Culture Science

HeLa Genome Data Sharing Approved by Family

Science Ethics: Improving

From WikimediaThe family of Henrietta Lacks met with Francis Collins and other representatives of NIH at Johns Hopkins. The discussion resulted in an agreement for data sharing of the complete HeLa genome.

For many years the family felt that they had not been consulted, the cells had been taken without permission, and that their privacy rights were not considered. The HeLa cells, taken from cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks have been used in laboratories all around the world and been instrumental in much cellular research.

The ethical issues were brought to the public’s awareness by Rebecca Skloot in her book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks“.

Science Insider August 7, 2013

Culture Sport Shoes Sports Medicine

What Causes Injury In New Runners

If we look at the scientific literature, the long and short of it is, we do not have any study that tells us what the risk factors are for injuries in new runners. A relatively new study at British Journal of Sports Medicine  looked at over 900 novice runners, classified their foot type, and put them all in a similar light weight shoe. They found that people with differing foot types all became injured at the same rate, except those that were considered “normal” were injured at a slightly higher rate. A study not long ago showed that runners who were assigned to motion control shoes were injured at a higher rate that those who selected a stability shoe. The study did indicate that assignments to shoes based solely on foot typing was not useful in preventing injury for uninjured runners. (The conclusion was limited to “moderate pronation” not severe pronation according to the author’s summary.) Of course studies like this make for good press.

It is important to realize that these studies do not provide information on how to treat runners that are injured.

All the studies over the years have shown that running is associated with running injuries as skiing is associated with skiing injuries. The studies themselves often vary widely in estimating the risk of running injury. Studies often define injury so differently that the most quoted figures define injury as occurring to between 25% and 65% of all runners over the course of a year. Even our election predictors can predict elections much closer than that. But this does not mean running is high risk especially while so many studies point out the benefit of running.

I still believe that many injuries are caused by overuse and incorrect training. But sometimes correcting that alone is just not enough. It is important to be flexible in approaching running injuries and not have one simple solution or one simple belief system to fix all running injuries. Not every injury is fixed by strengthening your glutes, using a form roller, switching to a forefoot landing style or burning all of your running shoes. But all of the above can be helpful at times. Training, muscle strength, weakness and imbalance, relative lack of flexibility, your individual biomechanics,  nutrition, sleep patterns, and running style, stride, contact, etc. and your running shoes all come into play as factors to be examined while determining how to optimize your running, how to recover and how to avoid future injury. I still advise avoiding the “terrible toos” of too much, too soon, too often, too fast, with too little rest. While we don’t have conclusive advise that this advise works, it does not sound bad at all, and the advise itself comes with very little risk.

I’ll quote from an email (relating to active, recreational runners) that I sent off to a friend earlier today, who has been uninjured for the past few years:

(The study we are discussing) “…means we can’t predict what will cause an uninjured, new runner to become injured.

It doesn’t tell us anything about how to cure any injury that you’ve developed. Or how to prevent an injury you’ve solved from coming back.
All studies lead to the following two conclusions: The best predictor of future injury is past injury. Running injuries are associated with running. But other studies clearly let us know that running is overall very good for you. (Especially if you are not running in pain.)
Once you find success and go a long time with no injury I recommend not messing with success. If you decide to make changes, make them slowly and carefully. And do it with the voice of Clint Eastwood in the background (no, not talking to an empty chair) saying “Do you feel lucky today, kid?”
But yes, the advice that all flat feet should be in motion control shoes is wrong and so is the advice that all high arched feet should be in cushioned shoes.
It is easier to treat an injury than to say with absolute certainty how to never get injured. But often the secret of avoiding re-injury comes from the knowledge of what you did to get rid of the injury.”

Now to round this off we just need to find some music that offers good, sound advice. Maybe something with scientifically proven advice…. or reflect on “Is It Too Much”?

