Category Archives: Psychology

Disaster memories fade fast

AFTER Hurricane Betsy pummelled New Orleans in 1965, causing damage so severe that “Betsy” was retired from the rotating list of names given to Atlantic hurricanes, the Governor of Louisiana, John McKeithen, pledged that nothing like it would happen in his state again. Exactly 40 years later Hurricane Katrina brought even greater destruction to the city, and hazard planners were deemed to have ignored the lessons of the past. New research suggests that far from being an exception, Louisiana’s forgetfulness is the rule…

Hurricane Katrina

This article first appeared in The Economist on 19 April 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall). It was also featured in the Babbage podcast.

 

Ebola psy-ops

THE Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is providing a natural experiment in fighting fake news. Occurring in a conflict zone, amid a controversial presidential election, the epidemic has proved to be fertile ground for conspiracy theories and political manipulation, which can hamper efforts to treat patients and fight the virus’s spread. Public health workers have mounted an unprecedented effort to counter misinformation, saying the success or failure of the Ebola response may pivot on who controls the narrative…

A member of UNICEF’s Ebola outreach team addresses the public in Beni, a city in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. © UNICEF/UN0228985/NAFTALIN

This story first appeared in Science on 15 January 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

Adventurer in time

IN JULY 1962, Michel Siffre took off his watch and descended into the abyss of Scarasson in the French Alps. There, in a cave 130 metres below the surface, he set up camp next to a glacier. With a torch as his only light source, and deprived of all reminders of the passage of time, he lived underground, alone, for 63 days…

Michel Siffre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 8 August 2018. To continue reading, click here.

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.

Did human sacrifice drive 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.