Oh My Aching Head

By Aileen Marshall


A diagram of the forces on the brain in concussion Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License 2006

You have probably heard the term concussion thrown about in the news lately, as well as in ads for the recent movie with the title. With all the talk, should one be worried about playing contact sports themselves or for their favorite professional athletes? It turns out there is not much actually known about the long term effects of one or more concussions. It has been determined that people who have had multiple concussions often develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. Over time it can lead to several cognitive and behavioral problems, which may be fatal. While there is no current treatment, research is being done on how to treat and prevent this condition.

What exactly is a concussion? The terms concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI) mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) and CTE are often used interchangeably. Concussion and MTBI, refer to some temporary loss of brain function caused by some impact force on the brain. The brain literally hits against the skull. This can be from a direct force, such as a hit to the head, or an indirect force, such as a blast wave or a whiplash type movement. CTE is the condition when a protein, called tau, builds up in brain cells and causes progressive deterioration of brain tissue. There are various symptoms that can signal a concussion immediately after one receives a blow to the head. One can be confused, irritable, dizzy, or lose focus, balance or motor control. They may have vision problems such as double vision or light sensitivity, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, and loss of memory of the event that caused the concussion, nausea, or headache. CTE is caused by multiple concussions over time. These patients can develop memory problems, slowed mental processing, slurred speech, tremors, impulsive and aggressive behavior, and depression. At this point, CTE can only be diagnosed definitively by microscopic examination of brain tissue during autopsy. The symptoms can often mimic those of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Symptoms can start anywhere from 6 to 12 years after exposure.

Since the 1920s, it’s been known that boxers often would develop cognitive problems and dementia over years from hits to the head. The popular term is punch drunk. Medically, it is known as dementia pugilistica. No one thought to look at other professions for this condition. When football first became popular in colleges in the 1880s, players used leather helmets. Eighteen players died from injuries at that time. This led to some rule changes and to the use of better equipment to protect the players. In the past, the practice was to ask if someone was experiencing any symptoms after being hit on the head. This relied on the patient reporting symptoms. However, there was a popular belief that one should play through the pain. It is thought that many athletes probably received multiple concussions, leading to CTE.

In 2005, a Pittsburgh forensic pathologist, Bennet Omalu did an autopsy on a retired Steelers player who died at age 50 after experiencing multiple cognitive problems of unknown cause. While there were no gross anatomical changes in the player’s brain, when Dr. Omalu looked at the brain tissue under the microscope, the cells looked like that of an 80-year-old with advanced Alzheimer’s. He found that there was tau buildup in the cells. Protein deposits form structures called dense neurofibrillary tangles, that causes clogging that slowly strangles and kills the brain cells. Tau is a protein that binds to microtubules in brain axons. When tau becomes unbound, neurotransmitters can back up. He found the same thing in two other retired football players, and published a paper on his findings in the journal Neurosurgery. It was these events that the recent movie is based on. Since then, CTE has been found in the brains of 79 percent of 165 other people with a history of playing football, from high school to professional. It has also been found in ice hockey, soccer, and rugby players, wrestlers, boxers, mixed martial arts fighters, military veterans, and even one baseball player. One high school football player died at the age of 18. In CTE, the protein deposits tend to be found in outer areas of the brain, while in Alzheimer’s, plaques of a different protein tend to be distributed throughout the brain. It is not known what the relationship is between impacts on the brain and the buildup of tau protein.

At this time, there is no definitive method of diagnosis of CTE in a living person. There is no treatment and it is not known how to prevent this condition. The current medical treatment for concussion is to rest for several days after the impact. There is current research being done to find better ways to diagnose and treat CTE. There is a study being done on a method to use a PET scan with a radio nucleotide tracer to visualize the tau deposits. However, this method is very expensive. An auto antibody, an antibody directed against the brain protein S100B, has been found in the blood of a number of people with symptoms of CTE. Research is being done to see if this antibody could be used for diagnosis, or be a possible target for treatment. There has been a call among neuroscientists for a large scale study of exposed and unexposed subjects, as a control group, that can be followed long term.

There are several institutes conducting research on CTE. One is the CTE Center at Boston University, in collaboration with the Department of Veteran Affairs. They have a brain registry for people who want to donate their brains after death. Already 250 NFL players have signed the pledge. The Brain Injury Research Institute in California was co-founded by Dr. Omalu. They conducted the autopsy on Junior Seau, the San Diego Chargers player who committed suicide. His brain was donated to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The Center for the Study of Retired Athletes is at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Their studies are funded by the National Football League. The Cleveland Clinic is conducting research on the auto antibodies. Virginia Commonwealth University won a federal grant to conduct research on the long term effects of concussions on military personnel and veterans.

When the discovery of CTE was first published, the National Football League tried to deny its validity. Since then, they have made some rule changes to try to protect players from multiple concussions. There is a new rule that makes helmet to helmet blocks a penalty. They now have a concussion protocol that says a player needs to be taken out of the game for at least one play and evaluated by a doctor.

The next time you get a good blow to the head, try to take stock of any symptoms. If so, rest for the day and do not go back into the game.

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part XV: Christian de Duve, 1974 Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

By Joseph Luna


“Centrifuge rotor designed by Henri Beaufay, constructed at the Rockefeller University instrument shop by Nils Jernberg for Christian de Duve, circa 1965. Rotor shown in open (left) and closed positions (right). From the Rockefeller University Merrill Chase historic scientific instrument collection, accession number 232.”

In his two-volume book A Guided Tour of the Living Cell, Christian de Duve vividly describes a most hostile setting, where “everywhere we look are scenes of destruction: maimed molecules of various kinds, shapeless debris, half-recognizable pieces of bacteria and viruses, fragments of mitochondria, membrane whorls, damaged ribosomes, all in the process of dissolving before our very eyes.” Such is the introduction to an organelle called the lysosome that only de Duve as its discoverer could give.

Where mitochondria produce energy and ribosomes produce protein, lysosomes function as a sort of digestive system for a cell: they are equal parts stomach, trash compactor, and recycling center. As bags filled with destructive enzymes, lysosomes perform the critical and often unrewarding job of waste disposal. But the story of how lysosomes were discovered was anything but unrewarding. Like any good scientific caper, it starts with a serendipitous and chance observation made under unlikely circumstances. And for the bench scientist, these circumstances were of the most frustrating variety: they all center on a positive control that never worked.

In the early 1950s, de Duve was a new faculty member at the Catholic University of Louvain in his native Belgium, and had set up his lab to tackle the mechanism of insulin on the liver. With the exception of glycolysis and the tricarboxylic acid (citric acid) cycle, metabolism was still largely uncharted territory, and one of the key questions centered on how liver cells responded to insulin to lower blood sugar. Biochemists had a hint that the first thing an insulin treated liver cell did to incoming glucose was to add a phosphate group, but this fragile phosphate group could be removed by a newly-described enzyme, later termed glucose-6-phosphatase, that generally made studying insulin action in ground-up liver tissue difficult. De Duve set out to purify and characterize this new enzyme.

