All posts tagged: Harvard Medical School

When the Experts Failed During COVID-19

When the Experts Failed During COVID-19

[ad_1] Experts hate to be wrong. When I first started writing about the public’s hostility toward expertise and established knowledge more than a decade ago, I predicted that any number of crises—including a pandemic—might be the moment that snaps the public back to its senses. I was wrong. I didn’t foresee how some citizens and their leaders would respond to the cycle of advances and setbacks in the scientific process and to the inevitable limitations of human experts. The coronavirus pandemic, in particular, would prove the perfect crucible for accelerating the decline of faith in experts. Paranoia and appeals to ignorance have long been part of the American political environment, but they were especially destructive at a time when the U.S. was riven by partisan hostility. The pandemic struck at multiple political and cultural weaknesses within the edifice of American life: A mysterious disease—from China, no less, a nation that typically serves as a source of American anxiety—forced citizens to rely on the media, including outlets that many of them already distrusted, for scattered pieces …

The Meditation Start-Up That’s Selling Bliss on Demand

The Meditation Start-Up That’s Selling Bliss on Demand

[ad_1] The first time I heard about the jhanas, they sounded too good to be true. These special mental states are described in the sacred texts of an ancient school of Buddhism. Today, advanced meditators usually access them by concentrating on something: a flame, their breath, the sense of loving kindness. The meditators unclench their minds bit by bit, until they reach a state of near-total absorption. If they direct that focus in just the right way, a sequence of intense experiences ensues, beginning with bliss and ending with full-body peace. The jhana bliss state is not like the little uptick in well-being that comes with mindfulness meditation. It is not like a runner’s high. “This stuff is really powerful,” says Matthew Sacchet, the director of the Meditation Research Program at Harvard Medical School. An orgasm is said to be tame by comparison. Tears of joy will sometimes stream down a meditator’s face. The early Theravada Buddhists put no restrictions on the jhanas, but some later traditions taught that they were extraordinarily difficult to attain. …

Alabama Gets Ready for Its Gas Execution Experiment

Alabama Gets Ready for Its Gas Execution Experiment

[ad_1] This past August, officials at William C. Holman Correctional Facility distributed copies of Alabama’s execution protocol to the 165 prisoners of death row. A signature from each man was required to confirm receipt of the protocol, which contained an entirely new section devoted to death by nitrogen hypoxia, a novel and untested execution method that the state intends to try this Thursday. The subject of the Alabama Department of Corrections’ experimentation will be Kenneth Eugene Smith, who survived an attempted execution by lethal injection in November 2022. Elizabeth Bruenig: Alabama’s history of violence Nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method is credited to a California screenwriter by the name of Stuart Creque (author of the science-fiction and horror films The Last Earth Girl, He Knows, and Memento Mori), who wrote a 1995 National Review article suggesting the technique for its humanity and simplicity. Creque followed up on his original essay in The Wall Street Journal last year, praising officials in Alabama for preparing to realize his proposal. “Nitrogen anoxia is painless,” Creque wrote, basing his …

Obesity Drugs Are Giving New Life to BMI

Obesity Drugs Are Giving New Life to BMI

[ad_1] If anything defines America’s current obesity-drug boom, it’s this: Many more people want these injections than can actually get them. The roadblocks include exorbitant costs that can stretch beyond $1,000 a month, limited insurance coverage, and constant supply shortages. But before all of those issues come into play, anyone attempting to get a prescription will inevitably confront the same obstacle: their body mass index, or BMI. So much depends on the simple calculation of dividing one’s weight by the square of their height. According to the FDA, people qualify for prescriptions of Wegovy and Zepbound—the obesity-drug versions of the diabetes medications Ozempic and Mounjaro—only if their BMI is 3o or higher, or 27 or higher with a weight-related health issue such as hypertension. Many who do get on the medication use BMI to track their progress. That BMI is the single biggest factor determining who gets prescribed these drugs, and who doesn’t, is the result of how deeply entrenched this metric has become in how both doctors and regular people approach health: Low BMI …

It’s the Best Time in History to Have a Migraine

It’s the Best Time in History to Have a Migraine

[ad_1] Here is a straightforward, clinical description of a migraine: intense throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise, lasting for hours or days. And here is a fuller, more honest picture: an intense, throbbing sense of annoyance as the pain around my eye blooms. Wondering what the trigger was this time. Popping my beloved Excedrin—a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine—and hoping it has a chance to percolate in my system before I start vomiting. There’s the drawing of the curtains, the curling up in bed, the dash to the toilet to puke my guts out. I am not a religious person, but during my worst migraines, I have whimpered at the universe, my hands jammed into the side of my skull, and begged it for relief. That probably sounds melodramatic, but listen: Migraines are miserable. They’re miserable for about 40 million Americans, most of them women, though the precise symptoms and their severity vary across sufferers. For about a quarter, myself included, the onset is sometimes preceded by an aura, a …