So, there I found myself standing in a queue of what looked like the Mara Wildebeest migration transposed to Heathrow airport, awaiting her Majesty’s Border Force to finish their breakfast and process us.
Anyone would be forgiven, of course, for concluding that breakfast never ends at Heathrow because, of the 34 booths I counted, only about 7 of them were ever manned. The mystery, then, was not that 27 booths were empty, but, on the contrary, that 7 officials had bothered to fill any at all.
Not that there was a shortage of officials themselves, mind you. There were plenty…
A fellow in my physics research group once announced to me that he was autistic. I couldn’t tell that there was much different about him, so I asked him to describe what autism meant for him.
“I don’t have empathy”, he said. “I simply can’t understand what appropriate and inappropriate behaviour is. I go to special training with my psychologist to learn proper responses to situations. So I don’t usually realise, for example, when my girlfriend’s angry. She has to explain what I’ve done in a way that she wouldn’t for normal people.”
“Oh my gosh”, I retorted…
I have, for the last 3 months, worked for a large news media conglomerate. Our CEO each week gives a speech on Zoom in which he calls our readers “customers”. From his words it’s clear that our chief — or only — priority is to maximise advertising revenue and not, as you might imagine, to pursue some idea of truth.
Indeed, the word “truth” is never mentioned, not by our CEO and not by anyone else. Our existence is instead a simple and circular equation: the more articles our “customers” read, the more they click on the nearby adverts, and…
When I first met her at my front door I didn’t know what to make of her. She sounded American. She had corporate-looking boots on. She wore black trousers, like some kind of Matrix agent. She had striking, dark eyebrows that framed her cheekbones. I would glance at her one moment and think, “she looks kind of odd, almost alien”, and then another moment and think, “she’s stunning, ethnically ambiguous, perhaps Iranian, or something, like she should audition to play Cleopatra in the next Hollywood disaster.”
My mother would later describe her as “a more beautiful version of Amal Clooney.”
The debate about her entry or denial to Britain says much about the culture war.
Shamima Begum was 15 years old when she left London to join ISIL. Given the recent ruling that her citizenship should be restored, she will likely return to Britain this year to face trial for her support of one of the most barbaric organisations this century has seen. The accusations against her are many. They include claims that she enforced ISIL’s morality code, stitched suicide bombers into explosive vests, and openly threatened people with an AK47.
When the BBC asked her in an interview in…
I seldom seem to get real news from news channels these days. The most recent atrocity in France, for example, in which teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded in broad daylight, came to my attention not via the home page of the papers I reluctantly follow, but via a comedian on Youtube.
The clip, below, shows this comedian, Andrew Lawrence, predicting that the usual media houses would, in effect, blame Mr Paty for his own execution.
Mr Paty’s crime in the eyes of his killer was to show cartoons of Mohammed during a class discussion about freedom of speech. Soon…
Why didn’t Covid-19 emerge from Sweden, Australia or Yemen? Why did it come out of China?
I argue in this article that dangerous viruses, like Covid-19, have emerged from China, and will continue to do so, because of the relationship there between humans and animals.
Though China is arguably the worst culprit, West Africa and, indeed, as I argue here, much of the West itself, is also guilty. All of us should rethink our relationship with animals, land and each other.
First, let me begin with an explanation of viruses with an analogy.
Imagine you run a soap…
The fragility of social mores
Some years ago, I read a book about race in America. The central protagonist described how he, as a black child in the 1950s, sat in a chair at school while a teacher racially berated him. In the moment, both he and his teacher were seemingly aware of the invisible social force that allowed it. Both parties knew instinctively that the system backed the teacher.
As irony would have it, 12 years later, that same author walked into his vice chancellor’s house as a University student, read out a list of demands for black activists…
I recently got into a discussion about police killings in the USA. Having not looked at this issue for some time, I decided to examine the available data myself, to see what I could unearth.
The below train of thought should be seen as a ‘back-of-the-envelope’ investigation, rather than a comprehensive analysis.
Deaths by police
The most recent USA census captured deaths resulting from confrontations with police. The graph below shows the absolute numbers broken down by racial category, “White”, “Black” and “Asian”. …
A man I knew at University
There was an unpleasant atmosphere in my halls of residence during my first year of University. The women in my block were ensconced in psychological warfare with each other for reasons only they could understand. Many bystanders, myself included, were expected to take sides and empathise, alternately, with each warring faction.
To my embarrassment, I often found myself doing so, and then feeling ashamed that I had. Everyone was drawn into the squabbles at one stage or another. …
Technology, society, big ideas, the culture wars and the nature of good and evil.