I read an article about an artist/scientist who creates models of perfect strangers from bits of their DNA extracted from hair and bodily detritus left behind, inadvertently, by all of us every day.  Her name is Heather.  An innocuous enough sounding name, right?

Watch this video and you are guaranteed to have your mind blown.  And by blown, I mean blown apart, because so many different issues are raised in such a short video that it’s hard to even list them all.   And what strikes me may not be what strikes you, at all.

So stream of consciousness style:

  • this is a very young woman, not the typical portrait of a geekish guy inventing things

  • you (here, an artist) can actually have access to a lab the likes of which would have been science fiction when I was a lowly undergraduate science student or (later) medical student

  • science literacy - a hobby horse of mine - is going to be so critical for our children/grandchildren that it’s hard to overstate it.  Poor science literacy will handicap future generations the way not being able to read hampered the hoi polloi in the time of Alexander the Great

  • even physicians (supposedly ‘science literate’ folks) will be left behind like dinosaurs unless we read, web surf, open our minds, learn and imagine

  • OMG, the three-D printing possibilities!

  • The frightening/fascinating possibilities open to forensic research and day-to-day law enforcement… to say nothing of organizations like the CIA, NSA, etc.

The article pointed to Heather’s blog, which further astonished me, but for a reason that might not strike everyone: the offhand way she refers to genes that code for leanness or for fatness, along with eye color and hair color and texture.  Yep.  Genes.  Not sloth, not gluttony, not weak-will, not calories in and calories out… genes.

So when will this information hit prime time? When will it begin to erode the quackery and snake oil of the diet industry?  

And then Medscape and Dr Topol pointed to an article about moving from correlation to causation of obesity in studying variations in our gut microbiota.  We may all  have gut microbes living with us which determine our propensity for fatness or resistance to fatness. But where is this science in the every-day conversations physicians are having with their overweight patients?  We are urged to encourage our patients to lose weight in almost every medical setting, we are encouraged to “help them understand” how they are “killing themselves” with their “food choices”.  People are actually asking themselves whether or not obesity in children constitutes “child abuse on the part of their caretakers.”  I ask you, stop the madness!

Maybe our only real weapon in this war is science literacy for all of us.

See what you think.