After trying all the usual biochemical techniques to separate glucose-6-phosphatase from the other non-specific acid phosphatase found in the liver, de Duve hit an impasse: he couldn’t get glucose-6-phosphatase back into solution. Standard practice was to lower the pH to get an enzyme to fall out of solution, discard all the soluble stuff, and then try to get the enzyme back into solution by raising the pH. It was great on paper, except that it never worked. Luckily, de Duve was prepared.

Prior to taking up his post in Belgium, de Duve paid a visit to Albert Claude, a fellow Belgian and pioneering cell biologist then at the Rockefeller Institute. Claude had shown de Duve that proteins bound to larger structures tended to clump and stay clumped together at low pH. Thus, the most promising way to isolate glucose-6-phosphatase, if it was indeed bound to a larger structure, was to use the centrifuge of cell biologists instead of the acids used by biochemists.

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Wasting Our Food

By Guadalupe Astorga


Gene Alexander/U.S. Department of Agriculture, Masatoshi/CC; Brooks Farms Rocks/CC, Hazelisles/CC

More than 40% of the food in the United States ends up in the trash can. This is huge, and includes sea-food, meat, cereals fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products. Surprisingly, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that for all categories, food waste is not primarily the result of a deficient food supply chain, but rather occurs at home (see graph). In industrialized countries food wastage by consumers is as high as the total net food production in the sub-Saharan African region. This reflects an irresponsible behavior, fruit of the occidental consumption culture. This situation is especially concerning for the case of marine resources, where half of the fish and seafood exploited is never eaten. If we consider the whole supply chain, North America wastes half of the fishery production. In a world with limited and over-exploited marine resources, this is unacceptable.

2011. Global food losses and food waste – Extent, causes and prevention. Rome

2011. Global food losses and food waste – Extent, causes and prevention. Rome

But consumers not only throw away the marine resources, we also waste cereal, fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products (see graph). A similar situation is observed in Europe, where food wastage can reach up to 30%. It is interesting to compare this scenario with developing countries, where food wastage by consumers is negligible. Does it mean that in occidental countries with higher income levels people can afford to throw away food? Meanwhile, almost 800 million people suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition.

What can we do?

First of all, educate ourselves for more responsible food consumption habits.

A few weeks ago, members of the French parliament (MPs) unanimously voted to propose a law that will force supermarkets to give unsold food to charities, risking a fine of up to 102,000 dollars if they do not adhere. The initiative was driven by Arash Derambarsh, a municipal councilor that persuaded the French MPs to adopt the measure after his petition throw change.org obtained more than 200,000 signatures and celebrity support. He is planning to expand this initiative to Europe in the next few months, even though the law ignited debates about implementation of similar laws has already started in several other countries.

Several worldwide non-profit associations collect unsold food from supermarkets for free distribution among people with low income levels. An example of these associations in New York are City Harvest, Hunger Solutions New York, Food Bank for New York City, and The New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

An alternative movement of people known as freegans also contribute to this anti-waste culture as they rummage through the garbage of retailers, residences, offices, and other facilities for useful goods. The goods recovered by freegans are safe, usable and clean, reflecting how retailers dispose of a high volume of products in perfect condition.

Let’s now consider the environmental impact of food loss and waste. The worldwide carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten ranks third, after the USA and China. Thirty percent of available agricultural land is used to grow or farm food that will never be eaten.

In a growing population like ours, estimates from FAO suggest that food production should increase by at least 50% in the next 30 years in order to satisfy its alimentary requirements. If we reduce the food waste by a quarter, the whole world population could fulfill its alimentary necessities.

Culture Corner

Book Review: A Manuscript of Ashes, by Antonio Muñoz Molina

By Bernie Langs

When the book A Manuscript of Ashes by Antonio Muñoz Molina arrived in the mail in a glorious hardcover edition, I knew that this unexpected present from my brother would become a special read. After all, my brother has the best literary taste of anyone I’ve ever met. After reading few pages, I paused realizing that the book was approachable but difficult in its sentence structures and in its form of shifting memories shared by narrators with unique perspectives of the events in the small Spanish town of Mágina over three decades.

CCAshes is mysterious on many levels and it plays with readers’ sensibilities that everything read may not be truth, as the shifting perspectives may be unreliable. But each contains a kernel of truth as well. In Muñoz Molina’s book, the story centers around a period of Civil War and later, Franco’s fascist control where several key players are dragged off and face death or prison time so brutal that they emerge scarred for life, never letting go of the fear imbedded in their bones.

In the late 1960s, the book’s protagonist, Minaya, escapes Madrid for Mágina in fear, and arrives at the home of his Uncle Manuel. He searches out the work and life of poet Jacinto Solana, who had lived there and violently died after prison. Solana had loved the same woman as Manuel, Mariana, who had upended Manuel’s family and friends with her beauty and dynamic manner. Mariana stands tall and powerful in this novel, though she is viewed obliquely and has little dialogue in the passages describing her time among this entourage. Tragically shot in the Mágina home (in the outdoor pigeon coop) on her wedding night with Manuel, it is discovered that it wasn’t a soldier’s bullet that felled her, but that she was murdered and possibly by someone within Manuel’s household.

The women in Ashes, be it Mariana, or the house servant Ines, who becomes romantically involved with Minaya, or Beatriz, who seeks out Solana after his release from prison in the 1940s and is in grave danger herself, or the harsh, reclusive mother of Manuel, Doña Elvira, ruling the household from her room in aged bitterness, are strong-willed, mysterious, and greatly shape the realities and lives of the men in the book.

As I read of the passionate love that Solana has for the elusive, alluring Mariana and felt his heartache as he awaited the wedding of Mariana to his school friend Manuel, I thought of something my own college friend told me: love was invented by poets and novelists, it wasn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon. While reading the love story in Ashes encapsulated in a murder mystery, surrounded by political intrigue and betrayal, I felt that Muñoz Molina could not have invented the intricacies of love for Mariana and the familial love (such as that between Solana and his tragic father), but that he’d drawn from experiences. We all feel and fall in love, and artists extrapolate on this and send it back out to us refined and beautiful. Then each of us have an even more intricate base for our next romantic experience. It is comparable to a Krebs Cycle going around and around, each piece a necessary cog of understanding to give us a pulse and a heartbeat, with an accompanied pang of discomfort.

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New York State Of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews

Stephanie Phillips   Veterinary Technician Supervisor

NYSOMHow long have you been living in the New York area? 

I’ve lived in Manhattan my entire life.

Where do you currently live?  Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which is also my favorite neighborhood. I’m especially fond of the East 70’s and my ultimate favorite hands down is Central Park.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

The most underrated, is the freedom that you have in this city. One thing that I really love about NYC is your ability to literally get anything that you want on any day and at any time. It’s really convenient and allows you to be super independent.

