In This Doctor’s Office, a Physical Exam Like No Other


The New York Times, May 8, 2019


To scientists like Michael Snyder, chair of the genetics department at Stanford University, the future of medicine is data — lots and lots of data.

He and others predict that one day doctors won’t just take your blood pressure and check your temperature. They will scrutinize your genome for risk factors and track tens of thousands of molecules active in your body.

By doing so, the doctors of the future will identify diseases, and treat them, long before symptoms appear.

The approach has a number of critics, who say it will never be cost-effective and will instead lead to wild overtreatment of anxious patients.

But on Wednesday, Dr. Snyder and his colleagues published a study suggesting that big data may succeed where conventional medicine fails. Continue reading

The New York Times, May 1, 2019


In 1980, a Buddhist monk in Tibet entered a sacred cave to pray. On the floor, he found half of a human jawbone, studded with two teeth.

A team of scientists on Wednesday reported that the fossil belonged to a 160,000-year-old Denisovan, a member of a lineage of mysterious, Neanderthal-like humans that disappeared about 50,000 years ago. Continue reading “Denisovan Jawbone Discovered in a Cave in Tibet”

The New York Times, April 11, 2019


For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself.

He drew blood from his arms. He saved his urine. He played computer games to test his memory and reaction speed. He measured the shape of his eyes.

Two hundred and forty miles below, Mr. Kelly’s twin brother, Mark, who also served as an astronaut, carried out identical tests. Now, a comparison of these two men has provided a unique opportunity to learn what happens to the human body in space — down to the molecular level. Continue reading “Scott Kelly Spent a Year in Orbit. His Body Is Not Quite the Same.”

The New York Times,  April 11, 2019


There’s never been a study like it before, and there probably never will be again.

Starting in March 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station. A team of scientists tracked his body’s responses to long-term spaceflight in painstaking detail. They simultaneously tracked his identical twin brother, Mark, on Earth.

On Thursday, the scientists began publishing the huge trove of results from the so-called NASA Twins Study — 90 pages, all told, and that’s just the first installment. Here’s a guide to what they’ve found … so far. Continue reading “4 Takeaways From That Huge Study of Scott Kelly”

The New York Times, April 10, 2019


In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree.

At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall.

The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.

Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. Continue reading “An Ancient Human Species Is Discovered in a Philippine Cave”