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August 2019

"Has this scientist finally found the fountain of youth?"

Hurry up, sir.

The black mouse on the screen sprawls on its belly, back hunched, blinking but otherwise motionless. Its organs are failing. It appears to be days away from death. It has progeria, a disease of accelerated aging, caused by a genetic mutation. It is only three months old.

I am in the laboratory of Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a Spaniard who works at the Gene Expression Laboratory at San Diego’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and who next shows me something hard to believe. It’s the same mouse, lively and active, after being treated with an age-reversal mixture. “It completely rejuvenates,” Izpisúa Belmonte tells me with a mischievous grin. “If you look inside, obviously, all the organs, all the cells are younger.”

"The Rationality of Literal Tide Pod Consumption"

Ryan Murphy, SMU (published in Journal of Bioeconomics, July 2019):

At the conclusion of 2017, to the dismay of journalists, pundits, and academics, large numbers of adolescents began consuming Tide Pods, a form of laundry detergent that is candy-like in appearance. This paper argues that purposeful consumption of laundry detergent may in fact be individually rational for adolescents, although with negative externalities. The consumption of Tide Pods may allow adolescents to successfully signal status in accordance with the Handicap Principle, which explains the beauty of a peacock’s tail and the practice of stotting by gazelles in the wild. The Handicap Principle is also a common explanation of adolescents’ willingness to engage in dangerous activities such as drug use. Public policy implications of this theoretic argument would include discouraging Tide Pod consumption, although this would follow from the negative externalities associated with positional goods, as opposed to paternalistic concern for the health of adolescents.

A good use of this paper would be to counterexample all the crabbed strawmen of economists' assumption of the rational man.