JUST over two years ago, my friend Janet came over to commiserate with my husband, whose leg was in plaster after a road accident. We immediately noticed a change in her. This sharp, funny woman in her mid-60s, who had nothing good to say about men (with the exception of her three beloved sons, whom she had raised almost single-handedly) had softened…
This article first appeared in The Guardian on 18 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.
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…
This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.
BY the end of March, one week into the UK’s first lockdown, recorded crime in Lancashire had dropped by a startling 40% compared with the four-year average. “At first there was some mild panic,” says DCI Eric Halford, of Lancashire Constabulary. “Most senior officers expected a surge in demand…”
This article first appeared in The Guardian on 27 December 2020. To continue reading, click here.
TOWARDS the end of his life, J.B.S. Haldane was inseparable from a pebble that had been found in the Valley of Elah in Israel, where David felled Goliath with a similar projectile. A king-size man who towered over British biology for several decades in the middle of the 20th century, Jack Haldane—the “half-Dane”—was a more obvious Goliath, but he always took the side of the underdog…
This story first appeared in The Economist on 18 July 2020. To continue reading, click here.
WHEN the Oxford team working on a Covid-19 vaccine first started holding weekly catchups in early February, Christina Dold, a 35-year-old senior postdoctoral researcher, jokingly referred to them as “Cobra” meetings. But it was in one of these early sessions that she found out how many volunteers they would be immunising daily, once the vaccine was ready to be tested. “I remember looking at a colleague. We were either going to cry or laugh, because the huge number of samples we’d have to process – potentially more than 100 a day – scared the living daylights out of us…”
This article first appeared in The Guardian on 4 July 2020. To continue reading, click here.