Review: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A truly beautiful book about what is certainly a terrible and often terrifying collection of illnesses. Our family, like almost all families, has wrestled with cancer and wrestled with the scary and frequently devastating treatments that hope to kill the cancer before they kill the patient. This book provides a rich and illuminating context for those struggles, giving a palpable sense of the diseases and how our understanding and approaches have changed and how they’ve stayed the same. Mukherjee’s story telling is deft and compelling, sharing a complex and often very technical history in a way that remains personal, compelling, and accessible. It at times borders on the poetic, but without ever becoming sentimental or maudlin.

While this is technically about cancer, the book provides valuable insight into the complexities of medical research, whether scientific, mathematical, political, or social. We’ve made huge strides in so many areas of medicine in the last two centuries, but we rarely appreciate the oft tortured, surprising, and complex channels wended along the way. Yet to understand cancer and cancer treatment, and important challenges such as antibiotic resistance, and drug R&D, funding, testing and approval, it’s critical that we have this sort of context.

So most highly recommend; absolutely one of the best books I’ve read.

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If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel – A tediously accurate map of the solar system

Congratulations on making it this far.

Being a science and space nerd from an early age, I’ve looked at a lot of maps of the solar system over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed one as much as “If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel – A tediously accurate map of the solar system”.

It’s sort of a philosophical side-scroller game (with no point) based on science. Or, actually, it’s a nice essay, presented in a somewhat unusual form, on the difficulties we humans have wrapping our heads around things that aren’t of a human scale, like the solar system.

“Sorry, Humanity,” says Evolution. “What with all the jaguars trying to eat you, the parasites in your fur, and the never-ending need for a decent steak, I was a little busy. I didn’t exactly have time to come up with a way to conceive of vast stretches of nothingness.”

It’s fun and informative and definitely worth scrolling past all those zillions of miles of darkness to find the next snarky little remark or, if you’re really lucky, an actual planet :)

With so much emptiness, aren’t stars, planets, and people just glitches in an otherwise elegant and uniform nothingness, like pieces of lint on a black sweater?

(It also shows off some pretty shiny webdev tools and design, which made a different part of my nerdliness happy.)

Big thanks to Josh Broton for the pointer:

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