Culture Sports

College Sports as Business and Slavery

curt-floodMany years ago most professional athletes would start and finish their careers with a single team. This wasn’t always their choice. It was the choice of their team. When they were traded to another team, they would have no choice in the matter. They could be readily sold “down river”.

In baseball the “reserve clause” tied a player to his team for his lifetime. The player was essentially considered chattel or property. In 1969, Curt Flood challenged the reserve clause in a case that made it to the Supreme Court of the United States. The reserve clause said that if you played for a team you were bound by duty to play for the same team the following year. A few players had tried to challenge this before Curt Flood, but with baseball’s exemption from anti-trust laws, they had failed. Curt Flood had experienced racial injustice before by being prevented from moving into a house he had leased by the owner who did not know he was black when the lease was signed. Flood sued and won. He was the right person to challenge the reserve clause.

He was told it would be impossible. None of his teammates or active ball players stood by him. A retired Jackie Robinson was one person who did stand with him. In the end, he lost in the Supreme Court. There was a twist however. The decision stated that he was right, he should be a free agent, but only congress could change the antitrust exemption it had granted professional baseball. So that left an act of congress and negotiations of the Players Association to fight and agree to free agency for, in this case, baseball.

Now, more than 40 years later, the NCAA, which should support the rights of student athletes stands complicit in preventing young athletes, even after a single year in college from easily moving to another school. There are many reasons why an athlete may want to change schools. He may find a better academic program, better athletic/academic integration, a better shot at starting, a coach that is better suited to his style, or a coach that doesn’t have Jerry Sandusky as his assistant.

There seems to be something wrong when a system, and a coach can be so vindictive as to prevent a college freshman from transferring to nearly 40 colleges at the end of his freshman year. In this case it is Oklahoma State and their coach who has ruled out almost 40 universities for quarterback Wes Lunt. The NY Times called this “an apparent show of gamesmanship and punishment for a college athlete who wanted to take his skills elsewhere”.

In business there are non-compete clauses. These may keep someone from participating in the same business for a time or they may prevent someone who was employed from opening up the same type of business just down the street. The similarity here seems to be to not having Lunt compete directly against the school in the same league. But going as far as to create nearly absolute limits on ease of transfer. Forty universities can not offer Lunt a scholarship and he will have to sit for a year. The loss of scholarship is significant with the price of colleges being as crazy high as they are. Sitting for a year for a rival college may be valid, but for a school in another league without direct competition seems unfair. This problem exists in other college sports including basketball. Who will stand up for the student athletes? It looks like this will appear for one day in the news, and then fade. As far as the title of this blog entry goes, an entire college thesis could be written on it. We’ll leave that task to another.

Note: Not long ago, I read recently of an entire chess team moving with the coach. I imagine since it wasn’t “chess-boxing” it was considered a club and not a sport.

Culture Running

The Trials Of The Marathon

At the finish line of the Boston Marathon are the flags of the world. The winners for the last many years are all welcome and come from the third world. New York also celebrates the entire globe. The statue of liberty still stands there with a saying that welcomes all and truly needs all.


In the running community there has been an ongoing debate about evolution that focuses on one very small issue of “foot strike”. This issue is dwarfed by many, many other issues of biology, physiology, psychology, genomics, the role of exercise in disease prevention and in improved health both mental and physical and even human behavior both in small and large groups.

Evolution involves more than whether you hit the ground with your forefoot, midfoot or rearfoot. It doesn’t have much to do with whether you wear a minimalist shoe, run barefoot, or wear a stability shoe.

We have a long way to evolve as a species. Recent theories have involved cooperation and altruism as an important part of evolution. That was seen today in the actions of the first responders in Boston. It is far more than survival of the fittest. The barbarians will not survive long.

Biomechanics Changes Culture

Jacquelin Perry, MD (1918-2013) – Pioneer of Gait, Biomechanics and the Treatment of Neurological Disorders

Dr. Jacquelin Perry (1959)Jacquelin Perry, M.D. has just passed away at age 94. She was born on May 31, 1918 and died on March 11, 2013.

