Francis Gooding

Francis Gooding is a contributing editor at Critical Quarterly and a columnist at the WireBlack Light: Myth and Meaning in Modern Painting was published in 2009.

Wolf, Turtle, Bear: ‘Wild Thought’

Francis Gooding, 26 May 2022

‘Ihave a neolithic kind of intelligence,’ Claude Lévi-Strauss remarked in Tristes Tropiques (1955), his luminous reminiscence of anthropological fieldwork in Brazil. He didn’t mean he was a caveman. His own gloss was that his intellectual affinities were closer to the people anthropologists usually studied than to the people doing the studying. But there’s an...

MachuPicchu is not very old. Despite giving the impression of great and mysterious antiquity, the construction of the site was roughly contemporary with Brunelleschi’s completion of the duomo in Florence. Built as a royal estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti, the citadel was occupied only for a century or so before being abandoned during the Spanish Conquest; it was dissolving into...

From Its Myriad Tips: Mushroom Brain

Francis Gooding, 20 May 2021

Fungal mycelium is very good at finding the most economical route between points of interest. The mycologist Lynne Boddy once made a scale model of Britain out of soil, placing blocks of fungus-colonised wood at the points of the major cities; the blocks were sized proportionately to the places they represented. Mycelial networks quickly grew between the blocks: the web they created reproduced the pattern of the UK’s motorways (‘You could see the M5, M4, M1, M6’). Other researchers have set slime mould loose on tiny scale-models of Tokyo with food placed at the major hubs (in a single day they reproduced the form of the subway system) and on maps of Ikea (they found the exit, more efficiently than the scientists who set the task). Slime moulds are so good at this kind of puzzle that researchers are now using them to plan urban transport networks and fire-escape routes for large buildings.

G&Ts on the Veranda: The Science of Man

Francis Gooding, 4 March 2021

Franz Boas wasn’t in the least woolly-minded or anti-scientific. On the contrary, he was committed to the scientific meth­ods in which he had been trained, and dedicated to the clear-eyed analysis of data. But what he had found was that the rigorous application of these principles to anthropological material proved, again and again, that history and culture were the final, critical variable when it came to human behaviour.

Hell Pigs: Before there was Europe

Francis Gooding, 2 January 2020

Deep inside​ the Bruniquel Cave, in southwestern France, there are a number of mysterious assemblages. Built out of broken and stacked stalactites, they form two circles, and half a dozen ‘raised structures’. Nearly four hundred stalactites, carefully snapped off, were used in making them. Uranium-series dating, which measures the decay of uranium isotopes, has established that...

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