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How the brain rewrites its own story as a heroic tale

People change, don’t they? That’s what everyone says. I once met a man who changed more than you could imagine.

Should a writer protect the medical privacy of the dead?

As I sat amid stacks of boxes in a stranger’s living room in Fairfield, California, back in 2008, I saw that my search was over.

The US gun lobby says that guns save lives – do they?

The first gun massacre in Blacksburg, Virginia, probably occurred on 8 July, 1755, when a group of native Americans entered Draper’s Meadow and killed four settlers – probably, because there are no rules as to how many killings make a massacre, and because the number of victims is disputed.

Are myths about the rejuvenating power of young blood true?

Saul Villeda, who leads a stem-cell research lab at the University of California, San Francisco, is not concerned about a black market for baby blood.

Our genome is not a blueprint for making humans at all

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable!

Why the next pandemic will be nothing like Ebola

The latest epidemic to terrify the Western world is Ebola, a virus that has killed hundreds in Africa in 2014 alone.

Why my generation forgot to rebel against China’s overlords

When I first read the Chinese edition of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in 1988, I was a skinny 15-year-old girl who had lived all her life in a southern Chinese province surrounded by stubborn bamboo mountains.

My Asperger’s son and the day the hate-circus came to town

In high school, my son Carson developed a fascination with Fred Phelps, the way a more typical teenager might obsess about the Marvel universe or The Vampire Diaries.

How New Orleans became America’s ground zero for HIV

As far as aspirations go, MarkAlain Dery’s might seem strange: giving rapid, mouth-swab tests for human immunodeficiency virus to celebrities.

The original meaning of laughter, smiles and tears

About four thousand years ago, somewhere in the Middle East — we don’t know where or when, exactly — a scribe drew a picture of an ox head.

Do dopamine levels mark the line between believer and fanatic?

When I was 12, on family vacation in New Mexico, I watched a group of elaborately-costumed Navajo men belt out one intimidating song after the next.

A deaf musician and poet receives a cochlear implant

When I woke up one morning and found I could hear nothing, my biggest sense of loss came from being unable to listen to my older brother and sister playing my favourite Diabelli duet.

Why the AA is out of step with research on addiction

I hear a single voice as I walk up the steps to the meeting room. It reminds the men and women gathered in a half circle that, yes, they admitted powerlessness over alcohol, and that only a power greater than themselves could restore their sanity.

Why pregnancy is a biological war between mother and baby

What sight could be more moving than a mother nursing her baby? What better icon could one find for love, intimacy and boundless giving?

Why is it so hard to say where earth ends and space begins?

Any time we embark upon a journey, be it a morning commute or a leisurely day trip, we engage in transition.

We can't wage war on drugs. We don't know what they are…

When the US President Richard Nixon announced his ‘war on drugs’ in 1971, there was no need to define the enemy.

Where do children’s earliest memories go?

I’m the youngest by far of five children. My mother was 34 when she conceived me in 1950, so chagrined by this chronological indiscretion that she tried to hide the pregnancy from her sister.

How to cultivate self-worth without the vanity of self-love

People often seem to talk of self-respect, self-esteem, pride and vanity as if they are interchangeable, never mind the nuances of amour-propre, conceit, self-absorption and narcissism.

If death comes for everything, does it matter what we kill?

This morning a tiny fly was, true to its name and nature, flying about in the vicinity of my desk. It really was very tiny – a fruit fly, I’d guess.

Why don‘t people come to the rescue of victims of crime?

Bethesda in the state of Maryland is the kind of safe, upscale Washington DC suburb that well-educated, high-earning professionals retreat to when it’s time to raise a family.