Dr. Perry was a key researcher in gait and abnormal gait. She was a pioneer as one of the few female orthopedists in the 1950’s becoming board certified in 1958. It is hard to imagine today, but there were only 10% women in her medical school class, 7 out of 76.  She taught at USC Medical School from 1972 until the late 90’s. She worked at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in California for many years and was Chief of Pathokinesiology and later Chief of the Biomechanics and Gait Lab among other positions. More recently the Jacquelin Perry Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory was dedicated in December, 2008

She is best known for her work on polio patients and her 1992 text Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function” became an instant classic. The Salk vaccine, introduced in the mid-1950’s, effectively ended polio in the Western World fairly quickly. Dr. Perry directed her attention to improving a rehabilitation program for spinal cord injury, work on hemiplegia, and children’s neuromuscular disorders including primary muscular dystrophy, myelodysplasia, and cerebral palsy.

Before beginning her medical studies Dr. Perry studied physical therapy and served as a physical therapist in army hospitals during WWII from 1941-1945. She reported that in addition to trauma patients, she had been exposed to polio patients during this time which spurred her interest.

From an early time in her career she began observational gait analysis and worked to codify her observations. Later video and EMG (electromyography) and forceplate observations were added.

Her clinical observations and descriptions of “loading response” were clear and had implications for many biomechanists. She also well described the terminology which led to an emphasis by some on “sagittal plane biomechanics”:

  • Heel RockerRock and Roll - Jacquelin Perry
  • Ankle Rocker
  • and Forefoot Rocker

She is acknowledged often in the physical therapy community. Dr. Perry has inspired many to research in gait and biomechanics. But all biomechanists know of her work and realize the thanks owed to her for her interests, work, inspiration and research. We often have had a more limited acknowledgment of our forebearers but she is certainly a major one in the realm of biomechanics and gait analysis.

While we now have improved measuring devices (in laboratories and sometimes in clinical offices) and we measure and make observations of moments of force in addition to the things we can see, her work has had tremendous impact and has had much value. As Galileo performed visual observation with his telescope long before we could study pulsars, quasars and black holes, Jacquelin Perry worked well with the instruments she had available. Eyes and a brain were among the instruments she often put to good use and was the starting point for much research and treatment. Her life is an inspiration to innovation, passion, dedication, persistence and endurance.

Culture Fitness Running Tips

Avoid Mental Mistakes and Run Longer, Faster, Healthier

The Mental Mistakes of Running

The Wisdom of Self Knowledge

The cause and prevention of many running injuries is still a mystery. The treatment of most of them is not a total mystery. To lessen the possibility of the injury returning you will need to alter your training, improve core strength, flexibility, evaluate your recovery, obtain adequate sleep, nutrition, check your stride, muscle strength and symmetry, evaluate your biomechanics, your training shoes, and check on a variety of other factors.

With all the studies that have been done on running injuries they still are reported  to occur in somewhere between 24% and 65% of runners. Those numbers themselves speak to the lack of precision even in studies that measure running injuries. Studies which attempt to measure whether a slower progression in ramping up mileage have failed to demonstrate that also. Design errors and interpretation errors contribute to this lack of precision and clear information. To fill the knowledge gap on running injuries, some would find one thing to explain most injuries. Shoes can contribute to injury.  So some have looked back a few million years to say we should not wear shoes. Others have gone back a few million years to say that we need a paleodiet. Or perhaps we need a paleo-footstrike.

Does it all come down to shoes, minimal shoes, no shoes or midfoot, forefoot, or “gentle” rearfoot strike? Is it a matter of the terrible too’s: too much, too soon, too fast and too often with too little rest? That seems to be a large contributor. Overuse and overtraining contributes to many injuries. Is the knowledge of all things 15 million or 500,000 years ago all we need to run outside today? That is debatable but I’ll avoid that debate at this time and look for something more practical.

