Lab-Worn Doctor-Lady

Carl Zimmer discusses an example of atrocious science writing in his excellent blog, The Loom:

I…I just don’t know where to begin with the opening to this article in the latest issue of Esquire. “Pretty lady”? “The new poor part of town”? A noxious martini of mixed metaphors topped with an olive of ridiculous hype. (Forget it–I can’t compete with this stuff.)

If we science writers want to defend our old-fashioned craft against its critics, how do we defend stuff like this?

ScreenHunter_07 Jan. 20 12.21 First thing that happens when you have a heart attack, an unlucky part of your heart turns white. The blood’s stopped pumping to that spot, so it becomes pink-speckled bloodlessness, coarse and cool like grapefruit gelatin.

This is the moment when, if they could think, these heart cells in this new poor part of town would go, “Well, shit.” Mortal things have a godly way of knowing when they’ll die.

Next comes the back-alley bruise of organ death. The cells turn from white to black, all shitted up like a body pit in a war, two weeks after. Suddenly, soldier, this part of your heart is dead, only it’s still in your body, attached to the good section — the 90210 ventricle — and the good part is smirking, it’s saying, “Come on, rebuild yourself, man!”

But the dead part can’t fix itself. And the healthy part can’t throw it a bloody rope. So the whole heart begins to die — 650,000 American deaths a year.

But now look here, a woman. She is a pretty lady of Pakistani heritage who highlights her soccer-mom layers, which you don’t expect from a lab-worn doctor-lady. And she’s got ideas. Wild ones. Hina Chaudhry believes she can do what the body can’t: fix the dead parts.

Our discussion yesterday about bad science writing took a sharp turn, jumped the rails, and landed over at Language Log, where my brother Ben takes over. Suddenly I feel a new kinship with the Psalms Book of Proverbs….