Science & Technology

Epistemic Injustice

Bernadette Wren

20 November 2021

If a whistle-blowing report on the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock Clinic was needed, I wish I’d written it myself. It would have highlighted the isolation of a group of conscientious clinicians who were trying to cope, in the absence of adequate support, funding and external expertise, with complex clinical, empirical, legal and procedural challenges while an upheaval in cultural narratives of sex and gender took place across the country. GIDS became the scapegoat in a society that needs to look more boldly and intelligently at how we should accommodate a great many new forms of pressure for change.

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Lab Leaks

Alex de Waal

2 December 2021

Normal​ accident theory, developed by the sociologist Charles Perrow in the 1980s, predicts that sooner or later there will be a devastating accident with a nuclear weapon. The list of near misses . . .

Dying to Breathe

David Wallace-Wells

2 December 2021

Wherever you look, the earth is in flames. The residue is carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, black carbon, sulphur dioxide, and the particularly toxic grouping of small particulate matter known . . .

Mayonnaise Miracle Babies

Ashley Moffett

18 November 2021

As​ a young postgraduate in 1942, Peter Medawar was asked to look into the reason skin grafts given to injured airmen were quickly rejected by the body. His work introduced the concept of a biological . . .

On Pegasus

Edan Ring

4 November 2021

With​ the Covid infection rate soaring in spring last year, Naftali Bennett – Israel’s then defence minister, now its prime minister – came up with an original approach to the crisis . . .

The Sucker, the Sucker! What’s it like to be an octopus?

Amia Srinivasan, 7 September 2017

Their intelligence is like ours, and utterly unlike ours. Octopuses are the closest we can come, on earth, to knowing what it might be like to encounter intelligent aliens.

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You Are the Product: It Zucks!

John Lanchester, 17 August 2017

I am scared of Facebook. The company’s ambition, its ruthlessness, and its lack of a moral compass scare me.

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In Hyperspace

Fredric Jameson, 10 September 2015

Science fiction is not the only mass-cultural genre (or subgenre) whose relationship to ‘high literature’ and to modernism in particular presents problems.

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Ghosting: Julian Assange

Andrew O’Hagan, 6 March 2014

It was exciting to think that no novel had ever captured this new kind of history, where military lies on a global scale were revealed by a bunch of sleepy amateurs two foot from an Aga.

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Diary: After the Oil Spill

Rebecca Solnit, 5 August 2010

The blowout was not only the biggest oil spill in American history by far: it’s a story that touches on everything else – taints everything, like the black glop on sandy beaches, on pelicans, terns, boats, sea turtles, marshlands and dolphins. It’s about climate change, peak oil, the energy future, the American presidency, about corporate power and the corrosive effect of Big Oil on global politics.

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Why does it take so long to mend an escalator?

Peter Campbell, 7 March 2002

The descent to the tunnels through which the deep lines run is a tax on the spirit that is paid willingly because it makes it easier to live in an old, tight-packed city. But when the system fails it is strongly resented.

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What’s left of Henrietta Lacks? HeLa

Anne Enright, 13 April 2000

I don’t know where I heard of her first: a woman whose cells are bred in culture dishes in labs all over the world; a woman whose cells were so prolific that there is more of her now, in...

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On the Darwinian View of Progress

Amartya Sen, 5 November 1992

It is now a century and a third, almost exactly, since the publication in 1859 of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In this period the view of evolutionary progress introduced by Darwin...

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The man who mistook his wife for a hat

Oliver Sacks, 19 May 1983

The scientific study of the relationship between brain and mind began in 1861, when Broca, in France, found that specific difficulties in the expressive use of speech (aphasia) consistently...

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On the Boil

James Meek, 7 October 2021

Britain is in a particularly dire place, afflicted by four decades of free market fanaticism that left it up to commercial companies to pay for the storage of natural gas reserves against a supply crunch...

