UnComfort Zone

Burning Question: Do Curiosity, Technology and Menopause Have Anything in Common?

It’s official: I’m a nerd. 

Hours of available free time on gorgeous sunny days, and how do I spend them? Reading pretty much anything Nate Silver  puts his mind to and admiring the work of Emma Pierson  (a recent Rhodes Scholar on whom I’m putting money to find a cure for cancer). All of it in an effort to exercise my statistical chops, thanks to my Coursera Model Thinking course.  Let’s just say I’m following more of the math, tho’ perhaps not all of it.

All of which has got me thinking about Big Data and how it is collected and the potential of personal technology like smart phones and when someone will figure out hot flashes.

Hah! Didn’t see that coming, did you? No, me neither.lightning-clip-art-Anonymous_Lightning_Icon

And so it goes: there I sit, diligently working my problem sets when –zzzapp!– I’m all ablaze, arms and legs tingling, brain cells cooking like so much porridge, and not a thing to be done about it.

Way to take a girl off her math game.

And that has me thinking: who’s working on hot flashes? Where’s the research? Who’s got Big Data? Is there an app for that?  With the advent of Fit Bit and Jawbone’s Up, surely the technology exists to monitor, and thus to mediate? Why not an app with which any (peri)menopausal woman on the planet with access to a smart phone could document her hot flashes and send that data to some scientist in the sky who would go crunch, crunch and figure something out?

I confess, I’ve got research on the brain. I’m reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks*,  feeling mindful that the medical establishment hasn’t always been good about informed consent (or, for that matter, any consent at all) but grateful for the advances of science. I have a deepened appreciation for the complicated questions of personal versus intellectual property, commercialization, and the common good. I’m not sure where I stand on much of that debate and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like a good portion of what transpires among those intent on promoting themselves over the rest of us, but I do think intentional participation is important. I like knowing that my happily-former, fibroid-ridden, cancerous old body parts now sit in some high-tech cooler and might someday contribute to the greater good. Imagine what might be possible if we were all actively involved in knowledge gathering on a regular basis.

So I’m coming full circle: scanning ClinicalTrials.gov to see where I can contribute anew, where my curiosity and technology and those damn hot flashes can actually, finally, have something in common.


*I know, I’m way behind the times. If, like me, you have been under a rock for five years and not yet read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, do so. It is a remarkable, wonderful, infuriating and poignant story. Timely, too, given recent events in Baltimore and Charleston. We all owe thanks to Henrietta and her family.


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