The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 (notes)

The Best American Science and Nature Writing,  2011
ed by Mary Roach and Tim Folger
2011/ 350 pages

Mary Roach is the author of Stiff and her specialty is,  to me,  gross stuff – cadavers, body fluids and such what.  But she’s a respected science writer.    Folger is also a science writer for Discovery magazine.

The Forward by Folger focuses on an “astronomy” story in the book and encourages readers to submit stories for next year.

The Introduction is by Mary Roach who has written several books including Stiff and Packing for Mars.  She seems more interested in life sciences.  She provides overviews of several of the stories.

**  The Organ Dealer by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee –  human organ sales – especially kidneys, the medical history and current capitalist practice.  Focus on Amit Kumar, an Indian businessman/surgeon (not a doctor) who became quite wealthy but was arrested in 2008.
Both sides are presented.

** Nature’s Spoils by Burkhard Bilger
Eating leftovers from trash, the vacant lot and wherever.  Focus on Sandor Katz, a fermentation specialist.

The bacteria in the gut can take up to four years to
recover from a round of antibiotics, recent studies 
have found, and the steady assault of detergents, 
preservatives, chlorine, and other chemicals 
also takes its toll. The immune system builds up 
fewer antibodies in a sterile environment; the
 deadliest pathogens can grow more resistant to
 antibiotics; and innocent bystanders such as peanuts 
or gluten are more likely to provoke allergic 

This is a pretty interesting story to me because of the alternative life style and I’m interested in nutrition and food.  (Have to say that their food sounds pretty gross.)  They call this “primal eating.”

I was partly raised on a farm and we did NOT drink the cow milk raw – maybe only a sip.  My folks sent it to town for pasteurization.  You never knew what the cows were eating out there.

Preaching Lost Art of Fermentation

** The Chemist’s War by Deborah Blum

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much
alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had
 decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They
 ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufac-
tured in the United States, products regularly stolen 
by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea
was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking.  
Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the 
federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed 
at least 10,000 people.

This story is the history of that program,

** Fertility Rites by Jon Cohen
Why do chimps have so few spontaneous abortions and miscarriages?  This article examines how they found out.

** The Brain That Changed Everything by Luke Dittrich
I could NOT figure out what this piece was about until I was about half-way through.  Someone was cutting up a brain.  Someone had lost his memory.  A lobotomy had been performed.   I suppose the article is about brain surgery, lobotomies in general for   epilepsy, memory loss and other things and how it affected one man.  And in the end how one man’s brain is used for study after he dies.

** Emptying the Skies by Jonathan Franzen
Trapping songbirds in Cyprus – for food.  This is a traditional practice run rampant to satisfy tourists so illegal traps are set.  Franzen and a companion roamed around inspecting these traps and occasionally setting a bird free.  As long as folks are going to eat these birds there is going to be bird trapping – and no one talks about it.  It’s like prohibition in a way –   Franzen discusses the politics of it.

When  In Cyprus Should You Eat Song Birds?

** Fish Out Of  Water by Ian Frazier


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