[Ed. Note: Dr. KSS writes about medicine and biotech stocks for the Irregulars. He has agreed to our trading restrictions, and his words and opinions are his own. You can find his bio and his past articles on his Stock Gumshoe page.]
“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase. One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets. In the first, one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one’s fecal necessities. Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances. In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances. Men usually infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite (if it were, why this illusory duplication?); I prefer to dream that its polished surfaces represent and promise the infinite … Light is provided by some spherical fruit which bear the name of lamps. There are two, transversally placed, in each hexagon. The light they emit is insufficient, incessant.”
—Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel
In my first semester of medical school, I shared a house with a Jewish mathematician. His intelligence was formidable, and I was always happy to look up from the tomes, from the reams of taken notes, and digress into gab with him.
On this evening he was peremptory: “I don’t think we’ll ever have a cure for cancer.”
“So cynical a formulation, Robbie,” I said. “What makes you say so?”
“It’s the one area of medical research where progress really never happens.”
“But most things we don’t cure,” I said. “Most problems are chronic….if nature intercedes in a good way, doctors stand ready to take credit. Or else blame the inexorable nature of the disease when we can do nothing but placate suffering. I admit that ...