What we’re reading: 16 April 2010

blogsIn the BMJ editorial office, we often come across interesting articles, blogs, and web pages. We thought we would share these with you. Some are medical, some techie, and some just general.


Helen Jacques, technical editor writes:
Anyone remember Tamagotchi? I had one of these “egg-shaped digital pets” when I was at primary school in the 1990s in lieu of something more fluffy but more inconvenient like a hamster. I had to press buttons to feed it, play with it, or clean up its mess, and was rewarded with a warm fuzzy glow when it thrived. In his Wired article “You Are a Tamagotchi,” Thomas Goetz describes new digital health monitoring tools that work to a similar principle – monitoring how much exercise you’re getting, for example, and motivating you with a flower that grows when you move.

Is promiscuity an illness? What about sex addiction, in the headlines a lot these days thanks to Tiger Woods’ indiscretions. This Independent article looks at the classification of new mental disorders via the latest edition of the DSM and questions the medicalisation of extreme personality traits.

This month’s Nature Medicine includes a whole raft of free articles on counterfeit drugs. I’m still working my way through them all, but I enjoyed reading about how Lebanon and China are trying to crack down on counterfeiters, in particular makers of “the little blue pill” (Viagra if you didn’t guess). There’s also an interesting article on reducing the production of substandard drugs, an overlooked area compared with straightforward counterfeiting.

Sally Carter, technical editor writes:
This week I read a book recommended to me by a friend of mine who is also a technical editor. It’s a mixed-up page turner of a novel called The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. The amoral hero of the book is a pornographer who crashes his car while high. He gets horrendously burnt and loses various body parts, including his penis. The book follows his treatment and recovery, which is helped by a tattooed mental patient who earns her living making gargoyles – and thinks she is a nun from the 14th century. Okay, it sounds bad, but it’s not. It part love story, part historical novel, part, well I’m not sure really, but I couldn’t put it down.

My friend and I both noticed the differences in how Davidson described the burns treatments in his book to the way our BMJ authors write about them.

Here’s an extract from The Gargoyle.

“While a small burn results in a blister filled with plasma, burns such as mine result in the loss of enormous quantities of liquid. In my first twenty-four hospital hours the doctors pumped six gallons of isotonic liquid into me to counteract the loss of body fluids. I bathed in liquid as it flowed out of my scorched body as fast as it was pumped in, and I was something akin to a desert during a flash flood.”

And here is part of Stuart Enoch et al.’s take on “Emergency and early management of burns and scalds. BMJ 2009: doi:10.1136/bmj.b1037

“Effective fluid resuscitation remains the cornerstone of management in major burns. If more than 25% of the body is burnt, intravenous fluids should be given “on scene,” although transfer should not be delayed by more than two attempts at cannulation The aims are to maintain vital organ perfusion and tissue perfusion to the zone of stasis (around the burn) to prevent extension of the thermal necrosis.”

David Isaacson, doc2doc community manager writes:
Science is becoming cool and mainstream, the driving force behind the newspaper headlines and BBC’s series on the Solar system. Professor Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox on twitter) highlights in his book (written with Professor Jeff Forshaw) how e=mc2 effects our daily lives and relates Einstein’s special theory of relativity so mere mortals can understand the effects of space and time. As a species we find it hard to see time as anything but a linear path, e=mc2 explains how we should think outside of the box.

Juliet Walker, assistant web editor writes:
A few weeks ago the BMJ published two articles about synaesthesia. It sparked a discussion in the office about how we visualise time. It turned out that I think of the months of the year very differently to everyone else. I always think of it as a circle that moves around depending on which month we are currently in. I recently saw this article in the New Scientist which describes this as time-space synaesthesia, which only 2% of the population experience. I find it fascinating because until I had discussed it with my colleagues it never occurred to me that anyone would see time differently.