In death, there is life

the-economist-logoMAX PLANCK, the inventor of quantum theory, once said that science advances one funeral at a time. He meant—or, at least, is presumed to have meant—that the death of a dominant mind in a field liberates others with different points of view to make their cases more freely, without treading on the toes of established authority. It might also rearrange patterns of funding, for they, too, often reflect established hierarchies…

This article first appeared in The Economist on 26 March 2016. To continue reading, click here.

Max Planck, 1933
Max Planck, 1933

China and the Great War

CHINA’S participation in the First World War was a defining moment in modern Chinese and world history and the beginning of China’s journey toward internationalisation. This symposium intends to extend the dimensions of our collective memory of the war along with investigations of the significance of the war to China’s subsequent role in international relations. Held on May Fourth the date of the symposium commemorates the May Fourth Revolution which followed China’s betrayal at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919…

Chinese Labour Corps graves
Chinese Labour Corps graves

I’ll be there talking on the possible Chinese origins of the flu that wasn’t Spanish. Venue: Imperial War Museum, London. 4 May 2016. Registration free but essential.

On shared memories

WHAT were the greatest human catastrophes of the 20th century? When asked this question, most people answer the Second World War, followed by the First World War. The former killed around 50 million people, the latter 17 million. But there was another catastrophe that dwarfed both of these, that is rarely mentioned. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, better known as the Spanish flu, killed at least 50 million people worldwide, and perhaps as many as 100 million…

This guest blog first appeared in the BPS Research Digest on 22 January 2016. To continue reading, click here.

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. Image: Wikipedia
The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. Image: Wikipedia

Roots of brutality

ns_logoWHY would an apparently normal young adult drop out of college and turn up some time later in a video performing a cold-blooded execution in the name of jihad? It’s a conundrum we have been forced to ponder ever since a group calling itself ISIS declared war on infidels. But 70 years ago we were asking something similar of guards in Nazi concentration camps – and, sadly, there have been plenty of opportunities to ponder the matter in between…

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 14 November 2015. To continue reading, click here.

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Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

 

 

 

Sedition in the stores

page11-nature_logoIN 1942, French photographer Robert Doisneau (perhaps best known for his image of a couple kissing outside the Hotel de Ville) was commissioned to record life behind the scenes at the various arms of the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris. Most of the images have never been published. They are a unique document of the work of a research institute in occupied France during the Second World War. Now, a small jewel of an exhibition brings them out of the stores where they were taken, and places them in the limelight where they belong…

This article first appeared in Nature on 29 October 2015. To continue reading, click here.

© Atelier Robert Doisneau
© Atelier Robert Doisneau

 

writer & journalist