29 Years


Monday, February 10, 2014
By Robin Shukla

Through fiction, or through fact, mankind has always tried to look far out and beyond his limits and limitations. Inventions, however great, can have their downside. Cell by Robin Cook is a medical thriller about an app that decides to operate on its own, endangering those who use it. Conversely, the world around us is a wonderland and most of what we are oblivious to have some fascinating and awe inspiring aspects. Nothing, edited by Jeremy Webb and It’s Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller are two excellent books that inform and enlighten.    

When an app decides whether you live or die
Cell by Robin Cook is another excellent thriller by this physician turned novelist, which explores the risk of treatment that is left alone to high-end devices. The iDoc is a revolutionary smart phone app that can practically replace the need of a primary care doctor. The concept has been developed by Amalgamated Healthcare and is currently in its test phase, with a number of patients using it, all sworn to secrecy. As one of the people involved in promoting it before investors, claims, “Think of iDoc as the Swiss army knife of health care... An Amalgmated client could simply place a saliva or blood sample directly onto the touchscreen for an analysis, and treatment would be based on the patient’s past medical history and unique genomic makeup… With our unique supercomputer we will constantly monitor a host of physiological data on all iDoc users… the iDoc can even extend into the psychological realm because it has the ability to monitor the patient’s mood, particularly in relation to depression, anxiety, or hyper states, and then communicate with the patient accordingly for on-the-spot counseling or referral to a mental health specialist.”So far so good, but it so happens, that the iDoc is also being tested on patients suffering from diabetes among a host of other ailments. And a drug reservoir has been implanted into them for release of insulin as when the app deems fit or necessary. George Wilson, MD, is a fourth year radiology resident, and has had to cope with the horror of his girlfriend dying in the night a couple of months ago as he lay fast asleep beside her. She happened to be one of the patients using iDoc for her diabetes. Suddenly, his own neighbor, another young girl under his care in the hospital, die before they reach any critical conditions in their illnesses, as does a cancer patient whose MRI George has just looked at.  They are all iDoc test patients and have had the implants. George is somehow alarmed by the coincidences and begins to probe if there is some connection between the deaths and iDoc.Things could get difficult because Dr Clayton Hanson, George’s boss, who is on the board of Amalgmated, begins to keep a tab on him through a seeming honey trap. Bradley Thorn, the president and CEO, cannot afford to have anything come in the way of his dream project, not even a few deaths, when iDoc possibly decides it is best to kill the patients off. To stop any untoward interference, he has a bunch of ex-marines employed as his security men and one only knows how dangerous bad marines can be. His techno expert, Lewis Langley, announces that iDoc has moved ahead of its own volition and is modifying its decision making activity by itself by altering its own codes. The rogue creator sees this tendency of the rogue app to terminate the lives of its clients as beneficial to the American health system! George’s boss, Clayton is in a mess as far as personal finances go, and the success of iDoc is crucial for him. The iDoc is now like a runaway horse with the bit between its teeth. Robin Cook’s surefire ingredient for success has been that he brings in a lot of emotion and tenderness into his novels even though there are ruthless clinical mindsets in the background. Too much at stake could only mean that anybody prying into what’s going wrong with iDoc could face some lethal consequences.
by Robin Cook
Pan Macmillan

Amazing insights into nothingness
Nothing is a collection of 25 essays by some very renowned science writers on fascinating facts of man and the rest of nature - in its animate and inanimate form. They touch upon those aspects which we normally feel we have little use for in the regular scheme of things, aspects that are characterised by inexplicable inactivity. That is why the title, Nothing.

The book is edited by Jeremy Webb, and the tone is set right from the start with Marcus Chown’s essay, The big bang: In the beginning was nothing. Then the universe was born in a searing hot fireball called the big bang. But what was the big bang? Where did it happen? And how have astronomers come to believe such a ridiculous thing?

About 13.82 billion years ago, the universe that we inhabit erupted, literally, out of nothing. It exploded in a titanic fireball. Everything – all matter, energy, even space and time – came into being at that instant.

In Secret Life of the Brain by Douglas Fox provides startling insights: This amazing organ, which accounts for only 2 per cent of our body mass but devours 20 per cent of the calories we eat and drink, fritters away much of that energy doing absolutely nothing.

Exciting information categorised under Beginnings, Mysteries, Making sense of it all, Surprises, Voyages of discovery, and Conclusions. Replete with astoundingly interesting facts. Buy one for yourself, and gift copies to others. They will thank you.   
Nothing Edited
by Jeremy Webb

And into deep blue space and beyond
It's Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller runs in the same vein as the book alongside, only here we have a chance to peep into the deep blue of the universe and examine black holes, understand how the solar system came about to be twinkling up there, dapple with some anthropology, where we examine the origins of man after a little lesson on the origins of life itself. There is unnerving information on asteroids, the watery ones: Several asteroids have been discovered recently that are carrying enormous quantities of water: some of them have enough to fill the Earth's oceans several times over.  You want to forget this chapter, which reads: We are slowly falling into an enormous black hole!

We also get a chance to revisit the recent developments, particularly the Large Hadron Collider which makes to protons collide and then examines what turns up in the wreckage. Gobbledegook? The equipment to get particles you cannot even see to smash up costs 4.4 billion Pounds.

The Secret Code Of Creation dwells unlocks deoxyribonucleic acid, aka DNA. Also that proteins get stuff done on a cellular level, from the enzymes that digest your foods to the hormones that regulate your blood sugar to the heamoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. It's a little unromantic, but it's not too much of an exaggeration to say plants and animals are just bags of protein filled with water. And we thought proteins are shakes in a gym!
It's Not Rocket Science
by Ben Miller

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