Psychological tools from the ancient Stoics can help you endure the pandemic

You’re about to sit down to your sixth virtual meeting of the day when your toddler strolls into your makeshift home office. As you call to your partner for help, your son spills his juice all over your laptop. You hastily clean up the mess, sighing at the screen’s image of your wildly disordered hair. Soldering on, you force a smile and begin the meeting, only to find that your connection suddenly dropped. …


Ph.D. stands for “Doctor of Philosophy.” To earn this degree, one must make an original contribution to humanity’s body of knowledge (In ancient Greek, “philosophy” means “lover of wisdom”). It is an extraordinary feat, taking years of dedicated study at graduate school. The course of study culminates in the candidate writing and defending a thesis dissertation, which must be approved by more senior experts in the chosen discipline (history, education, biology, etc.).

M.D. stands for “Doctor of Medicine” and refers to a physician. It is another extraordinary achievement that involves years of detailed study and training. After four years of…


Jimmy Carter celebrated his 96th birthday on October 1, 2020. This article celebrates one of Carter’s greatest achievements — one that was made after he left politics and does not get the attention it deserves.

In 1986, Carter declared war on a disease called dracunculiasis, which is caused by an insidious parasite known as the Guinea worm. The Guinea worm once threatened millions of people, especially children, in twenty-one countries in Africa and Asia.

People become infected when they drink water contaminated with water fleas (copepods) carrying Guinea worm larvae in their bellies. The person’s stomach acid digests the body…


You’ll never eat a cupcake the same way again…

The idea of creating miniature cakes as a dessert is thought to have originated in 1796, when Amelia Simmons wrote about them in American Cookery. The idea came to fruition in 1828 when Eliza Leslie published the first recipe for a tiny cake one could bake in a tea cup. With a thin layer of sweet frosting or jam on top the tiny cake, the new dessert could be enjoyed in a few bites with little mess. Cupcakes rapidly became a sensation.

Image by Blandine JOANNIC from Pixabay

Today, that thin layer of icing has grown exponentially…


Americans have fallen prey to a dangerous combination of confirmation bias, groupthink, and tribalism.

Political polarization is nothing new in America, but recent studies show that a greater number of people are migrating further towards the extreme ends of the spectrum. Instead of a bell curve, the distribution of Americans along the political spectrum these days looks more like a dumbbell.

A key reason why we are shepherding ourselves to opposite poles lies in how we attain information. Psychologists have established that the brain is prone to confirmation bias, which is a subconscious tendency to summarily accept or reject evidence…


A scientist discusses Toxoplasma — a possible cause for the bizarre behaviors

Photo: Marc Piscotty/Stringer/Getty Images

The following article contains minor spoilers for the Netflix docuseries Tiger King.

“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a docuseries on Netflix that is taking the (currently house-bound) world by storm. The story lifts the veil on the surprisingly nefarious world of collecting and exhibiting big cats, such as tigers and lions. But it’s not only the adorable cubs or awe-inspiring power of the adult cats that make people tune into the show: It’s the bizarre behavior of nearly everyone involved in this enterprise. …


A close look at why this old malaria drug could be promising for Covid-19

Photo: Gerard Julien/Getty Images

As Covid-19 ravages the world, scientists are desperately trying to develop a medication to stop the virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2). Dozens of drugs and vaccine candidates are in various stages of development and testing. Among these is chloroquine, a seemingly strange choice as it has been widely used to treat malaria since the 1940s.

Not only is chloroquine effective in treating malaria, it is inexpensive to make and remarkably well-tolerated by most patients (though it poses the same dangers all medications do if taken without the oversight of a doctor). …


1. STAY CALM. For MOST healthy kids and adults, infection with COVID-19 will produce mild to moderate flu-like symptoms (key symptoms are fever, cough, difficulty breathing, aches). There is no treatment at present, but with rest and plenty of fluids, most people seem to recover without incident.

2. ARE YOU AT HIGH-RISK? If you are over 60, or have underlying conditions, especially heart or lung problems, or are immune compromised (or taking immunosuppressive medication), then you should be extra careful — you are in the “high-risk” group. COVID-19 has a significantly higher fatality rate for these individuals.

3. DON’T TURN…


Marching Forward: Finding Meaning to Life in the Face of Death

A philosopher with brain cancer and a scientist who studies brain parasites walk into a coffee shop and try to figure out the meaning of it all.

By Adam Hayden and Bill Sullivan

The alarm goes off, and Adam Hayden rises.

With his wife Whitney, they dress their three boys, stir their oatmeal, and plan how to get one to soccer and another to art class. They are working to create a childhood for the kids that resembles normalcy.

But it isn’t.

It isn’t normal.

Whitney must drive Adam…


(This is a spoiler-free article about an unusual medical condition seen in the movie Knives Out.)

In the hit film Knives Out, Detective Benoit Blanc is hired to investigate the mysterious death of a wealthy novelist named Harlan Thrombey. Blanc questions the members of Thrombey’s eccentric family and his nurse, Marta Cabrera. When Marta admitted, “Just the thought of lying makes me puke,” she was not kidding. Marta is like Pinocchio, but instead of lies elongating her nose, they make her vomit. …

Bill Sullivan Jr

Bill Sullivan is the author of “Pleased to Meet Me: Genes, Germs, and the Curious Forces That Make Us Who We Are” (National Geographic Books).

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store