Writing

Queens Of The Stone Age

Queens Of The Stone Age

Scientists have determined that the spread of culture, technology, and ideas in Central Europe during the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age was largely down to women. An analysis of ancient skeletons buried in present-day Germany has revealed that almost...

They Think, Therefore They Are…?

They Think, Therefore They Are…?

In 2009, Monica Gagliano had what she now calls a “fish crisis”. After 10 years working as a marine ecologist, focusing on relationships between organisms and their physical and social environments, she came to an uneasy realisation about the inevitable death of it...

Save Our Scents

Save Our Scents

When people are asked about their favourite smells, very often the answer is something associated with their childhood. For Cecilia Bembibre, who grew up in rural Argentina, what immediately comes to her mind is “the smell of the harvester, the smell of the animals”....

Girl Power

Girl Power

Syd Moore has always felt an affinity for witches. As a child, when her Nan told her fairytales, it wasn’t the princesses Moore aspired to be, “I was always more drawn to the witch characters,” she says. “The princesses just seemed to hang around, waiting to get...

Lasting Impressions

Lasting Impressions

​Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor. At the time of his death in 1931, he had more than 1,000 US patents to his name; 2,000+ if you count those he held around the entire world. He was responsible for some of the most ground-breaking and influential developments in...

Reverse Engineered Absinthe

Reverse Engineered Absinthe

The scientist-turned-detective-turned-distiller who made it his mission to restore the reputation of an infamous spirit and reintroduce it to a new generation. Ted Breaux, a research scientist from New Orleans, USA, was well accustomed to analysing samples of water...

The Brains Behind The Band

The Brains Behind The Band

Science and sound come together to create a post-human music machine with real-world implications for brain training and therapy. If the future is now, then Guy Ben-Ary is its musical conductor. The US-born, Australia-based artist and researcher has created the...

When Plants Attack

When Plants Attack

In the north of England, chemical warfare is being gently encouraged – among the shrubbery, at least. “I've been working here for nearly nine years and I'm still alive. Yay.” – That’s Trevor Jones, head horticulturalist at Alnwick Garden, home to the United Kingdom’s...

Alpha, Gamma, Aha!

Alpha, Gamma, Aha!

A flash of insight might feel like a spontaneous, instantaneous revelation, but experts say they can see signs that something is brewing several seconds in advance. Neuroscientists John Kounios and Mark Beeman used electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic...

Kepler’s Cosmic Cup

Kepler’s Cosmic Cup

There was a time when astrology and astronomy were not so scientifically, diametrically opposed. A time when Johannes Kepler wrote horoscopes for the royal court while also writing requests to the Duke for money to build a pioneering new model of the solar system....

How A Taste For Pasta Begat Dudes (≈ Hipsters)

How A Taste For Pasta Begat Dudes (≈ Hipsters)

The mid-18th Century was what you might call 'peak Grand Tour', when the trend for young British men visiting the continent's most cosmopolitan cities and famous sites was at its height. These men returned home affected by the experience. Their style, their dress,...

Bureau Of Memories

Bureau Of Memories

Through the largest of Bethlem Hospital’s remaining apple orchards, over badger sets, and past a light pole on which kestrels are often seen perching, can be found a wood pile. This repository for the gardeners’ waste is what Sue Burbidge, craftswoman and Bethlem...

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Australia has an unpleasant history when it comes to national identity, and trying to impose one. A white one. Like in 1901, when descendants of the ‘founders’ who claimed Australia as their own — despite it already being inhabited by Aboriginal and Torres Strait...

Of Multi-Generational Migration Fame

Of Multi-Generational Migration Fame

“The first time I ever saw them was in February of 1977. We were walking along a road and it was overcast and nothing was moving. Then all of a sudden the colour of the forest changed from green to grey and I realised I was looking at a wall of monarch butterflies. It...

Pyramid Of Death

Pyramid Of Death

In the 1820s, the tallest building in London was St Paul’s Cathedral, at 111 metres high. But architect Thomas Willson had grander plans. In 1829 he proposed to build a massive granite pyramid on Primrose Hill. It would rise 290 metres and cover a site of 18.5 acres....

Petrichor

Petrichor

The natural world is full of gods, goddesses and other mythological creatures, in name, if not spirit. For nomenclature convention draws heavily on the Greek and Roman classics when labelling new species and other scientific phenomena. One particularly pleasing term –...

Hallucinogenic Books

Hallucinogenic Books

Libraries can expand your mind in more ways than one. A leading London mycologist has claimed that old books, particularly those stored in less than perfect conditions, can provide inspiration without the need to read even a single word; just take a deep breath. In...

Witches Brew

Witches Brew

The general knowledge of women’s role in the invention of beer, and the establishment of the industry around it, has largely been lost to the hands of time, and…. witch-hunters? “Some 10 years ago, on a warm autumn afternoon, I saw a witch and had an epiphany – an...

Photographic Revolution

Photographic Revolution

Edwin Herbert Land was a visionary scientist and inventor who 70 years ago changed the picture-taking habits of people around the world, the result of which is still felt today. Land pioneered a technique that produced fully-developed photos at the touch of a button,...

X Marks The Spot

X Marks The Spot

This is a tale of two halves. It begins around the turn of the 20th century, with the establishment of a new private printing press near the banks of the Thames, and comes to a dramatic close in the winter of 1916, under cover of darkness, on Hammersmith Bridge. The...

Decoding A Star

Decoding A Star

"You wouldn't believe how many goths we get posing outside for pictures," says Father Brian Ralph, vicar of the church of St Barnabas at Bethnal Green. At street level on the corner of Roman Road and Grove Road in East London, it's not immediately obvious why. But as...

