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Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

28 March 2013

Why humans should go to Mars

Laura H. Kahn

Humans first emerged from Africa around 60,000 years ago in search of new lands to explore and colonize. Since then, we've spread out across much of the planet and even gone into low Earth orbit in the International Space Station. The need to explore new frontiers appears to be embedded in our DNA.

22 January 2013

Undermining Obamacare

Laura H. Kahn

Now that President Barack Obama has been reelected, his Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare," will move forward, which is good news for the health, safety, and security of the United States. But setting up Obamacare and actually providing it are two different challenges. Both will be hard.

24 October 2012

The facts of fungi

Laura H. Kahn

It's the season for blood-sucking bats and flesh-eating zombies, but even the most ghoulish Halloween character can't hold a candle to one of the scariest life forms around: fungi.

27 September 2012

The One Health solution

Laura H. Kahn

The popular press is finally recognizing the important connections among human, animal, and environmental health. Environmental destruction, global trade and travel, intensive agriculture, and other human activities all lead to the emergence of previously unknown microbes that can infect across species, causing zoonotic disease outbreaks like West Nile virus, avian influenza, hantavirus, HIV/AIDS, and others. No wonder the media is paying attention.

27 August 2012

Keeping the life sciences honest

Laura H. Kahn

When scientist Ron Fouchier, from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, presented his research at a conference in Malta last year, he described how he and his colleagues induced mutations into the H5N1 virus, ultimately giving the deadly virus the ability to become airborne and transmit infection as efficiently as the seasonal flu. Fouchier was ostensibly trying to learn more about the virus in order to protect humanity from its dangers, but his work also meant risking that the virus he created would escape the lab or be mimicked by a rogue scientist with terrorist ties.

18 June 2012

DIY biology

Laura H. Kahn

In the nineteenth century, research in the natural and life sciences was largely self-supported. Charles Darwin had the good fortune of being born into a wealthy family, enabling him to pursue his passions as a gentleman naturalist and to develop the trailblazing theory of evolution. Darwin's good fortune ended up being science's as well.

20 April 2012

Plastic-wrapped planet

Laura H. Kahn

We can thank billiard balls for our modern-day, plastic-filled lives. For most of human history, everyday items such as combs were made from expensive animal parts, like tortoise shells. Then, in the 1860s, billiards became a popular pastime. Unfortunately, elephants had to be killed so that their ivory tusks could be made into billiard balls, and soon elephants were rapidly being hunted to extinction. One enterprising New York billiards supplier even offered $10,000 in gold to anyone who could come up with a good substitute for ivory.

6 February 2012

The science fiction effect

Laura H. Kahn

It's alive! Neurophysiology. Huddled around a warm fireplace one cold summer's night in 1816, a small group of friends decided to hold a competition to see who could write the scariest horror story. While vacationing in a villa by Lake Geneva, Switzerland, the friends spent their time reading ghost stories and discussing the exciting experiment being performed by the scientists of the day: reanimating dead matter.

17 January 2012

Going viral

Laura H. Kahn

We've been lucky. The avian influenza (H5N1) virus that first emerged in Hong Kong in 1997 -- which killed six and caused 18 serious illnesses -- has not acquired the ability to spread easily from person to person. Virtually all of the reported cases have involved contact with infected birds or bird products.

3 January 2012

Using microbes to fight microbes

Laura H. Kahn

There are more microorganisms in and on our bodies than human cells. In fact, scientists estimate that microorganisms outnumber human cells by 10 to 1. These microbes cover our skin, nose, mouth, and gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts. Called the "human microbiome," scientists are investigating the relationship between these microbes and disease.

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