The mathematical formula that proves London is over

Some years ago, an Australian neurologist was in the habit of walking barefoot across his lawn. This being Australia, the lawn was slightly prickly, and the experience was painful but not intolerable; until one day, when one of the pricks in his heel was more pronounced than usual. He had been bitten by a snake and, again this being Australia, the snake was highly venomous. Doctors saved his leg and he made a complete recovery. But there was one lasting side-effect: he now found walking across his lawn agonising. In terms of the stimulus to his feet, nothing had changed. What had changed was how his brain processed the stimulus.

How we did the locomotion: A Brief History of Motion, by Tom Standage, reviewed

Audi will make no more fuel engines after 2035. So that’s the end of the Age of Combustion, signalled by a puff of immaculately catalysed smoke from polished chrome exhausts designed by fanatics in Ingolstadt. But some say the age of motion itself will have shuddered to a halt before then. A trope of the New Yorker is a cartoon showing cavemen inventing the wheel, a companion to the other trope of desert island castaways. The adventure promised by the wheel and the limitations of boring stationary solitude are ineffably linked. Since Homo erectus left Africa 1.75 million years ago, without wheels, moving our bodies through space has been a

The joy of commuting

I was on a train from Sussex to London, my first since lockdown, when I realised I like my commute. The thought worried me a little. What kind of weirdo have I become? A commute is a psychological hurdle, something to be endured, not enjoyed. What’s next? The giddy thrill of waiting in a queue? A root-canal fan club? There are some aspects to commuting I don’t enjoy — the expense of a season ticket, of course, and frustrating delays — but overall, yes, I do like it. And during lockdown I actually missed it. What makes my enjoyment even weirder is that I have no interest in trains. There

Letters: The toilet paper stockpile that lasted 80 years

The case for small homes Sir: Your editorial rightly highlights what must be one of the government’s priorities once the worst of this crisis abates (‘Call that care?’, 2 May). I have been the owner and manager of a small, five-bedroom care home for nearly 30 years and, having had a majority of privately funded residents, can recognise ‘the iniquity whereby residents with savings have found themselves cross subsidising those who are funded by local authorities’. The government should firstly allow the payment of care home fees to be tax refundable. It is only fair that those who are saving the state the money for their care should at least

Is this the end of commuting?

The brother of a friend in Durban was once given a generous donation by a wealthy aunt. ‘I hate to see you just hanging around indoors all day. Buy an old Land Rover. Go and see the real Africa.’ The brother took the money but bought an enormous television instead. When my friend visited, he found him watching a wildlife documentary in glorious high-definition Technicolor. ‘Why would I want to go and see Africa when I can bring Africa in here?’ he explained. I have a certain sympathy for this stoner approach to life. The ability to travel within your own mind seems to be a great gift — something