Category Archives: Journalism

Culture clash

I’M BRITISH. Soon after moving to Switzerland, where I lived for six years, I threw a house-warming party and was taken aback when all 30 guests arrived exactly on time. Years later, having moved to France, I turned up at the appointed hour for a dinner, only to find that no other guest had arrived and my hostess was still in her bathrobe…

 

Police, Singapore

 

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 10 April 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Spanish lessons please

WITH hopes high that the northern hemisphere flu season is about to recede, it seems a good time to point out that, unlike annual outbreaks that fade as spring arrives, flu pandemics don’t respect seasons. A hundred years ago, the worst such pandemic on record was just starting – the first case was recorded on 4 March 1918 – and north of the equator it wouldn’t peak until the autumn…

Credit: Andrzej Krause/New Scientist

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 3 March 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Did human sacrifice help people form complex societies?

IN 1598, a European miner working in the Bolivian highlands stumbled across a 10-year-old Andean girl who was still alive, despite having been walled up inside a funerary tower three days earlier. Several decades had passed since the Inca Empire—the most sophisticated in the world at that time—had fallen, but its practices lived on among the Incas’ descendants in the region, including human sacrifice. The practice held on a little longer after this incident. Around 20 years later, a boy, who had escaped from local chiefs attempting to bury him alive, took refuge in a Spanish community in the Peruvian Sierra. But the tradition was incompatible with the moral outlook of the new Catholic regime, and die it did, eventually…

Ritual human sacrifice portrayed in Codex Magliabechiano

This article first appeared in The Atlantic on 27 February 2018. To continue reading, click here.

New evidence in the search for Amelia Earhart

JULY 2nd of last year marked the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, a pioneering aviatrix, and her navigator Fred Noonan over the Pacific Ocean, as they attempted a circumnavigation of the globe in a twin-engined Lockheed Electra monoplane. The many theories about the pair’s demise, aired once more on that occasion, fall into two broad groups: they crashed into the sea and drowned, or they crashed onto Nikumaroro, a remote island, where they perished from hunger. An American forensic anthropologist has new evidence that greatly increases the likelihood of their having suffered the second fate…

This article appeared in The Economist print edition of 10 February 2018. To continue reading, click here.

Naming diseases

TUNE into a discussion of how diseases get their names on BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth, hosted by Michael Rosen with linguist Laura Wright, and guests me and Prof Peter Piot, who co-discovered Ebola, was a pioneer in the science of AIDS, and now heads up the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine…

This programme first aired on 6 February 2018. To listen, click here.