I Eat Cheese, Therefore I Write

I Eat Cheese, Therefore I Write

Of course it's slightly more complicated than my play on Rene Descartes' famous philosophical proposition. But in simple terms, the discovery of cheese and the evolution of human tolerance to lactose is linked to the development of written language. It all started...

Cousins Across The Centuries

Cousins Across The Centuries

The most famous symbol of human-caused extinction - the dodo - and the ubiquitous pigeon have more in common than you might think. If you had been walking the narrow, cobbled streets of seventeenth-century London, your nose assaulted by the stench of sewage, edging...

I Like Evolution And I Cannot Lie

I Like Evolution And I Cannot Lie

When Sir Mix-a-Lot sang about big butts, there was more to it than just aesthetics. Well, maybe not for him. But, what the more scientifically-minded may already know is that he wouldn't have been able to even physically sing the song if it hadn't been for his own –...

Law And Order

Law And Order

Though it occupies a site which has been a centre of power since at least the Middle Ages, London’s iconic Palace of Westminster - or Houses of Parliament, as it’s more familiarly known - is just 150 years old. But inside its ornate Gothic-revival exterior, past the...

Body Building

Body Building

A company in London does a roaring trade in arms, legs, torsos and various other body parts. Set back from the street in Walthamstow, a newly-hip suburb of London, stands a 4500-square-metre warehouse. The red brick building was constructed in the early 1900s and...

Taxidermy Through The Ages

Taxidermy Through The Ages

Some say it’s macabre, others that it’s a second chance at life. Whatever your views on taxidermy, it is a practice that is inextricably linked with natural history collections and museums. The practice of taxidermy was borne out of a desire to preserve the trophies...

Star Specimen: Eugen Sandow, The ‘Perfect Man’

Star Specimen: Eugen Sandow, The ‘Perfect Man’

Behind the Scenes at the Natural History Museum, London When the naked models for the Musuem's Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition were unveiled earlier this year, there were a few sniggers - from staff and visitors alike - at their state of...

Senses, Drinks and Rock n Roll

Senses, Drinks and Rock n Roll

Why do guitars taste of hops? It wasn’t a question I’d ever considered until I saw it posed as the title of a multi-sensory beer and music matching event. I was intrigued; and as a casual ale drinker, keen music fan, and a writer with an interest in science, I felt...

Star Specimen: A Book On The Evolution Of The Book On Evolution

Star Specimen: A Book On The Evolution Of The Book On Evolution

Behind the Scenes at the Natural History Museum The topic of this blog post is quite possibly the newest specimen in the Museum's collection, as it was just a matter of hours ago that it was catalogued. It's also the first specimen I've played a part in acquiring. The...

Goodbye Gary Arber

Goodbye Gary Arber

By the time you read this, Arber’s will be gone. WF Arber and Co Ltd printing works, run by three generations of Arber men over 117 years, shut its doors for the last time this month, marking the end of one of the oldest surviving businesses on Roman Road. I met Gary,...

The Rossendale Fairies: A Scientific Tale Of Small Proportions

The Rossendale Fairies: A Scientific Tale Of Small Proportions

Behind the Scenes at the Natural History Museum, London This week I came across links to several versions of a story out of Manchester claiming a university professor had photographed fairies. Before you ask, no, the articles weren't published on the 1st, so I could...

Star Specimen: The Cursed Amethyst

Star Specimen: The Cursed Amethyst

Behind the Scenes at the Natural History Museum, London Anyone who has met me in person can vouch for the fact that I am a fan of amethyst. Almost all my jewellery contains a purple stone of some size or shade. So I was particularly interested when I heard the...

3D Print-On-Demand Pizza, In Space

3D Print-On-Demand Pizza, In Space

It's a little bit Star Trek replicator and a little bit soylent green, but the concept of downloadable synthetic food is now a little bit closer to science fact than fiction. NASA has awarded a grant to an American manufacturer to develop 3D food printing technology...

Oh Coffee, How We Do Love Thee

Oh Coffee, How We Do Love Thee

Britain is in love with a little brown bean called coffee. It's an affair that dates back more than 350 years to the edge of a churchyard in St Michael's Alley, off Cornhill, in east central London. It was there, in 1652, that Pasqua Rosee (servant to a businessman...

‘On The Road’ Unfurled Before Me

‘On The Road’ Unfurled Before Me

I've read the book, I've read the books about the book, I've seen the movie adaptation, and now I have had the pleasure of seeing the holiest of holies of the Beat Generation - the original manuscript of Jack Kerouac's novel, 'On The Road'. Written over a period of...

A Super Scientific Coincidence

A Super Scientific Coincidence

There’s kryptonite in that thar… Natural History Museum. A mineral with the same composition as Superman’s only natural weakness is on display in the Earth’s Treasury gallery at the London museum. Jadarite, discovered in Serbia in 2006, is composed of sodium, lithium,...

The Interrobang Turns 50

The Interrobang Turns 50

It is 50 years this month since the typographic symbol, the interrobang, was debuted to the world. The first new punctuation mark for 300 years, it enjoyed a short but dazzling period of success in the 1960s. An interrobang is a combination of a question mark and...

Were Aborigines The World’s First Astronomers?

Were Aborigines The World’s First Astronomers?

It is acknowledged that Australian Aboriginal culture is heavily spiritual and symbolic, but a growing body of evidence suggests that the indigenous belief system represents a deep knowledge of the sky and the motion of the bodies within it. This knowledge was used...