Biodiversity, Embodiment, Loch Ness, Hippocrates, Communication

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked


How Neutral Theory Altered Ideas About Biodiversity

Christie Wilcox | Quanta Magazine | 8 DEC 2020

While blue tigers sound like a fantasy, they were actually last sighted in 1953 in Southern China. Their demise was likely not due to their colour, but a genetic drift, accepted these days as “a key driver of evolution and diversity.” Where once it was believed that the fittest survived, it is now accepted that neural theory – a random event causing a shift in species diversity - was the explanation. “All you need is some input of variation, and random forces will do the rest,” especially when population size initially is small. (1,418 words)

My Spirit Burns Through This Body

Akwaeke Emezi | The Paris Review | 10 DEC 2020

This beautiful essay by Akwaeke Emezi, explains to us disability and embodiment. “I know that my spirit burns through this body with no regard, no respect, no care.” There is a realisation that what is done to the body will have impacts, even when a disability is invisible. The author talks of learning the signs that precede a convulsion, rather than ignoring then until her body breaks down. A good lesson for us all is that slowing down and listening to the signs her body is giving, to stop fighting against these, but instead allow them to flow, are a way of being furiously alive. (1,491 words)

The Obsessive Life and Mysterious Death of the Fisherman Who Discovered the Loch Ness Monster

Paul Brown | Narratively | 10 DEC 2020

The story of the Loch Ness Monster has captured the imagination of people for generations. This article tells the true story of bus driver Sandy Gray who grew up close to the loch, and like many children in the area, believed there was something unexplained in the murky waters. He saw a huge bulky object in the loch as a teenager in 1914, with four subsequent sightings. It was his 1933 sighting that resulted in the first newspaper report of the “Loch Ness Monster” and noted Sandy was determined to catch it. Eventually, it was on the Loch that Sandy died, and his part in the legend has all but been forgotten. (5,484 words)

What the World’s First Medical Records Tell Us About Ancient Life

Robin Lane Fox | Literary Hub | 11 DEC 2020

This article is an extract from The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates by Robin Lane Fox. The Hippocratic books somewhat optimistically believed to be by Hippocrates himself are known as the “seven books of Epidemics”. While these days we sadly know what epidemics are, they used to refer to the fact that disease of any kind was present in a community. Unlike other books, these seven are very specific case histories, name the patient and even their address. While there are other early medical texts, The Epidemic case histories “draw on implicit medical thinking” and make for fascinating reading by current medical scholars. (1,963 words)


Mark B. Leick, M.D. | The New England Journal of Medicine | 10 DEC 2020

The Telephone game involves whispering a message into the ear of a person next to you, who then needs to pass it on and by the end of the line the message would, inevitably, be garbled. While this is a fun childhood game, for doctors this break in communications can be heartbreaking and dangerous. In the Covid era, family are often not allowed into hospitals for end-of-life farewells and video calls delivered via medical staff, become the vital form of communication. In order to provide compassionate support to patients, plans need to be made to avoid breakdowns and allow essential communications. (1,257 words)


“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold or silver”. 

― Mahatma Gandhi

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Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

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