The rat as hero

Behold rat. Behold the magnificent, clever creature as it runs from the bin you have just opened or disappears into the nearest bush. Behold rat as it is cut open or drugged or injected to improve your health in the name of science, as many millions of its peers have been. Behold rat – though you may find that tricky, because the old adage that you are never more than six feet away from a rat is comprehensively skewered in this wonderful, charming book. Wonderful? Charming? Rats? Yes. Even Joe Shute, a man scared of the creatures, bravely takes two four-inch baby rats into his house and slowly grows to

The West’s industrial-sized chicken farms could be as dangerous as any wet market

It wasn’t Henri IV’s Sunday poule au pot or Herbert Hoover’s less sexy-sounding chicken in every pot, but even in the mid-20th century chicken was a rare treat, not a cheap meal. What has happened to transform the noble Gallus gallus domesticus into what Paul R. Josephson startlingly calls ‘a genetically formed meat machine’? Chicken is a serious subject, even when it’s not the chlorine-washed kind the US President wants to foist on us. I can remember buying a distressingly uneviscerated chicken in a Co-op in Cornwall in the late 1960s; and even ordinary supermarket fowl then came with neck and giblets neatly packaged inside them. You can still buy

And end to decent dying

From 22 March 1986: They used to say that war is the ruin of serious soldiering. Too much disorder, too many accidents. So it could be said of the bubonic plague: it spoilt dying completely. There was so much to fear. Not merely a sudden, unexplained and incurable form of disease, since brevity of life and mysterious illness were commonplace; besides, there was no lack of plague-theories and official nostrums. What was truly dreadful was the subversion and mockery of all that was usually done to dignify the final moment, of the pains taken to celebrate death, and prevent him from doing irreparable harm to the community. So plague gave

Envy is the greatest blight of all

Gstaad Hippocrates is known as the father of Western medicine and he discovered and named a disease known as ‘micropoulaki’ during the Periclean period, in around 430 BC. He did not call it a virus, but a sickness of the brain. Some years later, Aristotle described micropoulaki syndrome as a disease but one that was not contagious, ‘no more than a fool can influence an intelligent fellow to act foolish’. Micropoulaki in classical Greek translates as having a tiny willy. Women should, by definition, be immune from the disease. But they are, strange as it may seem, known to suffer from it, although not as often and as badly as

Map reveals where in Scotland Lyme-infected ticks are most likely to get you

Researchers can now predict where in Scotland you are most likely to encounter ticks that carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. If that wasn’t enough to make you reconsider those picnic plans, then they have also forecast that this risk will increase as global temperatures rise. In a recent paper, the researchers predicted that people were more likely to come into contact with an infected tick in the months of August and September. They also identified both the Highlands and Tayside as areas of particular risk. Their map can be viewed in full here. The study authors calculated that the density of infected ticks, a way of