Monday, August 27, 2012

That's me, examining a dragonfly with a hand lens.  I wrote about these amazing creatures -- and the curious people who chase them -- for Audubon magazine. 

While birding and butterflying have long been popular, watching and identifying dragonflies and damselflies is becoming more so.  Easy-to-use field guides are now available and states such as New York and New Hampshire have done comprehensive surveys to determine what species live there.  In the process of training its residents how to survey, these science/conservation efforts have also bred a loyal group of hobbyists and citizen scientists. 

One dragonfly devotee is Thomas Cullen, who took these photos while introducing me to the ways and wonders of dragonflies and their pursuers.  After I let go of her wings, this female chalk-fronted corporal perched on my hand for several seconds, giving me another, more relaxed perspective.

More data on triclosan, the chemical that makes soap "antibacterial," from the Los Angeles Times health blog.  A research team from UC Davis found untoward effects of the chemical in mice.  Animal evidence is not usually enough to change regulations on a chemical.  But in this case, writer Eryn Brown reminds us, adding the chemical to soap doesn't improve soap's effectiveness.  Hand washing with regular soap and water is a perfectly good germ-killing method. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quick post on some of my recent Los Angeles Times articles:

In November 2011, the FDA withdrew its approval for using the drug Avastin in patients with metastatic breast cancer.  Now, two new studies suggest the drug might be helpful in early stage breast cancer.  I parse that confusing message here.

The FDA reneges on one action to reduce antibiotic use in food animals, then moves forward on another. But the agency asserts that both decisions were made in the interest of preserving antibiotics that are medically important for humans. Here's the story.

Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled a decision by FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg to make the so-called morning after pill available without a prescription.  Both parties cite science as basis for their opposing decisions on Plan B. I dig into that science here.

Common sense improvements proposed for school lunches devolve into food vs food fights. For instance, should 1/8 cup tomato paste be counted as a 1/2 cup serving because it's concentrated?