WHEN Ashley Shew turned up for an appointment at a medical centre in spring 2020, a member of staff told her she could remove her mask because only people with pre-existing conditions were vulnerable to COVID-19. Shew was surprised. “A hard-of-hearing amputee battered by chemotherapy and more”, as she describes herself, she is a regular at the centre — the appointment that day concerned her prosthetic leg. Who, she wondered, did the staff member think counted as a person with pre-existing conditions…?
This article first appeared in Nature on 16 February 2022. To continue reading, click here.
ISAAC Newton apocryphally discovered his second law – the one about gravity – after an apple fell on his head. Much experimentation and data analysis later, he realised there was a fundamental relationship between force, mass and acceleration. He formulated a theory to describe that relationship – one that could be expressed as an equation, F=ma – and used it to predict the behaviour of objects other than apples. His predictions turned out to be right (if not always precise enough for those who came later)…
This article first appeared in The Observer on 9 January 2022. To continue reading, click here.
IN 1945, while in a state of exhaustion, the mathematician John von Neumann had a kind of stammering premonition. He was in Los Alamos, working on the atom bomb, and he told his wife Klari that the “energy source” he was helping to develop would make scientists “the most hated and also the most wanted citizens of any country”. Then he informed her that his other ongoing project, the computer, would one day be even more important—and potentially even more dangerous…
This article first appeared in The Economist on 6 October 2021. To continue reading, click here (paywall).
IS there one pandemic, or two? That was a question being asked a year ago, when wealthy countries accounting for only 15% of the global population had 80% of the Covid deaths. Could it be that the rich world was more vulnerable, somehow, because its populations were older, or more individualistic, or had forgotten to be scared of infectious disease…?
This article first appeared in The Guardian on 27 April 2021. To continue reading, click here.
LAST week, 15 volunteers descended into a cave in south west France, where they will remain for 40 days and 40 nights, without sunlight or watches, in an experiment designed to probe the dislocation in time that has characterised life with Covid…
This article first appeared in The Telegraph on 23 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.