Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley is the author of How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom (2020), and co-author of Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19 (2021)

Virology poses a far greater threat to the world than AI

Sam Altman, the recently fired (and rehired) chief executive of Open AI, was asked earlier this year by his fellow tech billionaire Patrick Collison what he thought of the risks of synthetic biology. ‘I would like to not have another synthetic pathogen cause a global pandemic. I think we can all agree that wasn’t a

Melissa Kite, Nigel Biggar and Matt Ridley

24 min listen

This week Melissa Kite mourns the Warwickshire countryside of her childhood, ripped up and torn apart for HS2, and describes how people like her parents have been treated by the doomed project (01:15), Nigel Biggar attempts to explain the thinking behind those who insist on calling Britain a racist country, even though the evidence says

Battle begins

40 min listen

This week: Katy Balls writes in her cover piece that after Tory conference the battle lines have now been drawn between the two main parties. She says we should prepare for a ‘presidential campaign’ ahead of the 2024 election and joins the podcast alongside The Spectator’s editor Fraser Nelson to discuss the dividing lines between Labour and

The new age of gullibility

Is the Loch Ness Monster real? Many thousands of people think so. ‘Existence “plausible” after plesiosaur discovery,’ the BBC reported. ‘Hundreds join huge search for Loch Ness Monster.’ Not only that. The Beeb had live coverage of congressional hearings about possible UFO sightings in July. It ran a series on the yeti the previous month

Science fiction: the crisis in research

The president of Stanford University, the neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne, has announced his resignation following an investigation into allegations of fraud and fabrication in three of his lab’s scientific papers, including one cited as the most important result on Alzheimer’s disease in 20 years. The report exonerated him of committing the fraud but found he had

Why I’m sceptical about a superconductor breakthrough

A team of South Korean scientists has pre-printed a paper asserting that they have achieved superconductivity at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. The paper has led to widespread speculation that this is the most significant physics discovery in decades, with huge implications for energy, medical technology and computing. Even Jordan Peterson is asking if room-temperature

Latvia is alive with song again

Every five years Latvia stages a week-long song and dance festival and this year my wife’s Latvian cousins got us tickets to two of the biggest events. I had no idea what to expect. The first evening, in a vast open-air arena in the Mezaparks forest outside Riga, while the light faded behind the tall

Matt Ridley, Martin Newland & Mary Wakefield

22 min listen

This week: Matt Ridley reveals the identity of the Chinese scientists in the lab linked to Covid, Martin Newland makes the moral case for becoming a foster carer, and Mary Wakefield has a plan for her old age to rid the world of drones. Produced by Linden Kemkaran

We are losing the war to save red squirrels

Two years ago I watched a red squirrel climbing a pine tree at my home in Northumberland. I fear it may be the last time I have that thrill. Twenty years ago they were everywhere in our woods and regular visitors to my bird table. Then in 2003 we saw the first grey squirrel. Almost

My unexpected lunch with Nigel Lawson – and Prince Philip

When I joined the House of Lords in 2013 I soon realised that, despite its poor reputation, the place contained plenty of wise, quick-witted and courageous minds. None more so than Nigel Lawson who died this week. An intellectual titan who had once almost become a philosophy professor, he was not content to rest on

Did Covid really originate in Wuhan’s seafood market?

There is new evidence pointing to the origin of Covid being in the seafood market in Wuhan. That, at least, is the substance of a breathless piece published in the Atlantic. Specifically, Katherine Wu, the journalist who wrote the piece, had evidence suggesting that ‘raccoon dogs being illegally sold at the venue could have been

Who really discovered DNA’s structure?

Tuesday 28 February marks the 70th anniversary of – in my view – the most important day in the history of science. On a fine Saturday morning with crocuses in flower along the Backs in Cambridge, two men saw something surprising and beautiful. The double helix structure of DNA instantly revealed why living things were

The Tories’ wind power delusion

A very strange parliamentary rebellion has been taking place with Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and dozens of other Tory MPs demanding an end to the ban on onshore wind farms. Wind power is cheap and getting cheaper, they argue. And surely, if we’re engaged in an energy war with Russia, we need all the power

What’s killing our birds?

If you are a bird, any kind of bird, the current pandemic of avian influenza rampaging through your kind is far more terrifying than anything the hairless apes on the ground below experienced in 2020 and 2021. Britain’s seabirds – guillemots, gannets, gulls, kittiwakes and skuas – have been hardest hit because they breed in

How to be PM: ten rules for the next Tory leader to live by

You’ve just become prime minister. The public finances are in a mess, the Bank of England has stoked inflation, cutting taxes may make it worse, energy prices are through the roof, people are hurting so you can’t cut social spending, the Health Service is lengthening its waiting lists despite record budgets. What can you do?

Has the lab leak theory really been disproved?

The BBC carried a story this week with the headline ‘Covid origin studies say evidence points to Wuhan market’. Bizarrely the paper in Science they are referring to, by Michael Worobey and colleagues, says no such thing. It says: ‘the observation that the preponderance of early cases were linked to the Huanan market does not

Could a vaccine for cancer be within reach?

It’s probably now the longest running conflict since the Hundred Years’ War: Richard Nixon declared the ‘war on cancer’ 51 years ago. The enemy is still in the field, killing more people than ever as other causes of mortality shrink. But cancer is at last giving ground. Fresh from its triumph in the race to