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October 20, 2009

In this issue’s photo essay, science writer Moheb Costandi looks at how the methods for examining the brain have evolved over the history of modern neuroscience (“Time Travel Through the Brain”). “Essentially, it is a pictorial history of neuroscience techniques,” he says. “Early methods, such as the staining techniques developed by 19th-century histologists, are compared with their modern counterparts. Many of the images illustrate the rapid advances in microscopy that have occurred since the 1950s.” Costandi writes a blog called Neurophilosophy, and his work has appeared in Seed, Scientific American, and The Scientist. He is writing his first book, on the brain and the self.

David Talbot, Technology Review’s chief correspondent, reports on the beginnings of data sharing among hospitals, a development spurred by the more than $21 billion that the federal government is projected to spend to support the widespread implementation of electronic medical records (“Prescription: Networking”). In the hours Talbot spent in the emergency department of Boston Medical Center, he was surprised by how much time the doctors and nurses spent hunched over computers. “It’s not what you see on Grey’s Anatomy; there is a good deal of tedium as they enter notes and pore over patient data, trying to learn what they can,” Talbot says. “Patients are surprisingly uncommunicative about what’s wrong with them, treatments they’ve had, or medication they’re taking. Electronic records can make sense of it all, especially when medical centers start sharing that information with each other.” Talbot’s 2008 feature on the Obama campaign’s social-networking operation (“How Obama Really Did It,” September/October 2008) was selected for The Best Technology Writing 2009 from Yale University Press.

Joshua J. Friedman discusses the efforts of graphic and type designers to transform the Web from a “font wasteland” into something far richer (“A Note on the Type”). “When I first attended TypeCon, an annual conference of type designers, in 2006, people debated how to get more fonts onto the Web,” he says. “This year, there was a sense that we’re on the brink of that change. I think a great typeface is like a well-crafted chair. It can be a work of art, but it fails if it can’t do its job.” ­Friedman, a former editor at the Atlantic and Boston Review, lives in New York City.

Roy Ritchie took the photographs that accompany David Rotman’s feature on how recently discovered sources of natural gas will affect our energy use (“Natural Gas Changes the Energy Map”). “The farmland outside of Pittsburgh was absolutely beautiful,” he says. “I was fascinated by how, amidst the scenery, the gas wells were almost inconspicuous.” Ritchie recently traveled the world for the 2010 Ford Mustang ad campaign, and his work has appeared in Time, BusinessWeek, Inc., and Forbes.

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