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Emperor of All Maladies

This post reflects on two amazing sets of accomplishments. First is about a Medscape One-on-One, in which Eric J. Topol, MD, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD. Dr. Mukherjee is the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Topol’s book is great, and Mukherjee’s is another one of my favorites. The title sounds boring, but the book reads like a novel. It reveals the history of cancer going back 5,000 years all the way to the present. Mukherjee is not only a writer and cancer researcher, but also a practicing oncologist and assistant professor of Medicine in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University in New York. His book has had a positive impact on the wider understanding of cancer for non-medical lay-people. Another book and a movie are expected from Dr. Mukherjee next year, and he will continue to have a significant positive impact on greater understanding of complex topics.

Another amazing set of accomplishments is reflected in Apple’s quarterly earnings report released yesterday. The financial performance was better than anyone had expected, and Apple’s cash on hand now exceeds $150 billion. That’s billion, not million. What I find even more amazing is the production of iPhones — sales for the quarter were 43.7 million. If you assume the beginning and ending inventory of iPhones on hand for the quarter were equal, that would mean that Apple produced 43.7 million iPhones in 90 days. Each day yielded 485,556. That translates to 20,231 each hour, 337 every minute, and 5.6 every second. I am not sure a popcorn maker can equal that level of output. Think about it. Every second of every day for 90 days, Apple produced 5.6 supercomputers loaded with a sophisticated operating system that can understand your voice and your fingerprints, connect to iCloud or iTunes, and replicate your songs, pictures, movies, settings, emails, contacts, calendar, reminders, and apps.

I remain in awe of Mukherjee and Apple. They both contribute to global communications and understanding. We are very fortunate to be living in these times.