The most overrated thing about the city, are the touristy areas, ex: the new Times Square, kind of makes me a little nauseated.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

The convenience of the city. It drives me nuts to leave. In my opinion everywhere else moves at a much slower pace, places close early and you need to own a vehicle just to do every day things. What’s up with that?!

Has anything (negative or positive) changed about you since you became one of us “New Yorkers”?

Absolutely positive! I was born here and became street smart growing up in New York City. I have a go-go-go mentality, and thrive on multi-tasking, which I doubt I’d have if I grew up anywhere else.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

I would bring back the old Times Square. The city had more character back then. It was gritty with its drug dealers and prostitutes wearing feather boas on every corner and there was a porn store on each block. Crime wasn’t really up and the people weren’t nasty–it just had character, it was tough, it was the center of the almighty New York City.

Now you go to Times Square and it’s just one giant tourist trap filled with Broadway shows and shopping centers- it’s really washed out and boring.

I would also bring back the all mega dance clubs like The Roxy, Twilo, Tunnel, Soundfactory and Exit.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

I like to go to Central Park and walk around with my pit bull “Tiny”. It’s a really great place to meet with friends and people watch. My dog rides a skateboard, so she is usually the focus of all the attention.

What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?  

When my husband proposed to me in the Central Park Bandshell.

Bike, MTA or walk it???

Walk for sure! I walk miles and miles throughout Manhattan – it’s the best way to see the city.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be? 

Tokyo, Japan, I’ve always wanted to go there. I think it’ll be a big city and it’ll be really fun. To be totally immersed in a completely different culture would be exciting.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

Oh yeah, without a doubt! 100% through and through – I have New York City flowing through my veins!


Quotable Quote

One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.

(Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 – 1968)

For Your Consideration – And They’re Off! Edition

By Jim Keller

As I’ve said many times, one can liken the Oscar race to a horserace where each studio bets on its thoroughbreds and hopes that they can place at the end. The studio is the owner, public relations is the jockey, and the horse is the actor or film in the analogy. Here we thrust those roles I’ve discussed, in the three-part Ones to Watch edition, under a microscope to separate the nominees from the contenders and to identify the power players for each studio. I’ve also included my rankings as they stood on Oscar nominations eve. I chose nine nominees for Best Picture. I had planned to choose only eight, but The Big Short was an unexpected player announced by its studio, Paramount Pictures, in November. All other categories reflect five nominees. The picks that appear in black text within the table were my nominee picks, those in red represent actual nominees that I had not picked.

In the July/August issue, I delved into my favorite race, Best Actress. Here are the roles I discussed and where the ladies ended up half a year later:

THE QUEEN BEE: Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash (director: Jonathan Demme, studio: TriStar Pictures ):

FYC: When the film premiered in August, it became clear that Streep’s role was not the kind Oscar campaigns are built on. A muted critic response also kept that door closed.

THE ACTIVIST: Carey Mulligan – Suffragette (director: Sarah Gavron, studio: Focus Features):

FYC: The drama became the first casualty of the season when co-star Streep was labeled a racist (by the internet collective) for wearing a t-shirt bearing the phrase “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” to promote the movie. Never mind that the phrase is a real quote by Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader of the British feminist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whom Streep portrays in the film. Despite a British Independent Film Awards nomination, it was this incident that curbed early frontrunner Mulligan’s campaign along with any screenwriting, directing or Best Picture hopes—all of which, the film is worthy of being recognized for.

THE DARK LADY: Marion Cotillard – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel, studio: The Weinstein Company):

FYC: Truth be told, I’m not sure what happened to neither this film nor its once promising awards season chances, but suffice it to say the Weinstein Co. put all its weight behind Carol and The Hateful Eight. Macbeth started off strong, having wowed audiences at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or, and ended with a slew of British Independent Film Awards nominations, including one for Cotillard.

THE PERENNIAL: Jennifer Lawrence – Joy (director: David O. Russell, studio: 20th Century Fox):

FYC: This awards season was such a wild ride that even J-Law was in jeopardy after the film, saddled with the highest of expectations, failed to deliver. Still, she managed to stay on-board the bucking bronco with Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Golden Globe nominations as it zigged and zagged to the finish line—even as its other awards chances faded to grey. A win is not likely for Lawrence.

THE MULTI-TASKER: Kate Winslet – The Dressmaker (director: Jocelyn Moorhouse, studio: Universal Pictures):

FYC: The film adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name came and went quietly. While it snagged Winslet a win from the Australian Film Institute, it did not register with other awards bodies. No matter, Winslet cropped up in the supporting race thanks to her role in Steve Jobs. More on that below.

THE IMMIGRANT: Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn (director: John Crowley, studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures):

FYC: After the film adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel bowed at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Ronan was considered the de facto frontrunner by some for her wonderful turn as 1950s Irish immigrant Eilis. Like current frontrunner Brie Larson (Room, A24 Films), she secured nominations from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and a slew of critics’ groups. She is a threat for the win and while Larson won the National Board of Review (NBR), the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, the BFCA and the SAG, Ronan won The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) Best Actress award and was runner-up for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) Best Actress award. This award was taken by fellow Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years, (Artificial Eye). While Larson appears to have the upper hand, anything could happen—especially since the Academy is apt to sidestep a darker film (Room) for a light-hearted one (Brooklyn).

THE LESBIAN: Cate Blanchett – Carol (director: Todd Haynes, studio: The Weinstein Company):

FYC: Blanchett’s role as an older, married woman who falls for a department-store clerk (Rooney Mara) in 1950’s New York is like catnip for the Academy. But considering that she won the Best Actress Oscar only two years ago, she isn’t really in this race to win, but a nomination was inevitable. She matched Ronan and Larson with Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and BFCA nominations, but two of the biggest (and dare I say controversial) snubs of the year occurred when the Academy passed over the film and its director. From the outset, the drama, based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, was expected by many pundits to do well across the board. Indeed, it earned six nominations, including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Mara) and Adapted Screenplay. In fact, its nomination haul tied with Best Picture nominees Bridge of Spies and Spotlight, and surpassed three others: The Big Short (five) Room (four), and Brooklyn (three). This left many people (including yours truly) scratching their heads and crying foul on the Academy, even using #JusticeForCarol on Twitter to show their outrage. After all, Carol was the only film in contention with a gay theme and Haynes is an openly gay director who was snubbed by the Academy 12 years ago for his film Far From Heaven. Surely they would take this opportunity to right that wrong? Nope. If there is any justice for Carol, Mara, who took home the Best Actress statuette at Cannes, will take home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar this year (see below).

The leading men were covered in the September issue. Let’s see where they stand:

THE ARTIST: Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl (director: Tom Hooper, studio: Focus Features):

FYC: Last year on Oscar night, the Internet erupted when a picture of Best Actor nominee Redmayne, dressed as Danish artist, and one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery, Lili Elbe, made the rounds. This ignited huge buzz for the star’s 2016 Oscar chances and placed an unachievable level of expectation on Redmayne who would go on that evening to win Best Actor for The Theory of Everything. By the time August’s Telluride Film Festival rolled around, bloodthirsty critics were more than ready to take the film, based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name, and its star down.