Life is complex. While there is wisdom and embedded knowledge in the past, the philosophy that the past is prologue, carried to the extreme of the past is still with us, may not may not invariably tell us where we are headed with the unpredictable future of life and scientific knowledge. Let’s look at something that we often skip.

We often ignore the mental mistakes that lead to running injuries. “Too much, too soon” is a mental mistake. Overestimating your readiness for harder, faster, and more training is a mental error. Ignoring warning pain is a mental error. Failing to distinguish between discomfort and pain from healthy training versus that from bone, muscle and tendon injury is a mental error. It is often hard to tell how signficicant pain is and to interpret what it means.

There is value in some of what has been said before. George Sheehan declaring “we are all an experiment of one” is signficant and the Delphic Oracle saying “Know Thyself” is another significant statement. (Although Aristophanes in the play “Clouds” used “know yourself” in a harsher sense which I’ll skip here.). The Delphic Oracle of ancient Greece had another aphorism that is not widely quoted among runners: “Nothing in excess”. These are wise statements. In fact an entire Philosophy course is available on Coursera called “Know Thyself” with Professor Mitchell Green of the University of Virginia. The bulk of my MOOC experiences at and  do run a bit more to harder sciences, but being well rounded is something that most of us would benefit from.

As Barney says “everyone is special” which is another way of saying we are all alike in being a “case of one”. Luckily, sports medicine physicians and practitioners usually have a knowledge base and more than one case to draw on while evaluating a new patient’s symptoms. It is still vital that each runner take the responsibility to carefully monitor themselves. Examine on each run on you feel after you have warmed up gently, how you feel during your run, how you are progressing, how you are recovering, and what happens during and after the run.

The only way you can learn from your errors is to pay careful attention and catch them early before they result in a disaster. Improvement is something we are all looking for. Avoiding injury is another. Evaluate the changes you are making. Give yourself time to adapt. And most important pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you avoid most careless mental errors, you’ll run longer, faster and healthier.


In The Long Run: Eagles 

“I used to hurry a lot,
I used to worry a lot,
I used to stay out till the break of day.

Oh, that didn’t get it.
It was high time I quit it.
I just couldn’t carry on that way!


Culture Sport Shoes

Nike Vapor will not be Vaporware (The Nike Vapor Laser Talon)

Nikes Vapor Laser TalonVapor wear or Vaporware? 

The Nike Vapor Laser Talon is a new Football clete which is manufactured, in part, using 3D printing. It weighs 5.6 oz. The prepared press on the shoe states:

“Nike’s new 3D printed plate is contoured to allow football athletes to maintain their drive position longer and more efficiently, helping them accelerate faster through the critical first 10 yards of the 40.”

“”SLS technology has revolutionized the way we design cleat plates – even beyond football – and gives Nike the ability to create solutions that were not possible within the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes,” said Shane Kohatsu, Director of Nike Footwear Innovation.””

3D printing has been used for prototypes for several years. This is said to be the first shoe in which 3D printing using Selective Laser Sintering technology (SLS) as part of the standard manufacturing process.

Don’t look to be printing this out at home any time soon. It will be manufactured at the Nike production facilities. And it is not going to be individually customized at this time.

There has been some discussion about the name, with one blogger saying that it seemed cool enough to come from Spike TV. For me it rang a bell: shoes, wear the shoes, run in the shoes, play foot ball in the shoes. Vapor. Hmm, vapor – vapor and shoes. Vapor wear. Vaporware.

Vaporware is a term applied to software products that are announced and somehow never see the light of day. Wikipedia sums it up for those of you not familiar with the term Vaporware.

I don’t believe I’ve seen Nike fail to deliver on an announced shoe, so this new Vapor Wear is likely to be worn and not be like vaporware.

If you are ready to try your hand at 3D design but can’t afford a printer, I came across Shapeways, which offers tutorials and the ability to get started.

