NIH designated vaccine testing and evaluation units made me an avid student of the unfolding COVID-19 story. Given […]

Branding and the business model of research universities

Our daughter only applied to two colleges, Washington University in St. Louis and Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. Tuition wasn’t an issue, since her mom was an employee of Wash U, and the university pays full tuition at Wash U or half of Wash U’s tuition at any other college or university for all […]

On inheritance, college tuition and college loans

My parents died as paupers, so there wasn’t anything for me and my four siblings to “inherit” upon their deaths. No matter. I figure I got my inheritance on the front end, because my folks paid for my college education: tuition, room and board. Even correcting for inflation, tuition* at the University of Tennessee was […]

Carbon capture and geoengineering

In a previous post, I made the point that even if all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions ceased tomorrow, the half-lives of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, together with climate change-driven gas emissions from melting permafrost and methane clathrates doom us to decades more of warming. The only ways to avert this are (1) carbon […]