Fortunately, Redmayne delivered in the role and despite pundit grumblings, secured the requisite Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and BFCA nominations, keeping him firmly in the race. Redmayne has now earned his second Oscar nomination, but like his counterpart, Blanchett in the Best Actress category, don’t look for him to win. Even though his portrayal of Elbe is far better than pundits would have you believe. Instead, it’s newcomer Alicia Vikander as Elbe’s wife Gerda who represents the film’s best awards chances and who could take home gold over in the Best Supporting Actress category (see below).

THE MOGUL: Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs (director: Danny Boyle, studio: Universal Pictures):

FYC: This biopic of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs (Fassbender), adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name, also had its bow at Telluride. Like The Danish Girl, it wasn’t long after that critics and pundits alike turned their noses at it in favor or something fresher and therefore sweeter. Unlike Redmayne, who held on through a maelstrom of naysayers for his nominations, Fassbender became everyone’s number two throughout the majority of the race. This allowed him to stack up the same nominations as Redmayne while keeping a target off him and on everyone’s number one (Leonardo DiCaprio). In fact, as Oscar night approaches, Fassbender remains many pundits’ number two. But it seems preordained that this is finally DiCaprio’s year and his number two slot may as well be lightyears away.

THE MURDERER: Michael Fassbender – Macbeth (director: Justin Kurzel, studio: The Weinstein Company):

FYC: As I previously indicated, following a wonderful reception at Cannes, this film adaptation was a non-starter awards-wise and Steve Jobs is Fassbender’s lone and far shot.

THE WILDMAN: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, studio: 20th Century Fox):

FYC: This drama, based in part on Michael Punke’s 2003 novel of the same name, follows 1820s fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) as he sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, the BFCA for Best Actor and the SAG. He has all the trappings (read: requisite nominations) to finally take it home. In a year where his closest competitors can’t touch him, look for DiCaprio to make a much-deserved, clean sweep from here all the way to the Oscar podium.

THE MOBSTER: Johnny Depp – Black Mass (director: Scott Cooper, studio: Warner Bros.):

FYC: Despite critics’ division on Depp’s portrayal of Whitey Bulger, he earned BFCA and SAG nominations. Bulger was the brother of a state senator and the most infamous, violent criminal in South Boston ‘s history, who became an FBI informant to take down a turf-invading Mafia family. But the film culled from the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, showed weakness in its campaign with Depp as the sole awards nominee. It wasn’t altogether a surprise when Depp was replaced on the Golden Globe and eventually the Oscar ballot by TV golden boy Bryan Cranston (Trumbo).

THE RETIREE: Michael Caine – Youth [director: Paolo Sorrentino, studios: Medusa Film (Italy), Pathé (France), and StudioCanal (U.K.)]:

FYC: Youth is the third Cannes film that couldn’t score in the major categories— Original Song is its lone Oscar nomination. Still, Caine won the European Film Award for Best Actor. This along with his age (he’ll be 83 next month), and his long charted history with the Academy, prompted many pundits to pencil him in, but he failed to garner any major nominations stateside.

THE DRUGGY: Ben Foster – The Program (director: Stephen Frears, studio: Momentum Pictures):

FYC: While the biopic of the famed athlete Lance Armstrong (Foster), and the uncovered truth about his use of banned substances, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and was released in both France and the U.K., the film has not yet been released in the U.S. With a March release date, it doesn’t seem likely that the film will figure into next year’s race, but we’ll have to wait and see.

THE REPORTER: Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight (director: Thomas McCarthy, studio: Open Road Films):

FYC: As I mentioned earlier, this drama, based on the true story of how the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team uncovered the massive child molestation scandal and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, is a Best Picture nominee, so too is Ruffalo, but in a Supporting role (see below).

Matt Damon (The Martian), who won the NBR and the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and who was nominated for the BAFTA and BFCA, is the fifth nominee in this category. I’m happy to report that he doesn’t stand a chance for such an awful movie.

The Ones to Watch series concluded in the December/January issue with a look at the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races. Let’s see how their contenders have stacked up following January 14th’s Oscar nominations:

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An Embarrassment of Riches

By Anonymous

This politically incorrect (some might even say “disgusting”) puzzle comes to you from an anonymous source, known only to Rockefeller alum (1977) George Barany, who is currently on the faculty of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.  For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to its answer, visit here and here.  More Barany and Friends puzzles can be found here.

Acrosspuzzle  2000px-Concussion_mechanics.svg graph

  1. Sometimes, they’re not given
  2. Burro, e.g.
  3. Oscar’s U.K. equivalent
  4. Straight: Prefix
  5. Word after good or bad
  6. Domains
  7. “___ In” (Wings hit that begins with “Someone’s knockin’ at the door”)
  8. Sugary drink, often
  9. Carl ___, whose September 2015 endorsement of fellow billionaire 58-Across was a “no-brainer”
  10. Adjective that does not begin to describe 58-Across
  11. McCorvey in a landmark case
  12. Pay back?
  13. Paddle-wheel craft
  14. 58-Across inveighing against the IRS?
  15. Apprentice, like 58-Across at electoral politics
  16. Woman who raised Cain
  17. Universal soul, in Hinduism
  18. Acts the rat
  19. Lawless princess?
  20. “___, Marissa Mayer Are Right; Employees Should Not Work From Home” (February 2013 tweet by 58-Across)
  21. Centerfielder on Mets World Series team
  22. “58-Across is The World’s Greatest ___” (FiveThirtyEight headline, July 2015)
  23. Flag-waving, breast-beating “patriot,” like 58-Across
  24. Expanded, contracted
  25. Carillon clamor
  26. Scottish castle that 58-Across is unlikely to be invited to
  27. Domains
  28. “Ich bin ___ Berliner”
  29. LBJ’s palindromic “War on Poverty” agcy.
  30. DAMN TURD POL, anagramatically
  31. One of three people walking into a bar, in many a joke
  32. “Four score and seven years ___ …”
  33. Word before basin or wave
  34. Heavenly hunter
  35. Try to become President, e.g.
  36. Low-budget, in adspeak
  37. “Schlonged,” e.g.
  38. It may be tapped
  39. Reginald ___ (truck driver whose beating was broadcast live during the 1992 Los Angeles riots)

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Life on a Roll

By Elodie Pauwels

ElodiePauwels_Annecy by night ElodiePauwels_castle and dark sky Elodie 3Annecy is a very charming city in the French Alps, a few miles from Geneva, Switzerland. Annecy has given its name to a lake surrounded by smaller cities such as Talloires, Menthon-Saint-Bernard or Veyrier-du-Lac.

The Palais de l’Isle, built in the 12th century and lying in the middle of the Thiou River, is one of the most photographed monuments in France. The castle in the second picture, whose first buildings were also erected in the 12th century, overlooks the medieval city. Two parks are on the edge of the lake, the Gardens of Europe and the Pâquier, separated by the Vassé Canal on which the Love Bridge has been built.

