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A Doctor’s Quest to Save People by Injecting Them With Scorpion Venom

A profile of Jim Olson, a pediatric oncologist and cancer researcher whose lab is looking into whether a scorpion-venom concoction can make cancer cells glow for easy removal:

A scorpion-venom concoction that makes tumors glow sounds almost too outlandish to be true. In fact, Olson explains, that’s what troubled the big grant-­making organizations when he came to them for funding. But when those organizations dismissed his ideas as too bizarre, Olson started accepting donations from individuals—particularly the families of current and former patients—quickly raising $5 million for his research. It was a bold and unprecedented tactic: Though patients and their families are often asked to donate to foundations with broad goals, Olson raised money for one specific, untested technology—a much riskier gamble. But thanks to his efforts, Olson’s fluorescent scorpion toxin is now in Phase I clinical trials, an impressive accomplishment for a compound with such a peculiar lineage. The University of Washington students are clearly awed by the work.

PUBLISHED: June 24, 2014
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4466 words)

How America’s Soldiers Fight for the Spectrum on the Battlefield

The U.S. armed forces dominates the land, air, and sea. But it also must dominate the electromagnetic spectrum by jamming and counterjamming communications to remain effective on the battlefield:

It is well known that America’s military dominates both the air and the sea. What’s less celebrated is that the US has also dominated the spectrum, a feat that is just as critical to the success of operations. Communications, navigation, battlefield logistics, precision munitions—all of these depend on complete and unfettered access to the spectrum, territory that must be vigilantly defended from enemy combatants. Having command of electromagnetic waves allows US forces to operate drones from a hemisphere away, guide cruise missiles inland from the sea, and alert patrols to danger on the road ahead. Just as important, blocking enemies from using the spectrum is critical to hindering their ability to cause mayhem, from detonating roadside bombs to organizing ambushes. As tablet computers and semiautonomous robots proliferate on battlefields in the years to come, spectrum dominance will only become more critical. Without clear and reliable access to the electromagnetic realm, many of America’s most effective weapons simply won’t work.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 18, 2014
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4955 words)

Longreads Member Exclusive: The Skies Belong to Us (Chapter 5), by Brendan I. Koerner

This week's Member Pick is a chapter from Brendan I. Koerner's new book The Skies Belong to Us, the story of Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow, who in 1972 hijacked Western Airlines Flight 701 headed from Los Angeles to Seattle. Koerner, a contributing editor for Wired who's been featured on Longreads in the past, explains:
PUBLISHED: June 13, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6231 words)

See No Evil: The Case of Alfred Anaya

A man who installs secret compartments in cars—which are used to conceal things like jewelry, handguns, and drugs—finds himself in legal trouble:

"On November 18, as Anaya drove his Ford F-350 through a Home Depot parking lot, he noticed a dark sedan that seemed to be shadowing him in an adjacent aisle. He thought the car might belong to friends. But when the sedan stopped in front of him, the men who got out were strangers to Anaya. They identified themselves as DEA agents and ordered him out of his truck. 'You know why we're here,' one agent said to Anaya, who was bewildered to be in handcuffs for the first time in his life. 'Your compartments.'"
PUBLISHED: March 19, 2013
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6264 words)

'86.74 Is Going to Stand for a Long Time'

No athlete has ever mastered that equation better than Yuriy Sedykh, who refers to his elegant throwing motion simply as "the dance." But his physical gifts are far from the only reason his record is so untouchable. Sedykh entered his prime just as the Soviet sports machine was at its peak, creating an environment in which even hammer-throw success was considered essential to national pride. The machine provided him with advantages that today's hammer throwers can only dream of: generous financial support and state-of-the-art coaching. It also blessed him with that one key factor that few aspiring record-breakers can live without. A nemesis.
PUBLISHED: June 21, 2011
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3074 words)

Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works

PUBLISHED: June 23, 2010
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5360 words)