Nikes Vapor Laser Talon

Culture Running

A Healthy Mind In a Healthy Body: Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

A healthy mind in a healthy body or  “a sound mind in a healthy body” is an ideal to strive for.

Where does this “aphorism” or “motto” come from? A running shoe company? The Romans? Those are two popular answers, but neither rings true.

Often we see this rendered as “mens sana in corpore sano” and ascribed to the Latin satirist and poet Juvenal if anyone wants to dig that far. Juvenal (Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis) was active in the late first and second century AD. There is less information available on his life than on Shakespeare. Most knowledge of his life derives from his “poems” rather than historical documents.

The 10th Satire of Juvenal is thought by many to be the origin of the saying adopted by many modern proponents of sport and exercise today. See Satire X or view the extract at Wikipedia.

English translation (Wikipedia):

You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
and deems length of days the least of Nature’s gifts
that can endure anykind of toil,
that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks
the woes and hard labors of Hercules better than
the loves and banquets and downy cushions of Sardanapalus.
What I commend to you, you can give to yourself;
For assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.

In Original Latin:

orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
fortem posce animum mortis terrore carentem,
qui spatium uitae extremum inter munera ponat
naturae, qui ferre queat quoscumque labores,
nesciat irasci, cupiat nihil et potiores
Herculis aerumnas credat saeuosque labores
et uenere et cenis et pluma Sardanapalli.
monstro quod ipse tibi possis dare; semita certe
tranquillae per uirtutem patet unica uitae.
–Roman poet Juvenal (10.356-64)

Many aspects of the Roman empire from sculpture to the columns of their buildings had their origin in ancient Greece. This saying also derives from a far older Greek philosopher who predated Socrates. Thales of Miletus seems to be the origin of the saying. Thales was also a mathmatician who is often called the first true mathematician and applied geometry to practical problems. He was born sometime before 620 BC. Herodotus reported that Thales predicted a solar eclipse of 585 BC. Aristotle, himself, mentioned Thales as a precurser to his own writings and philosophy. The aphorism “Know Thyself” is often attributed to the Delphic Oracle, but Thales is also one to whom these words are ascribed.

Ben Franklin, known for his sayings, said that those sayings seen in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” were old wisdom reworked, they were the “wisdom of the ages and nations”. But back to Thales.

Νοῦς ὑγιὴς ἐν σώματι ὑγιεῖ

A healthy mind in a healthy body

This is ascribed to Thales, long before the Romans marched on the world.

Ancient Greece is the origin of the Olympics. Sparta and Athens both had a culture of Sport with Athens adding in an emphasis on mind. Plato was said to be an athlete in his youth. Plato and others wrote who the society was wrong to over value athletes and felt others deserved rewards as great or greater. Plato felt that the educational ideal was to strive for a balance and harmony between body and soul.

Lucky for us that entertainers are valued so well also. Soon our gladiators, the one’s who haven’t fallen, will be seen in the “Superbowl”. Other events will follow. While the Superbowl is a big event, I take an interest in a number of other sports and still watch the sports that have descended from the Greek games. No, not Greco-Roman wrestling, more likely track and field. Not long ago though, I did have an interesting conversation with a professional wrestler who has participated in the WWE and in the Ring of Honor about the athleticism and drama of entertainment wrestling, and both are integral features of that manner of wrestling.

A good chair sport is checking out the quotes and sayings you see on Facebook, emails, and scatterred across the web. A good number of them have never been seen before the 1990’s although they may be ascribed to Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, wise Indian chiefs or any number of others.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme” Author Unknown

That is a catchy saying. I first heard this phrase in the last few months on a talk show attributed to Mark Twain by a historian who wrote a recent book on Thomas Jefferson. In reality, a quick google search will show that this statement is not found in any of Mark Twain’s prolific writings or in any news stories about him. When a historian uses bad quotes, I start to wonder about the rest of the histories he has written.

But we can go back to the point we started on and agree that however it is said “a sound mind in a healthy body” is an ideal to strive for.


