Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

12 November 2007

Why evolution should be taught in public schools

Laura H. Kahn

Understanding evolution is critical to confronting the twenty-first century's microbiological challenges. We need to educate the next generation of scientists to give them the tools to develop novel treatments against antibiotic resistant bacteria, emerging viruses, and other deadly microbes. They need to understand how these microbes develop and change, which requires an understanding of evolution.

17 October 2007

The sewer: Guardian against disease

Laura H. Kahn

After recently crossing the Atlantic Ocean to spend a year abroad in Paris, I decided to visit the one museum that commemorates a human achievement that trumps Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Eiffel Tower combined in terms of its impact on quality of life--sewage systems. Paris is one of the few cities that celebrates its sewer with a museum. Hidden and generally taken for granted, underground sewers allow large megacities to grow and flourish.

16 September 2007

Children: The bioterrorists we love

Laura H. Kahn

Given their aversion to cleanliness and a dislike for hygiene, kids play a major role in spreading disease such as influenza.

19 August 2007

The spread of mosquito-borne diseases

Laura H. Kahn

There are approximately 2,500 mosquito species in the world, but a mere fraction of them feed on human blood. Of this fraction, only the females are vampires, as they require blood to nourish their eggs. When she's ready to lay these eggs, which usually number in the hundreds, the female typically does so on a small, still body of water. In some mosquito species, she creates little rafts for the eggs. They float until they hatch as tiny larvae a few days later. Like butterflies, they eventually turn into pupae, which ultimately metamorphose into the insects we know.

8 July 2007

The end of vaccines?

Laura H. Kahn

Ever since Edward Jenner first scratched cowpox pus into the arm of an eight-year-old boy in an attempt to render him immune to smallpox in May 1796, there has been debate and controversy over the procedure. Vaccination, which Jenner derived from the Latin word "vaca" meaning "cow," was preceded by the practice of "variolation" in which dried pus from an individual recovering from smallpox was scratched into the arm of someone naïve to the disease--usually a child. "Variolus" means "pus-like material."

13 June 2007

Pathogens on a plane

Laura H. Kahn

A hollow tube 30,000 feet in the air filled with people sneezing, coughing, and talking while breathing recirculated air provides the perfect environment for disease transmission.

31 May 2007

The exodus of general medical physicians

Laura H. Kahn

One of the greatest challenges facing health care is figuring out how to assess the worth of thoughts. It is far easier to put a monetary value on a specific task such as a colonoscopy or cardiac catheterization than on the nebulous efforts of thinking and talking. This difference is reflected in how insurance companies reimburse physicians' services, as they typically pay physicians far more money to do surgeries than for spending time with patients and thinking about how to best diagnose, treat, and manage medical care.

20 May 2007

Bring back the Office of Technology Assessment

Laura H. Kahn

During an April 2007 speech at a Princeton University colloquium titled, "From Passion to Politics: What Moves People to Take Action," New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer admitted that the world changes more by technology than by politics. He added that emotions can obscure facts and that political discourse requires an agreed-upon set of facts before policy can be rationally discussed. Unfortunately, politicizing scientific facts has never been more prevalent.

6 May 2007

How the pet food scare affects global health

Laura H. Kahn

When a company decides to sell food on the international market (pet or otherwise), it better understand that everybody’s health is at stake.

26 April 2007

Mother Nature’s bioterrorism

Laura H. Kahn

Bioterrorists, in this case Mother Nature, couldn't have picked a better target against agriculture: honeybees. Cornell University's Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone estimate that the value honeybees contribute to U.S. agriculture through pollination grew from $9.3 billion in 1989 to $14.6 billion in 2000. (See "The Value of Honeybees as Pollinators of U.S.