Category Archives: Evolution

Going viral

FIRST the pharaoh changed his name, from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten. Then he decreed that a new capital should be built far away from the old one. And in this city, one god should be worshipped, forsaking all others: the sun god Aten…

Pete Reynolds for New Scientist

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 19 July 2022. To continue reading click here (paywall).

Interview: Frans de Waal, primatologist

SEX and gender have come to represent one of the hottest fronts in the modern culture wars. Now, on to this bloody battlefield, calmly dodging banned books, anti-transgender laws and political doublespeak, strolls the distinguished Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal, brandishing nearly half a century’s worth of field notebooks and followed, metaphorically speaking, by an astonishingly diverse collection of primates…

Bonobos

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 17 April 2022. To continue reading, click here.

The global race to contain Omicron

WHAT does Omicron conjure in your mind? I’ve seen the new “scariant” compared to Frankenstein’s monster and a Transformer, but I picture it as an overgrown mafioso named “Tiny”, whose trousers stop short of his feet, who uncomplainingly takes on all the dirty work and whose mother loves him. As well she might. The latest variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has already been reported in 17 countries, and the first sample to have tested positive for it, in South Africa, was only taken on 9 November – though it is possible it was circulating beneath the radar before then. That’s a lot of grandchildren in a short space of time…

This article first appeared in New Statesman on 1 December 2021. To continue reading, follow this link: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/health/2021/12/the-global-race-to-contain-omicron

Can history teach us anything about the future of war – and peace?

TEN years ago, the psychologist Steven Pinker published The Better Angels of Our Nature, in which he argued that violence in almost all its forms – including war – was declining. The book was ecstatically received in many quarters, but then came the backlash, which shows no signs of abating. In September, 17 historians published a riposte to Pinker, suitably entitled The Darker Angels of Our Nature, in which they attacked his “fake history” to “debunk the myth of non-violent modernity”. Some may see this as a storm in an intellectual teacup, but the central question – can we learn anything about the future of warfare from the ancient past? – remains an important one…

This article first appeared in The Observer on 7 November 2021. To continue reading, click here.

Deciphering Dumba

A HERD of around 40 elephants processes across open grassland in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Led by a matriarch named Valente, they are headed towards a newly felled tree, a potential food source. The tree is out of sight: perhaps the elephants detected vibrations from the impact through their feet. That’s cool, and the procession is impressive – but elephant scientist Joyce Poole isn’t sure why this particular video went viral. Since May, she and her husband Petter Granli have been posting clips of elephants daily on social media, and others are far cuter or odder…

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 6 November 2021. To continue reading, click here (paywall).