The Sciences

Annals of Bad Science Writing: Lab-Worn Doctor-Lady [sic]

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerJan 13, 2009 3:32 PM


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 I...I just don't know where to begin with the opening to this article in the latest issue of Esquire. "Pretty lady"? "The new poor part of town"? A noxious martini of mixed metaphors topped with an olive of ridiculous hype. (Forget it--I can't compete with this stuff.) If we science writers want to defend our old-fashioned craft against its critics, how do we defend stuff like this?

First thing that happens when you have a heart attack, an unlucky part of your heart turns white. The blood's stopped pumping to that spot, so it becomes pink-speckled bloodlessness, coarse and cool like grapefruit gelatin.This is the moment when, if they could think, these heart cells in this new poor part of town would go, "Well, shit." Mortal things have a godly way of knowing when they'll die.Next comes the back-alley bruise of organ death. The cells turn from white to black, all shitted up like a body pit in a war, two weeks after. Suddenly, soldier, this part of your heart is dead, only it's still in your body, attached to the good section -- the 90210 ventricle -- and the good part is smirking, it's saying, "Come on, rebuild yourself, man!"But the dead part can't fix itself. And the healthy part can't throw it a bloody rope. So the whole heart begins to die -- 650,000 American deaths a year.But now look here, a woman. She is a pretty lady of Pakistani heritage who highlights her soccer-mom layers, which you don't expect from a lab-worn doctor-lady. And she's got ideas. Wild ones. Hina Chaudhry believes she can do what the body can't: fix the dead parts.

Update, January 20: 3quarkdaily just picked up this little rant. They accompanied their post with a picture of Dr. Chaudhry. That juxtaposition made me a bit queasy--let me just make clear that I was not criticizing Dr. Chaudhry, just the article about her. Dr. Chaudhry is doing what scientists should: running experiments and getting her results published in peer-reviewed journals. Here's a free link to a 2007 paper of hers on regenerating heart tissue. It's up to us science writers in turn to find a better way to describe a scientist than as a pretty lady

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