Drug Trials, Avian Flu and the Importance of Metaphor
They had transfusions of blood products after their blood started to clot abnormally. Tissue started to die and peeled off at the ends of their fingers...'
A quote from a science fiction novel, perhaps? But no, this happened in London just a few months ago and is reported in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (via Reuters) by Dr. Ganesh Suntharalingam and colleagues about their drug trial. Apparently the patients' immune system went into overdrive, which is similiar to something that happens sometimes in cases of AVIAN FLU.
Just so we know.
I think I'll give up looking at Reuters now. I'm getting depressed. Here, instead is something to cheer the soul - a piece of writing by Professor Roald Hoffmann - poet and playwright...and who just happens to be a Nobel Laureate (for chemistry) too. He writes in this in Scientific American (via The Librarian's Place) about the importance of metaphor in science and in science writing and teaching. He says that too many scientific papers are sanitised because metaphors are thought (mistakenly) to impress no one as they are less rational. This, he believes, is wrong and concludes his piece with the following:
'They have no substance, these mental fetters that constrain metaphor and teaching and narrative in the communication of science. Break them. And when they are gone, still a scientist, you will understand better, see things more clearly, know what we cannot see.'
Which somehow gives me hope.