Like a doctor who orders a follow-up examination, every once in a while the columnist needs to prescribe some follow-up reading. Here goes:
The medical analogy may be appropriate here because my first dose of follow-up reading relates to my March 16 column on the book written by my high school classmate, Dr. Rick Boland: “Cancer Family — The Search for the Cause of Hereditary Colorectal Cancer.”
To me the book was instructive in showing how bright people navigate the uncharted paths that lead to their ultimate discoveries. For Boland (whose own family carries a gene that causes a high percentage of family members to be prone to a certain cancer) and others who sought to identify this gene, the path to discovery involved learning and relearning, discovering new hurdles as others were being cleared, and coping with all sorts of human emotions — productive and not so productive.
To a lot of readers, it also underscored another message: Routine screenings for diseases involving the colon — as inconvenient as they can seem — are nonetheless vital, and possibly life saving.
A recent press release from Rutgers described some new studies by researchers in the school’s psychology department. The studies addressed the question of why women have a longer life expectancy than men. The researchers, Diana Sanchez, associate professor of psychology, and Mary Himmelstein, a doctoral student, noted that “men can expect to die five years earlier than women, and physiological differences don’t explain that difference.”
The press release describing the studies, which were published in Preventive Medicine and the Journal of Health Psychology, reported that “Himmelstein and Sanchez found that men who held traditional beliefs about masculinity — that men should be tough, brave, self-reliant, and restrained in their expression of emotion — were more likely to ignore medical problems, or at least put off dealing with them, than women or than men with less traditional beliefs. They were more likely to choose a male doctor, based on the belief that male doctors were more competent than female doctors.
“Paradoxically, however, the researchers discovered that men, having chosen a male doctor, were less likely to be open with that doctor about their symptoms. ‘That’s because they don’t want to show weakness or dependence to another man, including a male doctor,’ Sanchez says. Ironically, the researchers found, men tend to be more honest about their medical symptoms with female doctors, because, Sanchez theorizes, to be honest about vulnerabilities causes them no loss of status with women.”
The conclusions were based on several surveys, including one in which 193 students (88 men and 105 women) at a large, public university were interviewed, and then compared to a sample of 298 people, half men and half women, from the general population.
Based only on casual conversations about colonoscopies and the preparation for them, I said to Boland that it seemed too many men were delaying or avoiding the exam. He agreed but added that some women were also avoiding it, in some cases because they knew it was going to be a man doing the procedure.
The Rutgers psychologists also had some conclusions based on gender. While women generally were more open than men to discussing medical problems and seeking treatment, “women who thought they should be brave and self-reliant — according to their responses on questionnaires — were less likely to seek treatment, more likely to put off seeking medical help, and less likely to be forthcoming with their doctors than women who did not hold bravery, toughness and self-reliance as core values,” to quote the press release.
“Self-reliance, therefore, seems to be dangerous to one’s health, regardless of gender. ‘It’s worse for men, however,’ Himmelstein says. ‘Men have a cultural script that tells them they should be brave, self-reliant, and tough. Women don’t have that script.’”
Another follow-up report, this one on the March 2 column from Barbados. In that dispatch I praised the sleek and graceful Concorde, one of which stands in a museum at the Barbados airport.
The column elicited several comments from people who had either flown on the Concorde, knew someone who had flown on it, or wished they could fly on it.
A successor to the Concorde may be in the wings. A reference in a recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek was passed on to me by Community News Service’s Jamie Griswold. Boom Technology, started by Blake Scholl, aims to build a new supersonic transport, capable of carrying up to 40 passengers at around $5,000 apiece (as compared to the $20,000 price on some Concorde tickets). Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has committed to provide development services for Boom and signed an option to buy 10 planes
Scholl, 35, started Kima, a developer of mobile shopping apps, which was bought by Groupon in 2012. Using that cash he has assembled a group of a dozen people in Denver, including pilots and veterans of aerospace startups and established companies such as Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, and a Northrop Grumman subsidiary. The new plane will be built using a carbon-fiber composite not available when the aluminum Concorde was conceived.
Another innovation is in software: Boom engineers can run millions of computer simulations a day on its designs, eliminating months of tests in wind tunnels.
In other words all that knowledge the Concorde designers and engineers needed to understand how to cope with an aluminum body that would shrink and expand by six to ten inches as the aircraft reached its cruising speed of Mach 2 now could be thrown away. It’s time to think about composites.
As Boland wrote in his book: “Each time we thought we understood the story, something new would emerge to complicate the concepts we thought we understood, and we had to think and learn new things.”
In medicine as in aeronautical engineering as in many other endeavors, to be sure. To be continued.