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Life in the Colonies

Steven Rose, 20 July 1995

Naturalist 
by Edward O.Wilson.
Allen Lane, 380 pp., £20, August 1995, 0 7139 9141 0
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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration 
by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson.
Harvard, 228 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 674 48525 4
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... Arriving at university from the shelter of a London suburban home, I was soon introduced to curry. Unaware that Indian cuisine is built around a wide range of spices, my ambition was simple: I would prove my sophistication by eating without flinching the hottest Madras or Vindaloo. Something of the same determinedly trivial desire to prove himself is revealed in Edward Wilson’s Naturalist ...

Coloured Spots v. Iridescence

Steven Rose: Evolutionary Inevitability, 22 March 2018

Improbable Destinies: How Predictable Is Evolution? 
by Jonathan Losos.
Allen Lane, 364 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 241 20192 3
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... The issue​ of evolutionary inevitability was brought sharply into focus by the late Stephen Jay Gould in his book Wonderful Life (1989). Gould discussed the bizarre fossils uncovered by the Cambridge palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris in an outcrop of rock in the Canadian Rockies, known as the Burgess Shale. The shale was formed 511 million years ago, in the period when animal life was first emerging ...

Pissing in the Snow

Steven Rose: Dissidents and Scientists, 18 July 2019

Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science 
by Audra J. Wolfe.
Johns Hopkins, 302 pp., £22, January 2019, 978 1 4214 2673 0
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... Stalin purges (Darkness at Noon), had made him something of a hero for me, and when in 1961 Hilary Rose and I were invited to a party at his Alpbach residence we jumped at the chance, sublimely innocent of the CIA connections. Despite his by then passionate anti-communism, Koestler was fascinated by the Lysenkoist prospect of the inheritance of acquired ...

Representing Grandma

Steven Rose, 7 July 1994

The Astounding Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 
by Francis Crick.
Simon and Schuster, 317 pp., £16.99, May 1994, 9780671711580
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... I have never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood.’ Thus James Watson opens his notorious account of the discovery of the structure of DNA which won him, Crick and Maurice Wilkins a Nobel Prize in 1962. Whichever other of Watson’s judgments have been controversial – notably his dismissal of Rosalind Franklin, from whom, courtesy of Wilkins, he and Crick were provided with the crucial X-ray photographs of DNA crystals – his assessment of Crick has scarcely been disputed ...

How to Get Another Thorax

Steven Rose: Epigenetics, 8 September 2016

... Modern biology​ , at its conception in the 17th century, inherited one unshakeable belief, two mysteries and an unfortunate error of timing. The belief was in the immutability of species, that each species has essential, unalterable characteristics, which can be traced back at least as far as Aristotle. The mysteries were, first, over what it is about life that distinguishes it from death, and second, the process by which a fully developed organism, be it chicken or human, emerges from a fertilised egg ...

Never Mind the Bollocks

Hilary Rose and Steven Rose: Brains and Gender, 28 April 2011

Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences 
by Rebecca Jordan-Young.
Harvard, 394 pp., £25.95, September 2010, 978 0 674 05730 2
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... enough of them were feminists to make possible a strong counterattack. There were skirmishes over Steven Goldberg’s The Inevitability of Patriarchy (1973) in which he argued that men’s power in the world was a product of their testosterone-driven urge to succeed, regardless of the definition of success in any given society. But although he had based his ...

Learning to peck

Stuart Sutherland, 4 November 1993

The Making of Memory: From Molecules to Mind 
by Steven Rose.
Bantam, 355 pp., £6.99, October 1993, 0 553 40748 1
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... to connect findings on the brain with its actual function. In The Making of MemorySteven Rose recounts his search for the physical changes that occur when anything is committed to memory – a quest that has dominated neuroscience for twenty years. The techniques used to pursue it are remarkably ingenious. In the PET scan, a radioactive ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Evolution versus Metamorphosis, 1 September 2005

... way is what you might call a no-brainer. As Ian Hacking said in the last issue of the LRB, quoting Steven Rose quoting Theodosius Dobzhansky, ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.’ Since we use our brains to make up stories, and to make sense of the stories of others, it’s hard to disagree with the idea that the capacity ...

