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See Inside February 2011

Recommended: The Artist and the Scientists: Bringing Prehistory to Life

Books and recommendation from Scientific American



Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press

The Artist and the Scientists: Bringing Prehistory to Life
by Peter Trusler, Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas H. Rich. Cambridge University Press, 2010

Artist Peter Trusler and paleontologists Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas H. Rich team up to explain the process of reconstructing scenes of prehistoric life from fossils of long-gone beasts.

Excerpt
Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
by Paul A. Offit. Basic Books, 201

Paul A. Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, explores why many parents fear that vaccines will cause autism and other disorders and are therefore forgoing vaccination in increasing numbers. Here he traces the birth of the antivaccine movement to a 1982 documentary produced by NBC television correspondent Lea Thomp­son called DPT: Vaccine Roulette. It linked the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP, sometimes also called DPT) vaccine to brain damage, laying the groundwork for the autism scare.

Vaccine Roulette was arguably one of the most powerful programs ever to air on American television: thousands of parents stopped giving pertussis vaccine to their children; personal-injury lawyers pummeled pharmaceutical companies, causing many to stop making vaccines; and Congress passed a law to protect vaccine makers, while at the same time compensating those who were allegedly harmed by vaccines.

“During the next fifteen years the tide turned ... study after study showed that children immunized with DTP weren’t at greater risk of brain damage. As a consequence, public health agencies and medical societies throughout the world no longer considered pertussis vaccine to be a rare cause of permanent harm....

“Despite this overwhelming evidence, and despite all the harm that had been done by the false notion that pertussis vaccine was maiming America’s children, Lea Thompson was without remorse. In 1997, during a celebration in her honor ... Thompson remembered Vaccine Roulette: ‘The reason it was important to me is not because it was great research, although we did a pretty good job, or that [it] was a beautifully produced piece of work. DPT [Vaccine Roulette] was important to me personally because it spawned a movement.’ A movement that almost eliminated vaccines for American children, a movement that continues to cause many parents to reject vaccines in favor of the diseases they prevent, and a movement that was based on a notion that has been shown again and again to be incorrect.”

Also Notable
NONFICTION
The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality,
by Richard Panek. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind,
by Robert Kurzban. Princeton University Press, 2011

World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humans and Machines,
by Michael Chorost. Free Press, 2011

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World,
by Edward Dolnick. HarperCollins, 2011

The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life,
by Jesse Bering. W. W. Norton, 2011

DNA: A Graphic Guide to the Molecule That Shook the World,
by Israel Rosenfield, Edward Ziff and Borin Van Loon. Columbia University Press, 2011

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