Anesthesia is often cited as one of the greatest advances in modern medicine. However, every once in a while, something goes wrong and a person wakes up in the middle of a procedure. The results can be deeply traumatic. The truth is, we don’t know how some anesthetic medicines work. But if we could find out, not only would patients remain safely comatose, the journalist Joshua Lang says we’d also close in on some deep questions about what it means to be conscious. Lang’s written an article about anesthesia and consciousness and he joins us Tuesday to discuss it.
In his latest book, the neuroscientist Oliver Sacks writes about his own history using psychoactive drugs. He’s said that apart from being both pleasurable and dangerous, those experiences gave him empathy for his patients suffering from hallucinations. Sacks says hallucinations are far more common than we realize, and his book is filled with bizarre encounters with the unreal brought on by disease, syndromes and disorders. Doug talks to Oliver Sacks about the many and fascinating ways we perceive things that aren’t there. (Rebroadcast)
A few years ago, the writer Steve Hendricks felt overweight, and he resolved to shed 20 pounds. His weight loss method might strike some as reckless: he fasted for over three weeks. Vanity, he writes, wasn't his only concern. He was informally testing theories which suggest that fasting can alleviate numerous maladies and symptoms and improve general health, much like exercise. Hendricks wrote about the benefits of an empty stomach for Harper's. Doug talked with him about it in March, and we're rebroadcasting that conversation on Friday. (Rebroadcast)
Thursday, Doug’s joined by the science writer David Quammen. Twelve years ago, Quammen began researching the concept of “spillover,” the sudden transfer of disease from one species to another. He traveled around the world, investigating the science, history and human impact of diseases like AIDS, SARS and Ebola. In his newest book, Spillover, Quammen says that what he’s learned makes clear “the old Darwinian truth that humanity is a kind of animal, inextricably linked with other animals: in origin and in descent, in sickness and in health.” (Rebroadcast)