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Science & Nature SpecialNanotechnology

Once again we have the Prince of Wales to thank for alerting us to the latest apocalypse that scientists are planning to unleash upon mankind. Having attacked GM foods in the past, and after much hand-wringing over how scientists are reducing the world to a ‘laboratory of life’, the Prince has turned his attention to

Science & Nature SpecialEcology

Until quite recently, if it could be found at all in shops, the Ecologist magazine, which I edit, would invariably have been wedged somewhere between Motor Digest and Computer World at the far end of the lowest shelf in a magazine rack. That may have had something to do with the magazine itself. But not

Science & Nature SpecialThe chimp genome

Everyone knows that the Earth is not at the centre of the universe and that mankind has descended from the apes. But what about this: according to the latest estimates, we share 98.8 per cent of our DNA with the chimpanzees. What distinguishes us from our closest living relative is due to a 1.2 per

Science & Nature SpecialAstronomy

One way to throw an astrologer into confusion – well, even more confusion than that under which they normally labour – is to find a new planet. When Clyde Tombaugh spotted Pluto in 1930, the third oldest profession found itself in a tizzy. So when a tenth planet, beyond Pluto, was announced a few months

Science & Nature SpecialScience fiction

I’m rather hoping that some of the stories which appeared in Science Fiction Adventures during the early 1960s don’t come true. Though its title suggests otherwise, SFA was actually quite an intellectual magazine. There, many of J.G. Ballard’s stories first appeared, including his brilliant The Drowned World, which predicted global warming and seriously rising sea

Science & Nature SpecialThe humbling of Homo sapiens

Scientists are not interested in facts. What they like is ignorance. They mine it, eat it, attack it – choose the metaphor you prefer – and in the process they keep discovering more ignorance. Every answer leads to a set of new questions. The past few years have seen a once-in-an-aeon explosion of new knowledge

Words fused with music

Why would anyone want to write an opera libretto? The words are generally held to be at the service of the music, relegated therefore to second place, so what would make any self-respecting writer choose to offer up their skills to the peremptory demands of a composer? The reason is probably quite simply because it’s

Publish or be damned

If dons don’t churn out books and articles – whether they want to or not – they will lose funding. Rachel Johnson wonders whether that’s what education is about Our rendezvous is the new laptop-and-latte bar on the first floor of Blackwell’s bookshop in Oxford. The history don is a few minutes late and this

How the battle lies were drawn

If you ever get to Belgrade Zoo, don’t miss the snake house. There, in nicely heated tanks, you will see two rather fearsome-looking pythons, one named Warren and the other Madeleine. The names of Bill Clinton’s secretaries of state – Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright – will not be forgotten quickly in the capital of

Language barriers

In his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946), George Orwell laments the corruption of the English language in postwar society. Everywhere he finds pompous phrases designed to sound weighty (‘render inoperative’, meaning ‘break’); Latin- or Greek-based words where simpler words will do (‘ameliorate’ for ‘improve’, ‘clandestine’ for ‘secret’); words which have lost their meaning

The grim reefer

They say that if you can remember where it was you had your first skunk, you probably haven’t been smoking enough. But I can, quite distinctly. It was at the party of the daughter of a well-known literary agent, in the basement of their house in Notting Hill; the year, give or take, was 1991

How to win votes for the BNP

The following statement appears on the website of Carlton, owners of ITV: ‘The company does not discriminate between employees or potential employees on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, colour, race, ethnic origin, age or disability.’ Unless, it would appear, you happen to be white. As a freelance print journalist with an eye

It’s going to be sunny, or rainy

Ross Clark forecasts that in spite of its new £150 million headquarters the Met Office will still get the weather wrong Guests invited to the official opening of the Met Office’s spanking new £150 million headquarters outside Exeter should take with them an umbrella. Or perhaps a sunhat. Or a thick coat. Or maybe just

Some are more guilty than other

Dig up the cricket pitch and chain yourself to the railings. Fling yourself in front of the monarch’s horse. For the time has come to campaign for the release of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare. You may hate the man and think him undeserving of your time and effort – but believe me, an injustice is