"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
A new malaria vaccine has been shown effective in large-scale field trials. After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges. In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis. [more inside]
"Researchers found that failing to publish negative findings inflated the reported effectiveness of all 12 of the antidepressants studied." See also: Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature. [more inside]
Robin Prosser was a former concert pianist and systems analyst who suffered from an autoimmune disease similar to lupus for over 20 years. The disease left her in constant pain and made her allergic to most pharmaceutical painkillers. Only medical marijuana brought her relief, but last spring the DEA seized her medicine. Unable to cope with the chronic pain any longer, she committed suicide on October 18th. [Via Andrew Sullivan.]
Drug-resistant TB strain raises ethical dilemma. A man in Arizona who has a virtually untreatable strain of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) has been locked up indefinitely because he failed to take precautions to avoid infecting others, even though he has not commited a crime. The new strain of TB is described as a nightmare by health officials, and though mainly found in Africa and Asia, it is slowly beginning to spread in the U.S. [Via Technoccult.]
The Access to Essential Medicines Campaign is an initiative by Medecins Sans Frontieres that seeks to "lower the prices of existing medicines in developing countries, to bring abandoned drugs back into production, to stimulate research and development for neglected diseases that primarily affect the poor, and to overcome other barriers to access." HIV is one target disease. The Campaign's press releases, press clips and reports on HIV give a good picture of recent developments. In light of this evidence, does anyone care to step up and defend "big pharma" and the governments of the wealthy North? Have we/they "done enough"? What would "doing enough" look like, given the scope of the crisis?
Ecstasy is being hailed as the key to better treatments for the Parkinson's disease, marking a complete turnaround from a few weeks ago when ecstasy was condemned for causing the disease.