The question of whether a scientist should share all of his discoveries was considered by a mathematician after the devastation the atomic bombs caused in Japan during WWII was observed. The topic of whether science advances are always progress or not is a theme in a book I picked up yesterday. “The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic” is a biography of the famous fiction author Kurt Vonnegut and his brother Bernard Vonnegut who was a scientist more famous during their earlier years than Kurt.
Bernard worked on plane de-icing strategies for use during WWII while Kurt was an enlisted man who became a Prisoner of War of the Nazi’s. The family feared he was dead for several months before he eventually was released at the end of the war and arrived home unexpectedly. Bernard’s career continued to involve ice in the form of cloud seeding for the purpose of creating snow where moisture was desired or potentially to be able to modify storm patterns to reduce their danger. His work involved dry ice and then silver iodide for dispersing in clouds. Super-cooled moisture within the cloud would form snow when the particles of dry ice or silver iodide were present. Ultimately it was found that health hazards were caused by silver iodide in the environment and the work was discontinued. It led to both brothers questioning the advisability of science experiments or technology being used when potential risks weren’t well understood.
Kurt wondered what might happen if a scientist refused to share information with the military. The leading mathematician of the day had done it after seeing the atomic bomb’s tragic results on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Professor Norbert Wiener of MIT wrote an essay that was published in November 1948, ‘A Rebellious Scientist After Two Years,’ that included the statement:
“degradation of the position of the scientist as an independent worker and thinker to that of a morally irresponsible stooge in a science-factory has proceeded even more rapidly and devastatingly than I had expected. In view of this, I still see no reason to turn over to any person, whether he be an army officer or the kept scientist of a great corporation, any results which I obtain if I think they are not going to be used for the best interests of science and of humanity.” – page 114-115, The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic, by Ginger Strand (Great, Strauss and Giroux, 2015, New York)
The ‘House of Magic‘ referred to in the title was the nickname of the lab where Bernard Vonnegut worked professionally.
Disclosure: This information is being shared for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use.
11/2017 – the USDA Food Composition Database is still missing critically important information – and until we can discuss that there is much else that isn’t going to be discussed. Note – this is about my concern that the entire public is being victimized by inadequate health care options as well as the information missing from a public database, and the history likely involves the radioactive incidents and factory work that took place in Hanford, Washington. Adequate iodine supply helps protect the body and thyroid gland from developing cancer and yet instead of educating the public regarding that fact the opposite occurred. Radioactive iodine is treated as a therapy for detecting cancer with the use of X-ray machines and for destroying thyroid cancer. Emergency supplies of higher dose iodine are produced for use in case of a nuclear incident but long term adequacy of iodine would work just as well or better than a short term use of high dose iodine if/when a nuclear incident occurred. The negative health effects of radioactive iodine have also been tested on the U.S. public without permission in covert experiments that took place during the Cold War years. See number six: http://theweek.com/articles/622448/8-government-conspiracy-theories-how-could-right/
Don Quixote, USA is a novel by Richard Powell that I read many times as a youth. Banana growing was a serious love for a nerdy young man who joined the Peace Corps and went to a South American country to help teach others. Somehow in the ensuing comedic adventures and misadventures he managed to grow bananas and takeover a Banana Republic – it is never too late to catch up on the classics.
I read the Reader’s Digest version which is mentioned in this book review. Reader’s Digest publishes slightly condensed versions of full length novels and publishes a book that includes four novels. Having read a few of the novels in their original and the Reader’s Digest condensed version I would say, great job Reader’s Digest at putting books in young adult’s and adult’s hands. I have not read the full length version of Don Quixote, USA but trust that it is even better than the Reader’s Digest version. Part of their success might be in choosing great books in the first place.
The novel is also available in a Kindle version and has an all star review on Amazon: Don Quixote, USA .
Take home lesson – if you don’t like something don’t just smash walnuts, unless you can also grow bananas. Read Don Quixote, USA to find out more.
/Or spoiler for those who like to take things the wrong way, when the nerdy looking Peace Corps first arrives he is met by the current dictator who liked to crack nuts – smashing them – with the handle end of his pistol. When the now swash buckling Peace Corps member finds himself in the dictator’s chair as the people’s choice he finds the desktop has rounded indentations that do hold the walnut in place for handing cracking with the pistol handle (or whatever type it was, I don’t quite remember). The point in my sharing this is about negative smear campaigns against information – why is iodine information being withheld from the U.S. public when it was once available. No other nutrients seem to be missing and several non-nutrients are included. In 2012 I had an account on a social media site and multiple fake looking accounts were following it in a way that seemed to be trying to link me to the President in office at the time – I closed the account as the simplest way to end the parody followers attempt at a negative smear campaign. I didn’t know who might have been behind the fake looking followers but there were many of the same type of persona.
The take home lesson – don’t let your country be taken over by a business dictatorship where money talks, dictators listen, and everyone else asks how high to jump because they know that more than walnuts will be smashed.
Disclosure: Among my many houseplants I have grown a banana plant. they would need more sun than normal indoor light provides to actually produce fruit but as a large, lovely green tropical plant banana plants grow quickly and easily. https://www.thespruce.com/grow-bananas-indoors-1902483
Growing bananas in the right outdoor climate is relatively easy because new sprouts grow around the base of the older fruit bearing plant which can be the size of a small tree. The individual small plants can be dug up, and replanted with more space around them so that they all will be able to have the nutrients and sunlight that they will need in order to become a fullsize fruit bearing plant. I’ve never grown more than one potted plant banana but the book explains the process and it is an important part of the story – the young man changed himself in the process of helping the struggling people grow a more productive product for export. The dictator was overthrown by the will of the people who had grown to appreciate the young man’s help.
The Peace Corps volunteer knew about the amazing properties of the banana plant and his hard work led to a productive country, while the dictator that had been in charge knew more about cracking walnuts. The book includes details about growing bananas as the problem with the dictatorship at the time was a lack of productivity and lack of income.
The lesson isn’t about one Peace Corps worker or one dictator, it is about the group of people learning productive skills – no one alone can grow an entire field of bananas – it took a while for the young man to get enough interest and help.
And a daily reminder iodine content in our food supply was removed from a public database. This would not have been an accident – government agencies do what they are told. Why would the Obama Administration want to remove iodine information from public use? and why would the Trump Administration continue the policy? Food sources and other information about iodine and selenium is collected in a draft form on a different website: G9: Iodine & Thyroid
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
There are no guarantees in life except that it doesn’t end well but a physician has written a guide that may help patients navigate through the U.S. medical system. The book “Prepare to Defend Yourself . . . How to Navigate the Healthcare System & Escape with Your Life,” (2014) by Matthew Minson, MD is a patient guide written with sensitivity and humor . . . and the cartoons are funny too. 
The author shares the background history of medical care and addresses how changes in the current medical industry has made individualized care of patients more difficult for physicians and for patients. The guide has helpful worksheets of information to keep on hand in case of emergencies, , and questions to ask before an emergency occurs (ideally, get the book now, before you need it).
The book’s publication was with the support of the Texas A & M School of Rural Public Health, “whose mission is to improve the health of communities through education, research, service, outreach, and creative partnerships.” The author completed his medical residency in Anesthesiology but since then has worked extensively in the field of emergency and disaster response at federal and corporate levels. 
Happy April Fool’s Day, but the need for self advocacy as a patient is no joke. Arm yourself with knowledge and a side of laughter, the end result will be the same but quality of life is something to protect every day.
/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./