Modeling the Spread of Infectious Disease: The SIR and MSEIR compartment models

Until the twentieth century, infectious diseases were the proximate cause of almost all human illness and death. Improvements in sanitation, widespread vaccination, and the advent of antibiotics began to turn the tide against the once intractable causative agents of these pathologies; bacteria and viruses. Major achievements of vaccination against globally endemic viral infections include the…

“My only crime is my face,” Perspective from Mary Oyama Mittwer and Miné Okubo

While browsing through an online museum exhibit, I came across an excerpt from this compelling article written during the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. I managed to find a scan of the full article hosted by the UC Berkeley Library. The writer describes her family’s internment experience until their release in 1943,…

Hypoxia, anoxia, lactic acid fermentation, and naked mole rats…

Fermentation is the ancient and evolutionarily conserved metabolic process by which glycolytic pyruvate is reduced by the electron carrier NADH, thus regenerating NAD+ while producing any of a number organism-specific end products. For example in yeast, the fermentation end product is ethanol, while in mammals, the end product is lactate. In mammals, this process occurs…

A brief history of the fall of Rome

The dissolution of the Western Roman Empire is popularly perceived as a sudden and dramatic cataclysm, with the “fall of Rome” often precisely dated to 476 CE. In that year, so the story goes, the child Emperor of the West (later derisively referred to as Romulus Augustulus), was deposed by the barbarian warlord Odoacer who…

Thoughts on marriage in the 21st century

Recently released data from Pew’s American Trends Panel survey confirm that American attitudes toward marriage are undergoing a steady but seismic shift. By 2017, only 50% of Americans ages 18-44 had ever been married. There are marked generational differences on the question of whether long-term cohabiters should ultimately marry;  55% of those ages 18-29 agree…

Scivias and the illuminations of Hildegard von Bingen

Scivias by Hildegard of Bingen Hildegard von Bingen’s Scivias (short for “Scito vias Domini,” or “Know the Ways of the Lord”) is, as the title suggests, mostly comprised of various divinely-ordained rules for life, with an emphasis on potential social deviancy. In a manner reminiscent of the Book of Revelation (or even the Quran), Hildegard…

On autophagy

Autophagy (from the Greek “auto” and “phagy,” literally meaning “self-eating”) is an intracellular process in eukaryotes that involves the breakdown and recycling of organelles, proteins, and other molecules. Cellular components targeted for degradation are typically dysfunctional or inefficient (i.e. such degradation may represent a diversion of resources), and are enveloped by an autophagosome (a double-membraned…