A retired Professor from the University of Arizona, Guy McPherson, told an audience in New Zealand last year that the human race will be extinct from climate change in a decade. Except here. Apparently we’re well placed at the bottom of the South Pacific to survive. And there’s a precedent. Until the 1280s, for the … More Why do we always see an apocalypse around the next corner?
I’ve been thinking lately about one of the eye-opening experiences of my university life, and what it tells us about today’s world. In 1981 I arrived at Victoria University of Wellington as a bright-eyed eighteen year old, filled with the idea that university was the place where people could express their intellectual ideas constructively. I … More How societies get sucked into authoritarianism
Back when I was a kid, paleontology was simple. Life had evolved from one-celled creatures to fish to lizards to dinosaurs to mammals and finally to Tory-voting, club-going Englishmen – all in a giant and wonderful ‘advance’, a relentless march of ‘progress’ during which each new form automatically doomed the last to extinction. Today we’ve … More I like my dinosaur cooked with eleven secret herbs and spices. Do you?
Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your festive season’s going well and there’s much fun and merriment for all. Here, for your enjoyment, is the world’s first Christmas card, from 1843. It was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and drawn by John Callcot Horsley, part of the general commercialisation of Christmas that decade. It’s rich with … More A Christmas card from history…
It’s funny how food fads change. After a generation and a half of being told fat is bad for us, now we’re told it’s not (probably), and instead the Evil Food de Jour is sugar. There’s a good deal of science behind that. Sugar, in the quantities we eat it today, wasn’t part of our … More Who profits from food fads?
I’ve decided the other day that computer operating system names and numbers have lost something since the early eighties. Back then, Microsoft were producing a thing called ‘DOS’, which stood for ‘Disk Operating System’ and was sensibly issued in successive versions – 1, 2, 3 and so on. I think the last one I saw … More I prefer operating systems that aren’t named after beaches. Or ice cream.
One of my pet irritations about Christmas is the zombie mall frenzy, when shoppers go into a kind of trance amidst the glitz and glitter of the mall and start shelling out cash for chintzy consumer items made of cheap plastic. Most of these gee-gaws break 28 seconds after being unwrapped, and by 29 December … More Where did the commercial Christmas zombie frenzy start?