Science

Radio 4’s The Art of Innovation is a series that — for once — deserves the label ‘landmark’

28 September 2019 9:00 am

Radio 4, how do I love thee? Rather as one loves the flocked wallpaper that came with the house. It…

Business is the only area of human activity where you get paid to change your mind

14 September 2019 9:00 am

In 1891, a 29-year-old man moved from Philadelphia to Chicago intending to start a business. With $32 to his name,…

Earth dying in five billion years I can deal with, but not a world-weary Brian Cox

1 June 2019 9:00 am

When you see the opening caption ‘4.6 billion years ago’, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re watching a programme…

Plastic fantastic: British Industried Fair, 1948

How plastic saved the elephant and tortoise

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Plastics — even venerable, historically eloquent plastics — hardly draw the eye. As this show’s insightful accompanying publication (a snip…

The man who never cried

9 February 2019 9:00 am

It was odd listening to Jim Al-Khalili being interviewed on Radio 4 on Tuesday morning rather than the other way…

It’s not science I don’t trust – it’s the scientists

25 August 2018 9:00 am

Everyone knows the real reason people like Donald Trump are sceptical of climate change is that conservatives are fundamentally anti-science.…

Sarah Higgins (Helena) and Henry Pettigrew (Bob) in Midsummer

Conversations with a penis, having a laugh about Brexit and why titles matter: Edinburgh Festival reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

David Greig has written the international festival’s flagship drama, Midsummer. This farcical romance is performed as a party piece by…

The long limbs, light frame and deep chest of sighthounds, like the Borzoi or Russian wolfhound, give them the speed and endurance to outrun their quarry. Drawing by Katrina van Grouw

The selective breeding of pets: how far should we go?

11 August 2018 9:00 am

It was in his play Back to Methuselah that George Bernard Shaw honoured a lesser known aspect of Charles Darwin’s…

Exhilaratingly original, C4’s Flowers is much more than just a ‘dark comedy’

16 June 2018 9:00 am

On Wednesday, BBC Four made an unexpectedly strong case that the human body is a bit rubbish. Our ill-designed spines,…

The Psychedelic Guide to Preparation of the Eucharist was a book produced in 1968 by the Neo-American Church, explaining how to manufacture and cultivate marijuana, peyote, mushrooms, morning glory, LSD and STP ‘for religious purposes’. Taken from Altered States: The Library of Julio Santo Domingo by Peter Watts (Anthology Editions, available at www.anthology.net)

Might LSD be good for you?

12 May 2018 9:00 am

When Peregrine Worsthorne was on Desert Island Discs in 1992, he chose as his luxury item a lifetime supply of…

Benjamin Zephaniah once found the leg of a man in the back of a Ford Cortina

5 May 2018 9:00 am

‘For me rhyming was normal,’ said Benjamin Zephaniah, reading from his autobiography on Radio 4. Back in the 1960s, on…

Why a Big Oil row tells us it’s time to stop fetishising experts

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Something extraordinary and largely unreported has just happened in a court in San Francisco. A federal judge has said that…

‘A Cellar Dive in the Bend’, c.1895, by Richard Hoe Lawrence and Henry G. Piffard

A short history of flash photography

18 November 2017 9:00 am

All photography requires light, but the light used in flash photography is unique — shocking, intrusive and abrupt. It’s quite…

The head of Jeremy Bentham, who died in 1832

What can we learn from Jeremy Bentham’s pickled head?

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Under the central dome of UCL — an indoor crossroads where hordes of students come and go on their way…

Perception vs objective reality

21 October 2017 9:00 am

I hate to tell you this, but every time you watch television you are being duped. In fact there are…

Oh brave new gender-fluid world…

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Later this year, the Advertising Standards Authority will reveal to the world their list of rules designed to wipe out…

David Jones, aged 12, with his chemistry set and, right, as ‘potty prof’ Daedalus

Frater, ave atque vale

19 August 2017 9:00 am

As his obituaries pointed out, my brother David made a name for himself with his unrideable bicycle; his ‘perpetual motion’…

Shirley Henderson (Elizabeth Laine) and Michael Shaeffer (Reverend Marlowe) in Girl from the North Country

Starting block

5 August 2017 9:00 am

Conor McPherson’s new play is set in dust-bowl Minnesota in 1934. We’re in a fly-blown boarding house owned by skint,…

The slow death of environmentalism

7 May 2016 9:00 am

Would you describe yourself as an ‘environmentalist’? I would, mainly to annoy greenies, but also because it’s true. If your…

A butterfly-powered parachute gently ridicules the French obsession with flight in the late 18th century, illustrated in Gaston Tissandier’s Histoire des ballons et des aéronautes célèbres: 1783–1800

Steve Jones’s chaotic theory of history

7 May 2016 9:00 am

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad.’ Philip Larkin’s most famous line has appeared in the Spectator repeatedly, and…

‘Cassava with White Peacock Butterfly and young Golden Tegu’, 1702–3, by Maria Merian

The 17th century painter who hacked her way through Suriname in search of insects

7 May 2016 9:00 am

Maria Sibylla Merian was a game old bird of entrepreneurial bent, with an overwhelming obsession with insects. Born in Frankfurt…

Why Joan Bakewell must be right about anorexia

19 March 2016 9:00 am

You can always tell when a public figure has said something with the ring of truth about it by the…

Thin air and frayed tempers

13 February 2016 9:00 am

Born in New South Wales in 1888, George Finch climbed Mount Canobolas as a boy, unleashing, in the thin air,…

Humboldt talks to one of the indigenous people in Turbaco (today’s Columbia) en route to Bogotá.

Alexander Humboldt: a great explorer rediscovered

6 February 2016 9:00 am

The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was once the most famous man in Europe bar Napoleon. And if you judge…

‘If ever there was a Renaissance Man, John Dee was it’: from ‘The Order of the Inspirati’, 1659

John Dee thought he could talk to angels using medieval computer technology

16 January 2016 9:00 am

I remember the shock, like a jolt of static electricity. One day, between taking my degree and beginning my first…