As a kid, I used to stop by Annecy on my way to another resort, and I happily rediscovered the city a few months ago. This is to me a perfect place for vacations as there are several leisure possibilities, with many hiking trails, a few beaches on the lake, and of course a quiet cruise is an easy way to have a global overview of the area.

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes.

Part XIV: George E. Palade, 1974 Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

By Joseph Luna

Nestled in the 3rd sub-basement of Smith Hall, around 1953, an electron microscope (EM) is briefly idle. The machine, an RCA model EMU-2A, resembles a spare part from some future space station: a long vertical steel tube adorned with studs and knobs, with a viewfinder at the base. To the casual viewer, there’s little to indicate the purpose of this strange contraption. But to its operator, just having imaged the last specimen of tissues ranging from the pancreas to blood cells to the intestine, the purpose of this machine is strikingly clear, and is measured in Angstroms. The man sitting at the controls is George Palade, and he has just discovered “a small particulate component of the cytoplasm,” as he tentatively named it. In a few years, this particle would be renamed the “ribosome” and would soon be recognized as the essential protein-making machine in all of life.

Of course, such a romantic view of discovery relies squarely on hindsight, for it is almost impossible to pinpoint where one is during a scientific revolution in real time. This was certainly true at the beginning of modern cell biology, as the specimen preparation methods used for EM carried with them the specter of artifact. In essence, how did George Palade know that these particles weren’t a farce? The preceding seven years had done much to prepare Palade to address this question. Alongside Albert Claude, Keith Porter and others, Palade placed the nascent field of cell biology on sound methodological footing that enabled the discovery of the ribosome, and so much more.

In 1946, barely a year from the first EM picture of a cell, Palade joined the Rockefeller Institute as a postdoc, at Claude’s invitation. When Palade got his start, Claude’s group was concerned with trying to connect enzymatic activities that biochemists could measure, with a physical location in the cell that could be accounted for by fractionation or using new EM methods to see what the ultrastructure looked like. Claude and his co-workers were able to break cells apart into roughly four fractions that could be subjected to biochemical tests: nuclei, a large fraction that appeared to contain mitochondria, microsomes, and free cytoplasm. The large fraction caught their attention precisely because there was a problem. In intact cells, mitochondria could be stained with a dye called Janus Green, but the dye never worked in the large fraction, despite EM results that showed intact, though clumped, mitochondria. Moreover, biochemists had found that the large fraction contained many of the enzymes known to be involved in energy production, but this fraction wasn’t pure enough to make firm conclusions. Palade helped to clarify this issue by devising a better way to isolate pure mitochondria using dissolved sucrose (table sugar) as an isotonic buffer instead of the saline solutions used by Claude. As a result, the large fraction retained Janus Green staining, and energy making enzymes were much more enriched. It was an instructive experience because it showed that cells could be taken apart rationally, a bit like taking apart a radio with a screwdriver instead of with a sledgehammer. Intact, functional units like mitochondria could be separated and studied apart from other cell components. For these early cell biologists, it was a compelling justification to keep going.

This much was evident to Institute president Herbert Gasser. With Claude’s move back to Belgium in 1949, the retirement of lab head James Murphy in 1950, and other departures, the first Rockefeller cell biology group shrunk to just Porter and Palade. Gasser made the rare move of making them joint lab heads of their own cytology laboratory, and outfitted Smith hall with an RCA microscope.

Porter and Palade next made a concerted effort to describe, in intact cells and tissues, the ultrastructure of the mitochondria and a subcellular structure found in the microsomal fraction that Porter named the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). While Porter working with Joseph Blum, devised a new microtome to make thin slices of tissue for EM, Palade refined fixation and staining conditions (colloquially called “Palade’s pickle procedure”) to take EM to new heights. Using these tools, Palade went on to describe the inner structure of the mitochondria, observing inner folds and chambers he called cristae. The Palade model of the mitochondrion was illuminating for biochemists, because it provided structural constraints for possible mechanisms that explained how mitochondria made energy. In other words, what a mitochondrion looked like was essential for its function.

This line of thinking was critical to deciphering what role, if any, of those particles Palade observed in 1953. He noticed that they were typically observed stuck to the ER, were enriched in the microsomal fraction, and had high levels of RNA. He also noticed that secretory cells, such as digestive enzyme producing exocrine cells of the pancreas were packed with ER and ribosomes. In short order a hypothesis emerged, from Palade and others, that ER and ribosomes were involved in the synthesis and ordered transport of proteins in the cell. Working with Philip Siekevitz, Palade used radioactive amino acids to biochemically trace protein synthesis and transport in these cells, following the radioactivity in cell fractions, and using EM to visualize structure in each fraction; all in a seven part series of papers between 1958 and 1962. This triple threat of cell fractionation, biochemistry, and EM became the model for the entire field. EMs the world over have since rarely been idle for long.


Film and the Tyranny of the Repeating Day: Edge of Tomorrow and Groundhog Day

By Bernie Langs

Groudhog Day

(Wikipedia images – non-free media; these are the theatrical posters for the film “Edge of Tomorrow” (Warner Bros.) and “Groundhog Day” (Columbia Pictures)

Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day” is the banal, clichéd rallying war cry that commencement speakers send off the graduating classes of universities into the world. Yet once in the rhythm of the work day, we very quickly learn that it is the day that seizes us, with its unvarying and very precise routines. In truth, college too is broadly scheduled, and I’m reminded of a school pal who would meet me in the cafeteria and while dressing his lunch would glumly announce “12:16, time to put the ketchup on my hamburger” for weeks on end. I now marvel that as I leave work, I turn a street corner and see local construction workers descending a ladder each day, and within four minutes, the same two women will pass me by on the street. It’s like clockwork.

Civilization’s intellect and spirituality can be said to have been based on relentless repetition and what that meant in the past for everything from growing of crops to preparing for bitter cold or sweltering heat. Early religions responded with homage to these cycles and Nature for its seasonal brutalities which they would try to appease by offerings of sacrifices and wine, the fluid of life.

As inevitable as the characteristics of the four seasons, our daily routines can be unvarying for years and years. In the brilliant film “Groundhog Day”, directed by Harold Ramis and starring the comically sublime Bill Murray, an acerbic, sarcastic, basically miserable weatherman becomes subject to living February 2nd over and over again. Each day he wakes up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the quaint local Groundhog Day ceremony with its famous ritual of pulling a groundhog from a cage to determine the length of the remaining winter. The movie is often hilarious, but many deeper meanings and philosophical undertones slowly reveal a struggle by its protagonist that can resonate with all of us.

Live_Die_RepeatAt first, Bill Murry will go to any lengths to escape waking up again to the sound of his clock radio playing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” accompanied by the inane banter of local disc jockeys, as the viewer ponders his own morning routines. Murray even goes to the extreme of a multitude of ludicrously planned suicides to escape his woe. There is an eventual epiphany, beautifully beginning with Bill Murray reading a book in the local diner and just looking up to marvel at his surroundings.

