Category Archives: Genetics

The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson – review

ONE of the most striking passages in Walter Isaacson’s new book comes towards the end. It is 2019 and a scientific meeting is under way at the famous Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York State, but James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, is banned from it because of the racist and scientifically unfounded views he has expressed on intelligence. Isaacson, who is to interview Watson, therefore has to make his way to the house on the nearby campus that the scientist has been allowed to keep. When the conversation sails dangerously close to the race issue, someone shouts from the kitchen: “If you are going to let him say these things, then I am going to have to ask you to leave.” The 91-year-old Watson shrugs and changes tack…

Walter Isaacson

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.

What can we learn from Africa’s experience of Covid?

AS Africa emerges from its second wave of Covid-19, one thing is clear: having officially clocked up more than 3.8m cases and more than 100,000 deaths, it hasn’t been spared. But the death toll is still lower than experts predicted when the first cases were reported in Egypt just over a year ago. The relative youth of African populations compared with those in the global north – while a major contributing factor – may not entirely explain the discrepancy. So what is really going on in Africa, and what does that continent’s experience of Covid-19 teach us about the disease and ourselves…?

A family prepares a gravestone during the pandemic, South Africa

This article first appeared in The Observer on 28 February 2021. To continue reading, click here.

 

The first urbanites

AROUND 6200 years ago, farmers living on the eastern fringes of Europe, in what is now Ukraine, did something inexplicable. They left their neolithic villages and moved into a sparsely inhabited area of forest and steppe. There, in an area roughly the size of Belgium between the modern cities of Kiev and Odessa, they congregated at new settlements up to 20 times the size of their old ones…

Reconstruction of a Trypillian megasite

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 27 February 2021. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

Arms and the virus

LETTING the virus that causes Covid-19 circulate more-or-less freely is dangerous not only because it risks overwhelming hospitals and so endangering lives unnecessarily, but also because it could delay the evolution of the virus to a more benign form and potentially even make it more lethal…

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 19 November 2020. To continue reading, click here.