Category Archives: Journalism

Frans de Waal obituary

A male chimpanzee with his eye on alpha status will set aside his usual indifference to infants and go around tickling them, the better to curry favour with their mothers. The vote-winning tactic, variations of which will be on display in town halls everywhere in this super-election year, is one of the many examples of social strategy that the Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal documented in his half-century of observing non-human primates…

Frans de Waal, by Catherine Marin

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 25 March 2024. To continue reading, click here.

Journal of an American plague year

MOST of the books written about Covid-19 to date have been journalistic. They did the essential job of capturing the pandemic while we were living through it, but they lacked distance. Now, with the benefit of hindsight and a great deal more data, come the first of the histories. Early out of the starting blocks is Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University who has made a speciality of what he calls the “social autopsy” of disaster…

K. Kendall from Portland, OR, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

This article first appeared in New Statesman online on 26 February 2024, and in the subsequent print edition. To continue reading, click here.

The big idea: what’s the secret of innovation?

THERE’S a scene in The Simpsons in which Homer’s half-brother Herb unveils his new invention – a machine for translating baby talk – and Homer tells him: “People are afraid of new things. You should have taken an existing product and put a clock in it…”

Edison and his early phonograph, circa 1877

This article first appeared in The Guardian magazine on 7 January 2023. To continue reading, click here.

The secret police have a file on you. Do you want to see it?

IN East Germany, during the communist period, people would sometimes join a queue on the basis that if others were waiting, there must be something worth having at the end of it. Siegfried Wittenburg, whose images accompany this article, photographed this waiting-for-I-know-not-what in his home town of Rostock. It was safer to take photos than to criticise the regime in words, but only just…

A sea of mud between apartment blocks whenever it rained. Rostock, East Germany, 1981. Photograph: Siegfried Wittenburg

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 28 November 2022. To continue reading, click here.