Dickens Electrified / Catatonia From Catalonia / Unmasked Cochrane Report

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has three segments. Here are bits of each of them:

    • Helluva Twist — CHARLES DICKENS and his writings are still being “interrogated” (that’s the word in use) by scholars, at least one of whom is almost electrified by what might be there.Jeremy Parrott, an antiquarian bookseller and a stalwart of the Dickens Society, says he has identified a supply of electricity that flows, in a literary way, through the people in Dickens’s novel David Copperfield. Parrott announced his discovery in the March issue of the Society’s Dickens Quarterly, with a jolting 27 pages of facts – and perhaps some conjectures – all wired together with the title “Electrical undercurrents in David Copperfield”….
    • Catatonia from Catalonia — Inspiration about medical knowledge can come from almost anywhere. Musical inspiration about the aetiology of pneumonia comes, for some people, from the song I’ll Never Fall in Love Again by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Some people call it “the pneumonia song”. David died in 2012, Bacharach in February this year, neither from pneumonia: “What do you get when you kiss a guy? / You get enough germs to catch pneumonia….
    • Unmasked Advice — Imagine a restaurant host saying: “Welcome, diners! Tonight’s 78-course roast beef dinner includes generous portions of rotten meat, cardboard and solids that we are unable to identify. We are commendable for including (rather than excluding!) these ingredients and for telling you that we include them. We did a vast amount of careful work.” As you digest that, consider the Cochrane Report that led to misleading public outcries, such as this one in The New York Times: “the verdict is in: Mask mandates were a bust”. …