There's a new drug for African-American heart patients (found at Volokh). There's something right about this, and there's something a little dangerous. The drug had been tested and abandoned in the 80s due to little success among most people. At some point someone figured out that it had a better effect among black people, and studies to confirm this showed good results. What's most likely going on is that a genetic trait common among Americans of recent African descent (one suggestion has to do with nitric acid levels) allows this drug to be more successful with this particular kind of heart condition, just as some other kinds of medication are less successful in the same population. It doesn't seem related to the genes for pigmentation. Skin color may be a good guide to seeing whether someone has the relevant trait for the drug, but enough race mixing has gone on in the history of this country, and enough immigration of people who look enough like Americans of African descent but who are genetically very dissimilar, that prescribing such medicines according to racial identification is a very bad idea.
Science: July 2004 Archives
Here's some more stuff I've decided not to have longer posts on.
At Writing to Understand, Kris gives some reasons not to be so harsh with Fahrenheit 9/11. There really is something to be learned from it, even if you have to know a lot about the issues to be able to evaluate which bits are something to be learned and which are complete fabrications.
I knew video games were good for something.
Also from McConchie, a debunking of numerous claims about fetal stem cells. Destroying embryos doesn't seem to be worth it even if you ignore the fact that you're killing a human being.
Mark Liberman of Language Log has more on Bush's supposed disfluencies. This time an extremely respected linguist, George Lakoff, says Bush proved himself to be an excellent debater when running for governor. He describes him as eloquent, quick on his feet, and able to get out complicated sentences smoothly and without hesitation. Liberman considers a few theories as to why he seems to have become less that way during the 2000 presidential race and during his presidency. Interesting stuff.