Brandy L Schillace

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Activists have made it clear: Reproductive justice is a disability issue

The rights of disabled people are, suddenly, in the news. They deserve to be, but in the aftermath of the Texas anti-abortion legislation, disabled bodies have largely become talking points — a rhetorical device.

Award-winning essayist and journalist s. e. smith reports on “selective abortion” bills, which “employ a sinister disablism” that exacerbates the idea of the “justified abortion.” Essentially, the language suggests that some pregnancies can be terminated if there is a diagnosis of a disability — as though a disabled life were untenable while simultaneously flirting with eugenics. At the same time, those who support full abortion bans…


Harnessing the brain’s ability to adapt for a better future

In May 2020, the New York Times published the names of 100,000 people, all of whom had died of Covid-19 in the U.S. by that date. They called it, then, an incalculable loss. In August 2021, forecasts by Model predicted that the U.S. would see another 100,000 deaths before December 1 — and it no longer seems like such a big number. Similarly, when the “unprecedented” hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, it was part of nightly news coverage for months. Ida just wiped out power to millions, but lasted much more briefly in our news cycle. …


I still do it, because I have to. Here’s how I get through it.

Frankly, the only reason I can think of for running anywhere is to avoid a bear. And even then, it depends on the size and aggression of the bear. But in one of life’s little hee-ha’s, I have a condition which requires me to exercise a lot or lose all mobility… And running turns out to be easier and cheaper than building myself a home gym.

It all started when I slipped on the ice. I ended up with a back injury that kept me in pain for almost two years (far longer, it seemed, than it should have —…


From the placebo effect to neuron generation, your gray matter has surprising super-powers

There’s a lot about the brain we still don’t know. In fact, just this week neuroscientists discovered what they’re calling “zombie” brain cells, which only turn on after you die. (They are glial cells, and they are supposed to clean up the mess after a stroke or other trauma — they get to work immediately following death, even if their work is ultimately futile).

The space between your ears turns out to be almost as elusive as the space between planets. One neurosurgeon, Robert White, actually considered himself a brain “astronaut.” Your brain is indeed up to something all the…


Staffing Shortages and the Re-evaluation of Service Work

The words were written in pink chalk on a slate clap-board sign: “Please be patient. The world is short-staffed right now.” I’d been standing there long enough to read it a half-dozen times, and was trying to embody the message.

Like most people, I haven’t traveled or even been out much since March 2020. Also like most people, I decided to try going on holiday in August, before things potentially shut down a second time due to the delta variant of Covid-19. Deciding that it would be better and safer to hit the countryside, my partner and I (both vaccinated)…


A long look at our war on viruses

The very first “vaccine” was given to an eight-year-old boy, James Phipps, who had somehow managed to avoid getting smallpox as it ran rampant through English cities and the countryside. Edward Jenner, the doctor, lived in a large estate next door and had convinced the Phippses to let him try a new method of keeping the disease at bay for their son. Exactly how he did this is not entirely known, but what is known is that smallpox was especially deadly in children.

That was May of 1796. The first clinical trials would be performed three years later, in the…


For Many, There is No “Getting Back to Normal”

A wheelchair by the ocean; waves are lapping up the beach under a blue sky
A wheelchair by the ocean; waves are lapping up the beach under a blue sky

The United States reached it’s goal of 70% vaccinated adults a month late and during an outbreak of COVID19's delta variant. Children under the age of 12 remain un-vaccinated, but the country has reopened for business, and in-person schooling will begin again in the coming weeks. Despite rising cases across the US, and dire warnings from experts that another wave is on the way, we appear to be resuming a pre-pandemic pace of life. Everyone seems ready to get “back to normal.”

But what if there is no normal? What if there never has been?

I’m going to ask you…


And Other Reasons to Stop Looking for Earth 2.0

A glass ball reflects the scenery behind it, a mountain, lake, and trees, to create a mirror image of the earth.
A glass ball reflects the scenery behind it, a mountain, lake, and trees, to create a mirror image of the earth.

The Science Daily has an entire category dedicated to “Acid Rain News.” You can discover a lot of unpleasant things up there, like the fact that increased acidity in the atmosphere disrupts the ecological balance of oceans. But if the concept of acidic water falling from the sky makes you rethink your evening stroll, wait till you hear about the weather on Venus.

You have probably heard it said: Venus — named after the goddess of love — is a lot like Earth. It’s size, mass, composition and even proximity to the Sun aren’t wildly different from our own, making…


Our Greatest Achievements were Born of Leisure, but We Remain Committed to a Culture of Burnout.

A crisp, red apple in the palm of a hand against a dark background.
A crisp, red apple in the palm of a hand against a dark background.

I like the story of Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity. You’ve heard it: he’s sitting under an apple tree on the farm, and an apple bonks him on the head. From this, he theorizes that there is a constant pull upon all objects and presto! a new science is born. Of course, it didn’t happen quite like that; Newton’s noggin was apple-free. The story does, however, tell us something important about his scientific methods.

Newton had entered school in Cambridge in 1661, but an outbreak of plague sent him home again to Woolsthorpe Manor and the family farm. (Sound familiar…


Learning to Cope with Death — and Everything After

Two hands holding a coffee mug against a black background
Two hands holding a coffee mug against a black background

The little Greek diner was packed that Saturday morning. We’d slept late, and had to wait for one of the cracked-vinyl booths. The place echoed in cacophony: clattering silverware, clinking dishes, wait staff and cooks shouting orders through the window above the till. Having lost the coin toss this time, I faced the noisy dining room instead of the window. A man sat alone, just across the way. I hadn’t paid him much attention, not then. Not until he began to choke.

He gripped his throat and half stood, jostling the table. Then he fell sideways and slid to the…

Brandy L Schillace

Author/Editor. Writing about history, science, & medicine for Scientific American, Undark, Globe and Mail, and more. brandyschillace.com. Twitter:@bschillace

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