Get knitting

Ian Hacking: Birth and Death of the Brain, 18 August 2005

The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind 
by Steven Rose.
Cape, 344 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 224 06254 9
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... Steven Rose is a well-known public scientist who has dedicated his career to the study of brains. He has lived through the early days of the technical revolution that has involved increasingly powerful ways of imaging activity in the brain. But he is first of all a biologist. His guiding principle is that we cannot understand the human brain unless we understand how it came into being ...

What’s in the bottle?

Donald MacKenzie: The Science Wars Revisited, 9 May 2002

The One Culture? A Conversation about Science 
edited by Jay Labinger and Harry Collins.
Chicago, 329 pp., £41, August 2001, 0 226 46722 8
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... Erwin Chargaff, Jacob Bronowski, Gunther Stent, Brian Petley, and the trio of Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose and Leon Kamin. In a modest ‘anti-Sokal’ hoax, one of the contributors to The One Culture?, Steven Shapin, leads the reader initially to assume that the quotations come from critics of science in the ...

Cleaning up

Simon Schaffer, 1 July 1982

Explaining the Unexplained: Mysteries of the Paranormal 
by Hans Eysenck and Carl Sargent.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 297 78068 9
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Appearances of the Dead: A Cultural History of Ghosts 
by R.C. Finucane.
Junction, 292 pp., £13.50, May 1982, 0 86245 043 8
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Hauntings and Apparitions 
by Andrew Mackenzie.
Heinemann, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 44051 5
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Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences 
by Susan Blackmore.
Heinemann, 270 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 07470 5
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... and Sargent take time out to secure the principles of statistics and probability for their work. Steven Rose, criticising Eysenck’s egregious application of techniques of statistical correlation in his work on IQ and race, has said that ‘Eysenck seeks to correlate IQ scores with EEG patterns almost in the manner of a 19th-century ...

Not an Inkling

Jerry Coyne: There’s more to life than DNA, 27 April 2000

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters 
by Matt Ridley.
Fourth Estate, 344 pp., £8.99, February 2000, 9781857028355
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... from methodological and interpretative problems (see Not in Our Genes, by Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose and Leon Kamin) which may have inflated estimates of the genetic contribution to IQ. Ridley’s conclusion that IQ has a heritability of around 50 per cent rests, however, on more recent studies by Thomas Bouchard and his colleagues at the ...

Herberts & Herbertinas

Rosemary Hill: Steven Runciman, 20 October 2016

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman 
by Minoo Dinshaw.
Penguin, 767 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 241 00493 7
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... I met​ Steven Runciman several times towards the end of his long life. On one occasion he told me, as he told many people, that as a young man he had danced with a friend of his mother who, in her own youth, had danced with Prince Albert. He seemed slightly disconcerted when I insisted that he dance a few steps with me so that I could say I had danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince Consort, but he did it and our little turn round the room made me feel in some psychic way closer to the court of Queen Victoria ...

Against the Pussyfoots

Steven Shapin: George Saintsbury, 10 September 2009

Notes on a Cellar-Book 
by George Saintsbury, edited by Thomas Pinney.
California, 348 pp., £20.95, October 2008, 978 0 520 25352 0
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... pieces included stuff like the following, about a modest southern French rosé: ‘Tavel has a rose-cerise “robe”, like a number of well-known racing silks, but its taste is not thin or acidulous, as that of most of its mimics is. The taste is warm but dry, like an enthusiasm held under restraint, and there is a tantalising suspicion of bitterness when ...

Across the Tellyverse

Jenny Turner: Daleks v. Cybermen, 22 June 2006

Doctor Who 
BBC1Show More
Doctor Who: A Critical Reading of the Series 
by Kim Newman.
BFI, 138 pp., £12, December 2005, 1 84457 090 8
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... by American operatives in orange boilersuits at an underground facility; he falls in love with Rose, the new Doctor’s main assistant, and comes to understand his predicament, squawking ‘I-am-a-lone!’ with a sorry droop of his suckered arm. It was touching and horrible and tremendously funny – a story like a piece of sculpture, to be admired from ...

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