5 Intriguing Things: Thursday, 1/16

Prescription-drug data bonanza, drum pants, out-of-work typists, cryonics and crowdfunding, and the greatest husband-and-wife photo.

1. The company that hoovers up all the prescription-drug data, then sells it to pharma companies

"IMS Health Holdings Inc. says it pulled in nearly $2 billion in the first nine months of 2013, much of it from sweeping up data from pharmacies and selling it to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The firm’s revenues in 2012 reached $2.4 billion, about 60 percent of it from selling such information...

The data maintained by the industry is huge. IMS, based in Danbury, Conn., says its collection includes 'over 85 percent of the world’s prescriptions by sales revenue,' as well as comprehensive, anonymous medical records for 400 million patients.

All of this adds up to 10 petabytes worth of material — or about 10 million gigabytes, a figure roughly equal to all of the websites and online books, movies, music and TV shows that have been stored by the nonprofit Internet Archive."


2. Drum Pants. They're pants you can drum. Finally, a wearable that is ridiculous in a good way. ($139.99 — and it's not a Kickstarter.)

"The world's 1st wearable and fully customizable on-the-go musical instrument. Take it out of the box, put it on, and play."


3. Apparently, typists were once in high demand in India. Not so much anymore

"Every morning, as he has for the past 34 years, Ajay Kumar Nayak walks to a busy footpath outside Calcutta's high court.

He sets up a rickety wooden table, places a battered plastic chair behind it and then carefully places his 15-year-old typewriter on the table.

After covering his desk with a piece of tarpaulin to protect his prized possession from the sun, he is ready for business as one of Calcutta's few remaining street typists.

'A decade ago I would have had no time to sit and chat. My fingers would have been tapping away all day,' he says.

'All you would have heard was the sound of the typewriter. Now there is only silence.'

He pauses for a minute and points to the few other typists who remain on the street - one is sitting sipping a cup of tea; another is reading a newspaper.

'Look at us. We have nothing to do,' says Ajay. 'If you come back in a few years' time there will be nobody left here. The computer has killed our profession.'"


4. Dying, the young neuroscientist turned to Reddit, crowdfunding, and cryonics. (I can't stop thinking about this story.)

"Suozzi's effort to get cryonically preserved began when she asked the Reddit community for help. At the time, she was only expected to live for another three to six months, making her request for financial assistance all the more urgent.

'I want to be cryogenically preserved when I die from brain cancer but can't afford it,' she wrote, 'I am literally begging for financial help.'

Needless to say, preservation and storage at a cryonics facility like Alcor Life Extension Foundation or Cryonics Institute is not cheap. A standard Alcor suspension costs$70,000.00, which includes high quality stand-by, neuropreservation, and storage — but only if the terminal member relocates to the Phoenix area (otherwise the additional stand-by and transport costs bring the total to $80,000.00)."


Irving Penn

5. This is Arctic explorer Peter Freuchen and his third wife, fashion illustrator, Dagmar Cohn (later Dagmar Freuchen-Gale). Every day he was away on polar expeditions, he sent Dagmar a letter and copied the Danish Royal Library

"This 'didn't cramp his style at all' his wife had said. She added, 'All famous Danes do it, you know. And it's quite all right because the letters are never opened until 50 years after the death of the writer."

+ BTW, he died in 1957, SO THE LETTER ARCHIVE SHOULD NOW BE OPEN. A cursory search didn't turn up the letters, but I also don't speak Danish. 

+ The archives of Irving Penn, the photographer.

+ Freuchen really is that tall. The Royal Library has more photos and he's always a foot taller than everyone.


Your 1957 English Usage Tip:

allow ofThis is undergoing the same limitation as ADMIT OF, but the process has not gone so far; Jortin is willing to allow of other miracles, A girl who allows of no impertinent flattery, are hardly felt to be archaic, though of would now usually be omitted. The normal use & sense, however, are the same as those of admit of.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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