In contrast, Tom Cruise, in the science fiction adventure “Edge of Tomorrow” directed by Doug Liman, faces a repeating day of violent death in a battle with an army of machine or insect-like aliens on a beach resembling the D-Day scene in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.” Cruise’s character is trying from the get-go to escape his death and is taught that if he does win out, it will mean a victory for the armies of Earth against the aliens and the redemption of the whole world.

When “Edge of Tomorrow” was released in 2014, I laughed off any thought of seeing the movie, since in the promotions Cruise and his co-star the fabulous Emily Blunt bandy about in large, super-hero armor as they fight this computer-generated enemy. The film is currently available on cable movie channels and I’ve now watched it three times. Cruise’s mission to escape his repeating day sails far above any comic book notions. He and Blunt’s rugged determination to win this war is a tale of ferocious pursuit in the name of “The Good.”

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Quotable Quote

“In a world more and more polluted by the lying of politicians and the illusions of the media, I occasionally crave to hear and tell the truth… Friendship is by its very nature freer of deceit than any other relationship we can know, because it is the bond least affected by striving for power, physical pleasure, or material profit, most liberated from any oath of duty or of constancy.”

-Francine du Plessix Gray, 1930

Nothing Up My Sleeve

By George Barany

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977) currently on the faculty of the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. John Child has had an interesting career and currently lives in Nepal. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, click here. Also, try more Barany and Friends crossword puzzles.


  1. Hiccups cure, perhaps12f4d7ce-6d6c-4ed1-a03a-5040cf160dc2
  2. N.Y. engineering sch.
  3. Flying jib or spinnaker, e.g.
  4. Plumbing problem
  5. Knight’s attendants
  6. Possible answer to “When will we get there?”
  7. Pythagoras’s homeland
  8. Kutch queen
  9. Home town to 38- and 116-Across
  10. Rappers Wayne and Kim
  11. Umber or taupe, e.g.
  12. Pigs out
  13. “___ and out”
  14. H.H. Munro’s nom de plume
  15. Bugging bug
  16. Spanish omelet ingredient
  17. Thriller author Daniel
  18. Clever pal of 116-Across
  19. Angler Isaak’s wicker work
  20. Scatter
  21. Mil. school
  22. Cash dispenser
  23. Fly
  24. Gas relief
  25. They swing both ways?
  26. Inscription proving that 116-Across was an earl’s heir
  27. Wrestler Andre’s condition
  28. Archrival
  29. Lhasa ___ (shaggy dog breed from Tibet)
  30. Grammy-winner R&B singer India.___
  31. ___’acte
  32. 116-Across’s alma mater
  33. Dept. store stock
  34. Dark emotion
  35. Objects in Venn diagrams
  36. Multi-pane window spaces
  37. Dessert that’s Italian for “pick me up”
  38. 96-Across’s country
  39. Like a fox, it’s said
  40. On the market, in a way
  41. Old box letters
  42. They may amend xword clues
  43. Paul who composed Johnny’s theme song
  44. “___ My Way” (“Porgy and Bess” tune)
  45. D.A.’s aides
  46. Adversaries of 38- and 116-Across
  47. Not ___ eye (stay calm)
  48. National competitor
  49. Leftist “Reader”
  50. German gentleman
  51. Texts or e-mails
  52. Computer geek
  53. Break in, in jargon
  54. Golf’s Isao
  55. Dim-witted pal of 38-Across
  56. Something one might shake or break
  57. “Later!”
  58. Turns right
  59. It may be near the Advil
  60. North Sea EU country
  61. Colorist
  62. Town that is the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
  63. Afro-pop musician Youssou

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Dear NYC, I Love You: Why I Decided to Run the New York City Marathon

By Nan Pang

July 23, 2012—that’s the oldest record that I can find in the running app on my phone. Distance: just under two miles. Back then, I could probably never have imagined that I would be running the 26.2 miles of the New York City Marathon three years later.

Running was never my strongest suit. In college, I only ran a few laps around where I lived because my primary care physician told me to. Usually after I hit two miles, I was quite exhausted. Running was nothing but a chore and losing motivation was the obvious consequence. So I had become accustomed to running two miles at a time and never thought about running more. One day, I noticed that somehow I managed to complete my chore run without losing my breath. “Oh, maybe I can run longer,” I thought.



From that day, three-mile runs became my routine. When I moved to New York after college, I started to run in Central Park. It was a rather eye-opening experience. Since then, running in Central Park has become my addiction. Things like the sunrises over the reservoir, the summer fireflies in the twilight, and countless other fellow runners have kept my motivation high. It did not take me long to feel that I wanted to do something more; so, that year, I signed up for a three-mile race for the first time.

Fast forward a year. I now had a bunch of 5-10K races and several half-marathons under my belt. I won a spot in the New York City Marathon, via the lottery. Entering the New York City Marathon was partially due to my sheer spontaneity and recklessness. Actually, I was not confident at all that I could run the entire 26.2 miles, but I thought why not give it a try. Perhaps I wanted to prove something to myself that I could. Because from what I heard, running through all the five boroughs of New York City was supposed to be an unforgettable experience; and it really was.

On marathon day, I left my apartment on the Upper East Side at 5:30AM, wrapped up in my friends’ warmest words of encouragement. Nobody was on the street, but from the moment I stepped inside the subway station, spotting my fellow marathoners was not too difficult. A guy who probably was coming back from his Halloween party asked me if all the express trains were running local. I said yes. Then he asked me if I were running a marathon. I said yes again with a nervous nod.

“I could never do that! Good luck!” he said. “Thank you, Mr. Indiana Jones,” I thought.

I was supposed to take the 6:15AM Staten Island Ferry. Obviously, the terminal was packed with hundreds of runners and I had to wait to take the next ferry. I had taken the ferry a few times before, so I decided to skip being a tourist and sat in the corner to catch up on some sleep.

“Hey, are there any outlets on your side? Need to charge my iPod.” the guy next to me asked. He was probably around my age. I couldn’t find any outlets, but then we started chatting. “I’m Garrett, by the way” he said.

Garrett and I had different start corrals but it was pretty comforting and relieving to have company. It was quite a wait from the time I entered the designated corral to the starting line, but the time eventually came.

“So it’s finally starting,” I thought.

While I walked to the starting line, I suddenly got somewhat nervous and overwhelmed by the number of runners, but my nerves quickly diffused as I discovered that I was filled with anticipation for what I would discover and experience for the next three hours.

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Diwali: India & Beyond

By Sarala Kal

Home to twenty-two different languages and seven different religions, a festival is always being celebrated somewhere throughout the Indian Subcontinent. Diwali, however, is one of the few unique holidays celebrated by everyone in the country, regardless of region, religious belief, or caste. Also called Deepavali, the festival is not only celebrated in India, but also in Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji, Suriname, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana. Though the historical significance behind the festival differs across each region and religion, everyone sanctions and celebrates the triumph of good over evil in splendor and grandeur. Communities also take this time to reflect, meditate, discover their inner strength, absolve any sins, and create a new beginning filled with light, love, and peace.

