Essays

I err, therefore I am

When talking about the human mental capabilities, in The Symbolic Species, Terrence Deacon stated that “biologically, we are just another ape. Mentally, we are new phylum of organism.”  This wondrous and unfathomably complex organ - the brain -  has enabled us to become the most dominant species of the planet. With a unique capacity to… Continue reading I err, therefore I am

The Zombie Zone

The term circadian is derived from Latin to mean “about a day.” Organisms ranging from single-cell organisms and plants to sea slugs and humans demonstrate circadian rhythms near twenty-hour patterns. In humans, numerous physiological and behavioral processes demonstrate circadian rhythms but the sleep-wake rhythm is one of the most important and observable cyclical rhythms.  The… Continue reading The Zombie Zone

😴💤

The 20th-century evolutionary biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” From the perspective of evolution and its twin fitness functions of survival and reproduction, sleep is a seemingly difficult phenomenon to make sense of and explain. When we are asleep, we cannot gather food, socialize, find a… Continue reading 😴💤

The dose makes the poison…

Stress is defined “as a process of altered biochemical homeostasis produced by psychological, physiological, or environmental stressors.” Etymologically, the word is derived from Latin, meaning “tight, compressed, drawn together.” Conceptually, it can be found in the physical sciences as early as the 17th century. In physics, Hooke’s law (F = -kX)  states that the strain… Continue reading The dose makes the poison…

Hormesis

The rise in modern human life expectancy is one of the crowning achievements of the scientific revolution. Throughout the world, life expectancy has increased exponentially over the last two hundred years directly due to technologies such as refrigeration, sewage, clean water, fertilizers, indoor living, antibiotics, and vaccinations. Through these technologies, we began to insulate ourselves… Continue reading Hormesis

Only Entropy Comes Easy

Approximately five hundred years ago, the North African polymath, Ibn-Khaldun, observed that “the goal of civilization is sedentary culture and luxury. When civilization reaches that goal, it turns towards corruption and starts being senile, as happens in the natural life of living beings.” The analogous natural history of socially constructed civilizations and the biologically constructed… Continue reading Only Entropy Comes Easy

Nature, red in tooth and claw

In Wealth of Nations first published in 1776, Adam Smith stated that “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them… Continue reading Nature, red in tooth and claw

Carrots & Sticks

In my last essay, I not only described the historical underpinnings of the model of homo economicus but also described it as a foundational element of modern economic theory. Homo economicus is the smallest unit of analysis in economic theory and is characterized as a solitary agent, calculating in his utility, solely driven by competition,… Continue reading Carrots & Sticks

Fisheries, forests, & emergency care

In my last essay, I made the case that emergency care in the United States is better classified as a common rather than a public good. Due to the passage of the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA), emergency care became non-excludable and because it is resource constrained, it is rival. Patients are streaming… Continue reading Fisheries, forests, & emergency care

Tragedy of the ED Commons

In his landmark article, Tragedy of Commons (1968), Garrett Hardin asks, “Is ours a finite world? [If so], a finite world can only support a finite population.” In Hardin’s parable, a single group of herders shares a common pasture. The pasture is large enough to support many animals, but not infinitely many. Rationally, each herdsman… Continue reading Tragedy of the ED Commons

Super Ants

The biologist, Nigel Franks, wrote, “the solitary ant is behaviorally one of the least sophisticated animals imaginable...if 100 army ants are placed on a flat surface, they will walk around in ever decreasing circles until they die of exhaustion...yet put half a million of them together, and the group as a whole becomes what some… Continue reading Super Ants

Imperfectly Precise

In the Fractal Nature of Geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot stated, "clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.” In other words, nature is not simple and regular but complex and filled with irregularities and roughness. The human brain reductively categorizes this… Continue reading Imperfectly Precise

Quality Detector

“Data is the new gold” is the mantra of our age. The data scientist has been termed the “sexiest job of the 21st century.” Every industry is driven by the impetus to acquire, curate, and analyze all aspects of their business. We measure and quantify everything with the promise of utilizing this data to drive… Continue reading Quality Detector

The Map is not the Territory

It is hard to even fathom let alone comprehend the size, scale, and complexity of the universe. It takes light 91 billion years to traverse the diameter of the observable universe. That is approximately six times longer than the age of the universe itself. Similarly, the amount of information in the world vastly overwhelms the… Continue reading The Map is not the Territory

To explore or exploit?

The exploration-exploitation dilemma is one of the most basic yet frustrating trade-offs in nature. The dilemma consists of a dichotomy that involves “exploiting” existing opportunities to gain short-term known gains versus using that time and  “exploring” new opportunities in the hopes of gaining large long-term payoffs. The dilemma can be succinctly summarized by the age-old… Continue reading To explore or exploit?