GLASTONBURY 1997, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2008: what do they have in common? All three were the backdrop to outbreaks of communicable disease, and so of interest to doctors working in mass gathering medicine. The goal of this relatively young field is to address the specific health problems associated with mass events, but two British psychologists now claim that this can only be done effectively by understanding the psychological transformation that people undergo when they join a crowd…
This article first appeared in the BPS Research Digest on 4 January 2017. To continue reading, click here:
IMAGINE a murder case in which the investigators decide to discount all scientific evidence. Fingerprints, palm prints, hair – all are packed away in crates and consigned to the basement while the detectives get on interrogating suspects and witnesses….
This article first appeared in New Scientist on 17 December 2016. To continue reading, click here.
WHEN it comes to infectious diseases, Ebola and Zika have hogged the headlines of late. But the rise of exotic pathogens does not make more familiar ones less dangerous. Epidemiologists are therefore keeping a close eye on two versions of influenza, known as H5N1 and H7N9 (the “H” and the “N” refer to proteins in the viral coat, and the numbers to particular versions of those proteins). Either of these, they fear, might become pandemic…
This article first appeared in The Economist on 15 November 2016. To continue reading, click here.
ON THE face of it, The Polar Express was a sure-fire winner: starring Tom Hanks, it told the charming story of a boy’s magical train journey to the North Pole. But when the movie came out in 2004, there was a problem: the ultra-realistic animation gave some viewers the creeps. Five years later, when James Cameron chose the same technology for Avatar, his graphics people reportedly thought the decision might bankrupt the production company. But Cameron’s blue humanoids went down a storm. For a while, Avatar was the highest-grossing film of all time…
This article first appeared in New Scientist on 29 October 2016. To continue reading, click here.
“MY NAME is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” So run the famous lines of Percy Shelley’s poem about Ramses the Great, a pharaoh who ruled Egypt’s New Kingdom in the 13th century BC, when it was the world’s most sophisticated society. But the poem’s theme is the transience of glory. It describes the ruins of a giant statue to Ramses that lie scattered in the desert: “Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away…”
This article first appeared in New Scientist on 15 October 2016. To continue reading, click here.