Ian Brown_Wikimedia Commons

Days and weeks before the festive day of Diwali, lights are hung around houses, office buildings and retail centers. Above is a retail center with trees and shop fronts in festive lights.

The historical significance of Diwali originates from the many grandiose myths, legends, and folklore of India. The polytheistic nation believes that each god or goddess signifies a particular role to ward off evil and offer protection and solace. With wide-eyed enthusiasm, children of the south learn about the indestructible demon Narakasura whose head is cut off by Lord Krishna, and the celebration of peace ensued named Deepavali. The northern parts of India offer their salutations and reverence to the Goddess Kali whose strength and energy epitomizes the battle between creation and destruction. Her defeat over the forces of destruction is celebrated as Diwali.

Because most people in India follow the lunar calendar, the exact date of Diwali depends on the position of the moon and falls in either October or November of each year. The festival lasts from three to five days and is celebrated with an abundance of sweet treats and dazzling decorations. Some practice fasting as a process of cleansing, some perform rigorous prayers, and others allocate more time towards their loved ones. It is customary for everyone in the household to purchase new clothes or jewelry, for children to receive money and presents from friends and relatives, and for everyone to enjoy decadent food. It is a time for married people to renew their vows, siblings to give each other gifts, and extended families to come together and cherish the love of being together. Lamps are lit with sesame oil in every part of the household to ward off negative energy, and preserve the purity welcomed in. Dancing commences early after dinner and continues throughout the night with people of all ages coming together and enjoying the melodic music. The vibrant colors and mellifluous sounds of power, purity, light, and love ring throughout the country.

We live in a world in which we are faced with challenges every day, witness pain and suffering, and learn of a multitude of acts committed through anger and hatred. The ultimate message of Diwali is universal and resonates with everyone around the world. It presents a uniting theme that is embodied by those who choose to look past the negativity, and focus on progressing with a pure and bright spirit. It is a time to reflect and remember to give and forgive, to rise and shine, to unite and unify, prosper and progress, and illuminate your inner self with positive energy.

Digging Into That Juicy and Tasty Steak…

Some Valuable Facts about Meat    

By Guadalupe Astorga

This October 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared red meat and its processed derivatives a threat to human health, namely for its carcinogenic risk. Twenty-two experts from ten countries in the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1, as with tobacco smoking and asbestos), while red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). This classification is based on the strength of scientific evidence rather than on the level of risk. Daily consumption of 50g (1.8 oz) of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18% (as a reference, the meat in a hamburger can easily surpass 200g or 7 oz). Find more details in the WHO Q&A about this topic here.

JeffreyW / CC BY

JeffreyW / CC BY

Now, let’s get into more digestible terms:

Processed meat is meat that has been transformed by the food industry through salting, curing, fermenting, smoking, or other processes used to enhance flavor or improve preservation. This includes hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces, and even the meat in your beloved hamburger.

Now, what is the reason for the risk in unprocessed red meat? In this case, it is the way you cook it that can be problematic. High-temperature cooking, as in a barbecue or in a pan, produces carcinogenic chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic aromatic amines.

Is raw meat safer? If you really want to eat raw meat

you must consider that eating it carries a separate risk related to microbial infections. Although some of them are resistant, cooking kills most bacteria in steak.

In the end, is there a real health risk to eat red meat? Similar to alcohol, the risk depends on the dose. A good alternative is to steam your meat or cook it in the oven. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) offers a recipe for a low-cost sausage variation made from vegetables and fresh, unprocessed meat that you can easily prepare to enjoy a delicious homemade natural product. Learn more about processed meat products and find a homemade alternative at the end of this article.

Knowing these facts about the potential effects on human health is terrific, but what about the real risks derived from the production process?

Unlike the European Union, in the United States there is still a significant use of antibiotics in livestock farming. Because these drugs are also used in humans, when we consume meat we acquire a strong antibiotic resistance and this can drive up health care costs. In 2009, the total cost of antibiotic resistant-infections in the United States was estimated to be between $17 and $26 billion per year. Read more in this governmental health bill.

The environmental consequences of meat production can be even stronger than its health risk.

We normally think about global warming as being produced directly by human activity through carbon emissions. Surprisingly, industrial livestock production, including poultry, is one of the biggest sources of methane (CH4, released as a digestion byproduct) and human-related nitrous oxide (N2O), which has 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2). Find more information about the role of livestock in climate change in this article from FAO. If you want to read a detailed study of livestock and climate change from FAO go to this link.

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New York State of Mind

Features, Isaiah Curry from The Laboratory Safety and Environmental Health department

By Melvin White

NYSOMHow long have you been living in the New York area?

All my life. 63 years “young.”

Where do you currently live?

Yonkers, New York. But most people say Rockefeller University, ha! “1 tostado Plaza!”

Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I’ve lived in Harlem, three different parts of Queens, now I am in Yonkers. But I have to say Harlem. I grew up with some great people. I love the Rucker games. And even though they had gangs and violence, my mother raised me right so those things never influence me. I like to say “it don’t make no difference”.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated?

Overrated? I think cleaning the bus stops, I think it’s a waste of water. Underrated? Water! People waste a lot of it.

What do you miss most when you are out of town?

If I EVER leave, Home sweet home…

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

People who cross the street with headphones in their ears, not paying attention. Especially when I am driving.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

I love my DVDs. Karate movies. The best martial arts action-packed film was Expendables 3. It had everybody in it. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone. Man, I would have to lend you the DVD. Anything with action gets my attention.

Has anything (negative or positive) changed about you while living here as a New Yorker?

My Sensei, Jose Santos. Because of him I am still teaching exercise classes at Rockefeller. He taught me discipline, and the right way of life. He’s the reason I am the way I am today. Negative? NOTHING! People always see me smiling through the hallways all day long and ask how I do it? How do I always stay happy and smiling? I say “It’s healthy for you. You should try it.”

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Henry IV

By Alyssa Luong

The waiting crowd is hushed at 7:24 p.m. under the dim lights and high ceilings of Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse on a windy night in early November. A man in a security uniform bellows for us to step aside, “Inmates coming through! Please step aside.” Furrowed eyebrows are relaxed and smiles slowly appear when we realize it is part of the show. We hear the jangling of metal chains and see the imprisoned women all in uniform grey sweatshirts and sweatpants, with their eyes looking indifferently at the people who’ve come to see their production.

Donmar Warehouse and St. Ann’s Warehouse presents the American Premiere of William Shakespeare’s Henry IV in the context of a women’s prison, directed by Phyllida Lloyd. The all-female cast initially feels like a gimmick in response to the history of all-male Shakespearean casts, but soon becomes irrelevant as the inmates begin Part I among children’s kitchen toys and tiny chairs and tables. It almost feel voyeuristic, watching upon playful props and sleepwear robes-turned royal. “Perhaps this is too personal for us to see?,” I thought.

