This post is an ode to the health care workers — doctors, nurses, lab researchers and scientists.

I salute you.

Because biology has got to be the most infuriating of the basic sciences. And I don’t know how you work each day with the maddening messiness of organisms. It has got to be like dealing with derivative instruments each and every day, only with blood and needles involved.

After spending some time with a friend on chemotherapy, and reading “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” I’ve been thinking a lot about matters of the body.

My adult world has been one of computer code, words, numbers, math, physics, money, finance, accounting, business, technology, satellites. It’s all about efficiency and accuracy.

And biology is all so . . . nebulous. Organic. Messy.

As a reporter, I remember once touring a bio-tech lab in Bothell, Wa., where a company was working on a new treatment for a particular blood-circulation malady. The chief executive of the company told me that the treatment may work on more than half of patients — and that would represent fantastic odds.

What? Why wouldn’t it work with everyone? There were math and chemistry formulas all over the place, on every available surface. How come sometimes A = B and other times, A = C, but B does not always equal C, but sometimes it does. How does that make logical sense?

And scientists in this world just accept this without going mad. Amazing.

Even the stock market, with all of its dizzying weariness, opens every day at 9:30 a.m. ET and closes at 4 p.m. Chaos with time parameters!

Try telling the human body that you have a deadline. That you have someplace to be. That your Outlook Calendar has sent a 15-minute reminder and you’ve got to get going.

I studied computers and physics in college and the practical application of those disciplines is normally always a predictable outcome. (Physics does become a discourse on probabilities at the quantum level, but for the sake of argument, when applied practically, Earthbound Newtonian physics adheres to unbreakable laws.)

A basic element of computer coding is the If / Then statement.

It looks like this:



DO this;


DO that;


It’s so simple. It’s boolean. It’s either-or. True or false. One or zero. On or off.

Biology? What a mess. Is it any wonder that health care is difficult to figure out on a societal level? That care standards vary and that a dollar here doesn’t go as far as a dollar there?

Sometimes, I wonder if the desire for government to just take over health care – pay for all of it, handle all of it – has less to do with economics and more to do with people’s frustration and fear over the messiness of the process, the bills, the lab tests, the lack of instant gratification and the unpredictability of it all.

Hat’s off to you, biology workers. You are way more comfortable with random outcomes than I could ever be.

Life is messy and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty.

If you liked this post, you might like:

An illustration: Smart phone goes here
Five ways to lead a more analytic life
Have you thought about death today?
A paradox of modern life: Comfort is a noose
The world economy in 10 seconds
Why the passage of time confounds us
Don’t be paralyzed by imperfection
Applying Wall Street logic to your life
Finding “meaning” in the for-profit realm
Maybe you are good at math and never knew it
Down with gravity; Up with entropy!