In the matter of covers, apparently black is the new black.
That PittMed cover story (Erica Lloyd, editor) is part of a powerful two-story package about traumatic brain injury. The science/medical story, Chuck Staresinic’s “What Hit Her,” is an excellent overview of what TBI is, how it happens, what it does. Some exemplary science writing here.
Your brain does not sit inside your skull—its weight would impede blood flow just as sitting in a chair for too long does to other parts of your anatomy. Neither does the brain float like a duck, which would create the same problem up top as it pressed against the roof of the skull. The brain has neutral buoyancy, like a densely compact jellyfish suspended in the sea. The result of neutral buoyancy is that the human brain, which might weigh 1,400 grams when the coroner set it on the scale, effectively has a weight of 25 grams or so when it is properly suspended in its bath of cerebro-spinal fluid.
That’s about as good as an explanatory paragraph gets, with its clarity, concision, and sprightly language.
The second piece is “None of My Memories Are My Own” by Kristen Cosby, a poignant story about a young husband and father who survived a truck tire flying into his car and smashing his head. His memories did not survive. Cosby does a great job with delicate material.
The couple sits at their kitchen table, Derrick smiles, crooking the right corner of his mouth higher than the left. Anna [his wife] smiles back. “You used to smile that way before the accident, when you were saying something funny.”
“Really? I don’t remember that,” says Derrick. Then he listens as she tells the story of how he proposed to her. If she repeats it often enough, it will become his story, too.
While we’re on the subject of brains, here’s the latest cover from The Pennsylvania Gazette, John Prendergast, editor:
My reaction was about what you’d expect from a nerdboy who regularly feeds his inner 12-year-old: “Oh, cool . . . look at that!” I showed the cover to two of my female colleagues. Their responses were, more or less, “Please. I just had breakfast.”