The prison setting proves effective as we see how the roles are played, inferring that the inmates may be true representations of their characters. The most commanding performance comes from Harriet Walter, who plays King Henry. Her presence brings a simple, unwavering intensity.

Another burst of energy comes from Jade Anouka, who plays Hotspur, living up to the nature of his name. The overall atmosphere is well-balanced, taking us through comic relief delivered by Falstaff, played by Sophie Stanton, and Clare Dunne with a crescendo of development as the maturing heir, Hal, to King Henry.

The ensemble is led through a musical cover of Glasvegas’ “Daddy’s Gone,” led by Lady Percy, played by Sharon Rooney. It’s a delicate aspect of the play that offers a light melody, dueling with the rebellion and national conflict.

Lloyd succeeds in weaving the prison backdrop through the play, exposing the layers of the story with an abrupt incident when the Hostess, played by Zainab Hasan, runs off the stage in response to offensive language that has been directed at her. The lights came on and the prison guards came out, reminding us of the setting. Then, at the end, when Hal is crowned King, an uproar develops that triggers alarms and the guards emerge to end the play.

This strong cast with bold performances make the play worth experiencing. It’s a stimulating layering of stories in which we have privy.
Henry IV runs through December 6, 2015
Runtime: 2 hours 15 minutes
St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water Street, Brooklyn

For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 3 Edition

By Jim Keller

There’s a reason why I always conclude this three-part series by covering the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races: with the exception of the frontrunners, they are very unpredictable. Hence, I am going to shake things up a bit this year and change the discussion format. Instead of laying out each actor’s accomplishments and why I would, or would not, bet on them for a nomination, I have broken down below the different circumstances these actors find themselves in and how that narrative may or may not grow to influence Oscar voters. In a few short weeks, groups such as The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), the National Board of Review (NBR), and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) will announce their respective winners, thereby revealing a consensus of nominees, as we march forward to Oscar nominations on January 14th. These announcements, along with those of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes), signal the start of the Oscar race’s second leg.


Here is how the actors discussed last year fared:

Best Supporting Actor:

-J.K. Simmons — Whiplash: Nominated and won

-Edward Norton — Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Nominated

-Mark Ruffalo — Foxcatcher: Nominated

-Ethan Hawke — Boyhood: Nominated

-Josh Brolin — Inherent Vice: Not nominated

Last year’s fifth nominee was Robert Duvall for The Judge.

Before we begin, please note the following regarding the supporting actor and actress races:

Everyone loves a two-fer: Often the same film will have multiple supporting nominees. The precedent was set back in both supporting categories in 1939 when Hattie McDaniel competed against Olivia de Havilland for Gone with the Wind and Harry Carey and Claud Rains were nominated for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. For the ladies, this has occurred twenty-nine times, whereas it has only happened sixteen times for the men in the eighty-seven years the Academy Awards has existed. Further, the phenomenon last occurred in Supporting Actor for 1991’s Bugsy, which saw nominations for Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley. Conversely, it last occurred in Supporting Actress for 2011’s The Help, which yielded a win for Octavia Spencer and a nod for Jessica Chastain. One might attribute this difference to the lack of female roles in Hollywood, i.e., there weren’t enough supporting roles for women in Hollywood films to nominate the performance in a fifth film in those years.

Ride Along: A Best Picture nomination can often yield supporting nominations for the film’s actors (e.g., Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver in American Hustle).

Category fraud is alive and well: In a year where the best actor and actress categories are an embarrassment of riches, look for voters to vote lead performances as supporting and vice versa just to get the actor(s) a nomination.

Beware the newcomer: Oscar voters love to swirl around newcomers and anoint them the prom king/queen (e.g., Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave).

A Tale of Two Reporters

Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton (Spotlight):

Thomas McCarthy’s drama is based on the true story of how the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team uncovered the massive child molestation scandal and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. It is one of the year’s best reviewed films, it has a 93 Metacritic score, and is, therefore, a serious Best Picture contender. It has already won the Gotham Jury Award for Ensemble Performance at this year’s Gotham Awards and shows no signs of slowing down as the Oscar season accelerates. At its core are the supporting players: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schreiber, who play the members of the Spotlight team. Ruffalo once again imbues the film with tenderness and has the best scene. It would be his third nomination in this category after having been nominated for 2010’s The Kids Are All Right and last year’s Foxcatcher. On paper, it seems that should be the story, but there is a groundswell opinion, among Oscar pundits, that the Academy will nominate Keaton since he lost Best Actor last year to Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything). As ridiculous as this sounds, it could very well be. Look for one of them to get in alongside these other contenders:

The “It” Factor

Robert De Niro (Joy): He won Best Supporting Actor in 1975 for The Godfather Part II and Best Actor in 1981 for Raging Bull. He has been nominated four times for Best Actor: Taxi Driver (1977), The Deer Hunter (1979), Awakenings (1991), and Cape Fear (1992), and most recently, for Supporting Actor for Silver Linings Playbook (2013).

Bradley Cooper (Joy): He earned his first Best Actor nomination alongside De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook (2013) and has been nominated each subsequent year: American Hustle (Supporting, 2014 and American Sniper (Lead, 2015).

Joy is directed by David O. Russell, whose last three films have been nominated for Best Picture and have yielded three supporting actor nominations combined.


Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies): He was nominated this year for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie for Wolf Hall and won the Best Actor British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) TV Award for The Government Inspector in 2006. He is also widely known for his stage work, having won three Tony awards.

Tom Hardy (The Revenant): He won the Best Actor LAFCA last year for Locke and was nominated for the Best Actor BAFTA TV Award in 2008 for Stuart: A Life Backwards. His film is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, last year’s Best Director winner for

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation): He won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television in 2012 for Luther, a role that netted him two other nominations in 2011 and 2014. In those same years he was nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Primetime Emmy. Last year he was also nominated for Best Actor by the same body for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Regardless of nominations, Beasts will go down in history as the first feature-length, original film from Netflix. The idea of a content streaming titan churning out films frightens the big studios and challenges the idea that the Academy does in fact award the best films. It is one of the best films of the year and it is likely that Hollywood will snub the film, but will throw it a bone in the form of a supporting actor nomination for Elba.

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Natural Selections wants your art!

Whether you can’t stop drawing while waiting for the bus, or taking a walk around the city; if photography is your passion, or if you’re more of a painter, this is your chance to share your art. Beginning in 2016, Natural Selections will publish a picture of the art we receive every month. To take advantage of this opportunity, email us your work with a title, a brief description, and your name. We’ll make sure to include it in a future issue. We hope to receive several images to create an open space for art! We’ll be delighted to receive your artwork, please email hi-res jpg files to : nseditors@rockefeller.edu<mailto:nseditors@rockefeller.edu>

Photo by Nan Pang