Juvenal (1992) The Satires, Trans. Niall Rudd, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Juvenal – Wikipedia

Thales – Wikipedia

Thales: Math Open Reference

Heroditus – The Histories

Athletics in Ancient Athens, Donald G. Kyle (Google Books)

Plato And Athletics, Dombrowski

Musical Accompaniment

Traffic “Heaven Is In Your Mind”

Eve – Let Me Blow Your Mind

Culture Errata

Temporary Storm Related Phone Issues

With the storm events of the past few days, the only damage we have suffered is a phone number outage. We hope everyone is pulling through the storm alright.

We have managed to have a temporary forwarding set up, so you may still reach us at 202-298-6830 or via email.

We apologize for the inconvenience.


Big Hurricane On The Way: Fear Factor

Well, it looks like the “Frankenstorm” has created enough emotional reaction to shut down subways in New York City, Philadelphia and now Washington D.C..

The list of closings is long.

Scott Beale has a great page of Hurricane Sandy resources

Anticipated Path of Sandy


Ordinarily we follow the Federal Government to some degree in deciding when to have the office closed. But more often than not, the Federal Government is closed and we are open. Over the last few years, there were several snow days like that. The Fed Govt was closed while we were open. With the extensive list of service shut downs and no Metro service, it means that it is likely that only those in walking distance will find it convenient to come to the office. While some of you are close by the majority come from further, including about 50% or more who commute from Maryland or Virginia.

Take tomorrow off, recover from the marathon and chill while the winds whistle by. Reluctantly, we will not be in the office tomorrow. We expect to be back in the office on Tuesday, but watch the Federal Government and Metro for news on services.

Everyone please stay safe and here is hoping that the storm will pass by without much impact.

Below is a list of selected closings as listed by the Washington Post:

Below are some of the closings and cancelations around the D.C. region due to Hurricane Sandy.

For more information on school closings, check the school websites. The Going Out Guide has information on canceled events here.

You can also find cancellations and delays at


Government offices:

Federal government — Closed Monday. Non-emergency employees will be granted administrative leave; emergency employees will be required to report to work. Employees should telework if possible.

D.C. government — closed Monday

Alexandria government offices — closed Monday.

Maryland state offices — closed Monday.

Early voting in Maryland and the District — canceled Monday.

Montgomery County administrative offices — closed Monday.

D.C. Superior Court — Closed Monday.



D.C. Public schools — closed Monday.

D.C. charter schools — several closed Monday. Here’s the full list.

Fairfax County public schools — closed Monday and Tuesday. School offices closed Monday.

Arlington County public schools and offices — closed Monday.

Alexandria City public schools — closed Monday.

Loudoun County public schools — closed Monday.

Montgomery County public schools — closed Monday and Tuesday.

Calvert County and Howard County schools — closed Monday.

Baltimore City public schools — closed Monday.

Montgomery College — closed Monday.

Prince George’s County public schools — Code Yellow; schools and offices closed Monday.

Prince William County — closed Monday.


Colleges and universities

University of the District of Columbia — closed Monday. Essential personnel report for their normally scheduled hours.

University of Maryland — closed Monday.

University of Mary Washington — closed Monday.

Montgomery College — closed Monday.

American University — closed Monday.

Gallaudet University — closed Monday.

George Washington University — closed Monday; facilities services staff should report to work.

Catholic University – closed Monday.



Metro rail, buses and MetroAccess — closed Monday.

All MARC train service — canceled Monday.

Parking enforcement in D.C. — suspended Monday.

Amtrak — Northeast Regional, Acela, Keystone and Shuttle service canceled Monday; service north of New York City suspended at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Montgomery County Ride On service — closed Monday.

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration offices and emission inspection stations — closed Monday.

Greyhound — All service in and out of the District and Baltimore, Norfolk, Silver Spring and Ocean City canceled.

VRE train service — canceled Monday.

Capital Bikeshare closed at 1 a.m. Monday.