Assorted Links

  • Does Robert Greenwald have a subtle sense of humor? See for yourself. Ted Sorenson, one of the interviewees, is widely thought to have ghostwritten Profiles in Courage. He denied it, but later told American Experience: “The author is the man who stands behind what is there on the printed page.”
  • Researchers fail to grasp that a spoof is a spoof. For instance, a case report involving a cartoon character was taken seriously. A Science News writer made this sort of mistake several years ago. I wrote to the magazine pointing it out. The editor who replied didn’t agree with me but said that the person who had written that piece was no longer working there.
  • “The mature product”. The truth about expiration dates.
  • Participatory science: “He drew the line at eating stewed mole.”

Thanks to Tyler Cowen and Ben Casnocha 

4 Replies to “Assorted Links”

  1. That’s an interesting article about the expiration dates printed on food packages, but I think that this section needs to be explained better: “we should focus our efforts on what really matters to our health—not spoilage bacteria, which are fairly docile, but their malevolent counterparts: disease-causing pathogens like salmonella and Listeria, which infect the food we eat not because it’s old but as a result of unsanitary conditions at factories or elsewhere along the supply chain.”

    Are there no spoilage-associated bacteria which are harmful? Is it possible that very low levels of disease-causing pathogens can grow exponentially over time and rise to the level where they are dangerous?

  2. Alex, I’m not worried about spoilage-related bacteria because I believe that bacteria that prosper in one environment (old food) are going to die in a much different environment (inside my body). I throw away spoiled food, sure, but not because I’m afraid of it. I’m much more afraid of bacteria that have grown successfully in someone else’s body.

  3. Seth,

    Like you, I’ve never been one to worry about expiration dates, and I’ve been known to eat leftovers that I found in the back of the ‘fridge and that were well past their prime. In fact, this is a frequent subject of conflict with my wife, who won’t eat any leftovers that are more than a few days old and who is quite diligent about checking expiration dates.

    That having been said, a few months ago I had a pretty serious bout of gastrointestinal illness that I suspect was food poisoning and not the flu. I never figured out where I got it. I’m not suggesting that I had botulism, but Clostridium botuinum doesn’t grow in someone else’s body and yet is quite dangerous if ingested (or, at least its toxin is dangerous). So I wonder if it’s at least possible that under certain conditions, with certain foods, that spoilage in an of itself, can make the food harmful. Is there a clinical microbiologist in the house?

  4. Alex, yeah, that’s a good point. The bacteria is dangerous not because it grows in your body but because of its byproducts. Perhaps that’s why we seem to have a built-in aversion to spoiled food. As I said, I throw it away even though I’m not afraid of it. (I agree with you, I should be afraid of it.)

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