The Owl of Minerva Flies at Dusk

Posted on by Tom Fleming

I sometimes wonder what publishers do. They certainly seem to have abandoned the editing function. This is a fine case in point – a thoughtful and important book, which, with judicious editing, could have been less than half as long and more than twice as good. It could also have been at least twice as […]

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The G Word

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

For some time, Anglo-American historians have been obsessed with the G word. The word is not ‘God’ but ‘global’. Using it, we have learned to tell a self-comforting story. Until recently, we begin, we were all narrow-minded Eurocentricists who thought that the history of the ‘West’ (best left undefined) was the only history there was […]

A Soldier & a Scientist

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

If you were looking for a model protagonist for a ripping yarn, you could do a lot worse than John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, known to his colleagues as JBS, his intimates as Jack and his father as Boy. He was born in 1892, when the British Empire was in its pomp. The Haldanes could trace […]

Smelling a Lab Rat

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Science is in deep trouble. It is riddled with statistical subterfuge, data manipulation, bias, cock-ups, hype and good old-fashioned fraud. We are not talking about a few slipshod experiments but an epidemic of wrongdoing that has rendered the system of science ‘badly broken’, according to Science Fictions, Stuart Ritchie’s engaging tour of the dark side […]

Muddy Waters

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It is a typically French idea that the relation between society and one element of its evolution – in this case water – provides the clue to understanding the whole of social progress. This is the ideal time for the British to read a book which places water at the centre of things and Gaubert’s […]

Romantic on the Loose

Posted on by David Gelber

There is no one at the present time who writes like Oliver Sacks. Living proof that there need be no impenetrable divide between the arts and the sciences, this Clinical Professor of Neurology at one of New York’s finest medical schools writes of disease and disability with profound empathy and impressive erudition. He is a […]

Crossing the Wires

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A popular riposte to the idea of evolution is the so-called ‘argument from design’. The discovery of a pocket watch on a hillside leads naturally to the inference of the existence of a watchmaker. The intricacy of its many elegantly machined parts, all working together so harmoniously to tell you the time, speaks of organisation and […]

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They Come Over Here…

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It so happened that, the morning before I began reading this timely and enlightening book about the impact of invasive species, there was an item on Radio 4’s Today programme about the discovery in a reservoir in Berkshire of a colony of quagga mussels, a small, resourceful and fecund bivalve originating in Ukraine. There was […]

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The Indefinite Particle

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Max Planck did not mean to overthrow all human notions of order in the universe; he simply wanted to understand how light bulbs work. At the dawn of the 20th century, there was no formula that fully explained how the colour of the light emitted by an object changes as its temperature rises. Planck found […]

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