Norman Cousins would have got a kick out of this week's issue. He was the former editor of the Saturday Review who, when struck with a debilitating connective-tissue disorder, checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel room, where he medicated himself with megadoses of vitamin C and endless reruns of Marx Brothers movies and old episodes of Candid Camera--anything that would keep him laughing and relieve his pain. It worked, according to the account he wrote up for the New England Journal of Medicine and later published as a book, Anatomy of an Illness. The disease that practically paralyzed him and had not responded to any drugs subsided and eventually disappeared.
The power of the mind to heal the body is the theme of this year's annual double issue on health. We like to think that illuminating the most important advances in science and medicine is one of the things TIME does best, and these annual special issues have become a showcase for our prizewinning science staff. They are also an opportunity to tap the expertise of outside writers we admire. In this issue: Dr. Andrew Weil, writing about alternative treatments for anxiety, depression and other disorders; M.I.T. psychology professor Steven Pinker on the intricate relationship between genes and behavior; Dr. Mehmet Oz on how he uses meditation to speed the recovery of heart-transplant patients at New York City's Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. We also had the pleasure of collaborating on this project with our friends at ABC World News Tonight, who will be airing two segments related to our Mind/Body issue, on Monday, Jan. 13, and Tuesday, Jan. 14.
All this collaboration has served as a warm-up for the big event we have planned for next month. Feb. 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the signal achievements of 20th century science: the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick. We're going to be celebrating that breakthrough both in the magazine and, starting Feb. 19, in Monterey, Calif., where Watson and TIME president Eileen Naughton will be the hosts of a three-day conference called The Future of Life.
Our meeting is shaping up to be an extraordinary event featuring as distinguished a gathering of scientific luminaries as I've ever seen. Among the speakers: Jim Watson and Hamilton Smith, both Nobel prizewinners for their work on DNA; Pulitzer prizewinning entomologist and sociobiologist E.O. Wilson; genome mappers Francis Collins and J. Craig Venter; John Gearhart, who isolated the fetal embryonic stem cell; Dean Hamer, the leading expert on behavior genes; plant geneticist Ingo Potrykus; neuroscientists Dr. Wise Young and Rudolph Tanzi; inventors Jaron Lanier and Raymond Kurzweil; software gurus Bill Joy and John Gage; environmentalists Thomas Lovejoy and Brian Halweil; ethicists Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Institute and Donald Bruce of the Church of Scotland; legal scholar Bartha Knoppers; brain scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield; Lieut. General Paul Van Riper, U.S.M.C. (ret.); futurist Paul Saffo; Whole Earth cataloger Stewart Brand; venture capitalists Christopher Meyer and Steve Jurvetson; and two of my favorite science writers (outside of my own staff, of course), Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) and Matt Ridley (Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters).