A meeting with Roland, the veteran on the Tube

I had a very strange experience yesterday evening on the Tube. I sat down next to someone without looking who it was, got my Kindle out, and was startled to hear them ask “Good book, mate?” I looked over, and my new friend was a hard-looking man, 10 years or so older than me, in…

The new green revolution that will feed the world

From today’s paper: Hardier and more productive strains of rice are being developed faster than ever Today, around 3.5 billion people will sit down to a meal of something and rice. The “something” will depend on whether it’s Jamaica, Shanghai or Kerala, but rice is one of the world’s constants. It is a staple food…

Tom Watson MP, an intern and a Twitter rape joke

Is it okay to joke about rape? Is it ever okay? I ask because earlier today Tom Watson MP was the victim of what is known – “by everyone under the age of 24,” I am reassured by someone who meets that description – as “Twitter rape” or “twape”. He left his computer switched on…

Astronomy: we’ve all got stars in our eyes

From today’s paper: Astronomy used to be a hobby that was shunned at puberty – now it is the toast of stage and screen When did astronomy become so mainstream? A few years ago, it was thought of as the stuff of introverted hobbyists in suburban attics, telescope trained through a skylight while their spouse…

Is it really ‘the West’ that’s breast-obsessed? Or just men?

Yesterday’s Guardian had an interesting article in its G2 section. “Why is the West obsessed with breasts?” it asks, illustrating its point and its front cover with a large picture of a young woman’s naked bosom. “It’s… interesting to consider why the US and UK hold large breasts in such thrall,” it says, discussing breast…

Republicans turn their back on the Enlightenment

From today’s paper: Over in the US, the Republican party is choosing its presidential nominee to face Barack Obama in November. But whoever wins, science may lose. The Grand Ol’ Party (GOP), as the Republicans are known, has an uncomfortable relationship with scientific fact. Rick Santorum, a frontrunner in the nomination race, has said of…

Who’ll play Dave in the film of his life?

David Cameron got asked on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning who would play him in a film of his life, in response to The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. Obviously he demurred (“It’ll never be made”) rather than leap up and shout “THE YOUNG MARLON BRANDO” or something equally intemperate, but…