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What does Fluffy think? Pets with Benefits

Amia Srinivasan, 7 October 2021

Animal-human transgression is the fantastical norm in the dreamworld of myth, and operates still as a powerful symbol of the desire to reach beyond the confines of the possible or the acceptable. And yet,...

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Replication Crisis: Shoddy Papers

John Whitfield, 7 October 2021

If a brutally competitive environment helped the best work rise to the top, there might be an argument that the misery was justified. You might, for example, think that a system which can deliver several...

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It leads to everything: Heat and Force

Patricia Fara, 23 September 2021

Every time you ride a bicycle or freeze a bag of peas or carry out a search on Google, some energy becomes unavailable, and the total amount of entropy in the universe gets ever so slightly larger.

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Diary: Wild Beasts

Fraser MacDonald, 23 September 2021

There’s a more general disquiet among the unlanded residents of the areas that are increasingly deemed ‘wild’. For them, beavers or wild cats aren’t the problem. They question why...

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Short Cuts: Charity Refused

Malcolm Gaskill, 9 September 2021

Nextdoor works like a neighbourhood watch scheme, but laced with all the toxic gossip once exchanged at the village pump, or by the fireside as women span and their menfolk brooded, puffing on clay pipes....

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The Sixth Taste

Daniel Soar, 9 September 2021

Perhaps kokumi will put an end to the misery of people who buy low-fat, low-salt food while secretly wishing they were eating the full-fat version that actually has some flavour. It can make something...

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It shouldn’t be more important that the North Sea wind farms get built than that some of their towers are made by low-paid labourers working twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week; and yet the immense...

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On the Delta Variant

Rupert Beale, 1 July 2021

We will soon reach a point where the threat of Covid in the UK is substantially diminished by widespread immunity. The 19 July opening is unlikely to cause another devastating wave of hospitalisations...

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The illusion of science, for a writer in the embryonic American marketplace, sold better than the real thing. But Poe had grand scientific ambitions, with which he persisted in the teeth of indifference...

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Perhaps, as Cixin Liu’s science fiction trilogy The Three-Body Problem suggests, revealing your presence to a hostile cosmos results in your inevitable destruction, so sending messages into space...

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From Its Myriad Tips: Mushroom Brain

Francis Gooding, 20 May 2021

Fungi are diffuse, plastic beings: they reform themselves around the problem at hand. ‘Mycelium’, says Merlin Sheldrake, is a body without limits: ‘a body without a plan’. With...

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When was Hippocrates?

James Romm, 22 April 2021

Doctors today speak not only of a Hippocratic oath but a Hippocratic face (distorted by the approach of death), a Hippocratic bench (used for setting broken bones) and a Hippocratic manoeuvre (for popping...

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A Mystery to Itself: What is a brain?

Rivka Galchen, 22 April 2021

Descartes thought the brain functioned as a system of hydraulics, much like the statues he saw in the gardens of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Later thinkers also saw in the brain what they saw around them: electricity,...

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Cookies, Pixels and Fingerprints

Donald MacKenzie, 1 April 2021

There is something unsettling – especially in the midst of a pandemic that has forced so much of commerce and everyday life to move online – about being brought face to face with the extent...

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Consider the Stork

Katherine Rundell, 1 April 2021

They produce marvels without warning: when the woolly-necked stork opens its wings in flight, it reveals a band of unfeathered skin on the underside of the forearm that shines a startling ruby red. Clattering...

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Your hat sucks: UbuWeb

Gill Partington, 1 April 2021

Perhaps the internet doesn’t so much reboot the avant-garde as make the whole concept obsolete: it has its own home-grown provocateurs in the form of trolls and shitposters and arguably its own culture,...

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Where are the space arks? Space Forces

Tom Stevenson, 4 March 2021

Where are the space arks in orbit? The exploration of exoplanets in the circumstellar habitable zone? Satellite wars over the tiny layer of space immediately above the atmosphere are evidence of a fear...

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