Category Archives: Journalism

Searching for Doggerland

UnknownWHEN signs of a lost world at the bottom of the North Sea first began to appear, no one wanted to believe them. The evidence started to surface a century and a half ago, when fishermen along the Dutch coast widely adopted a technique called beam trawling. They dragged weighted nets across the seafloor and hoisted them up full of sole, plaice, and other bottom fish. But sometimes an enormous tusk would spill out and clatter onto the deck, or the remains of an aurochs, woolly rhino, or other extinct beast. The fishermen were disturbed by these hints that things were not always as they are. What they could not explain, they threw back into the sea…

This article first appeared in National Geographic in December 2012. To continue reading, click here.

Tsunami in Lake Geneva

 

economist-logoIN 563AD a tsunami devastated Geneva. Two accounts of the disaster, one by Gregory of Tours and the other by Marius of Avenches, have survived. What caused the wave, and the extent of the damage that resulted, have been matters of conjecture for centuries. But over the past decade several groups of scientists have pieced together the sequence of events and one of those groups, led by Katrina Kremer of the University of Geneva, has now created a computer model of what happened. Unfortunately for the 1m people who live around the lake’s shore, the conclusion of this research is that something similar could easily happen again.

This article first appeared in the Economist on 3 November 2012. To continue reading click here.

The following is a simulation of something similar that happened on Lake Tahoe 40,000 years ago.

The progress illusion

ns_logoWHEN Admiral Zheng He led his fleet out of the eastern Chinese port of Suzhou in 1405, it must have been a sight to behold. The largest of the several hundred ships under his command were the size of modern aircraft carriers and housed 500 men apiece. The fleet made seven expeditions in all, to advertise the might of the Ming dynasty around the Indian Ocean, but having returned to port for the last time it was dismantled, vanishing along with the engineering know-how that created it. For the next few centuries China’s seagoing vessel of choice was a much humbler junk…

This article was first published in New Scientist on 4 October 2012. To continue reading, click here.

Human cycles

page11-nature_logoSOMETIMES, history really does seem to repeat itself. After the US Civil War, for example, a wave of urban violence fuelled by ethnic and class resentment swept across the country, peaking in about 1870. Internal strife spiked again in around 1920, when race riots, workers’ strikes and a surge of anti-Communist feeling led many people to think that revolution was imminent. And in around 1970, unrest crested once more, with violent student demonstrations, political assassinations, riots and terrorism…

This article was first published in Nature  on 1 August 2012. To continue reading click here.