The faith instinct

My colleague Stephen Hough points out an absolutely lovely piece by Francis Spufford in today’s Guardian about faith: about how believers, like him, are increasingly seen as “weird”, embarrassing, old-fashioned, obsolescent. He almost sounds grateful to “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins, who, he says, “at least care enough about religion to object to it”. It’s…

A noble heart embiggens the smallest planet

A few months ago a reader, Victoria Edge, wrote a letter to the Telegraph saying: “As the arrow on my computer hovered over a picture, the instruction ‘click to embiggen’ appeared. What endless possibilities the English language has.” Ms Edge, I absolutely agree. It’s on my mind because I happened to be wandering idly around…

Is skill in poker – and elsewhere – just one great big bluff?

From Tuesday’s science pages: A new study confirms that humanity is designed to underestimate the luck of the draw Where is the line dividing luck and skill? How much does chance determine success? It turns out that, from sport to the stock market, we are constantly deluded by an illusion of order, when in fact…

Five quid says it’s an imaginary lion

Where were you during the Great St Osyth Lion Outbreak of 2012? Caravanners in the Essex village have been terrified by the sight of a lion roaming the streets and fields of the area. It was “a million per cent a lion”, said one mathematically excitable onlooker, who added that said lion “seemed to be…

How to get the most out of the Paralympics: hold them before the Olympics

I’ve had a thought. I think they’ve got the Paralympics and the Olympics the wrong way around. I was thinking something similar during the most recent Ashes tour in Australia, over the winter of 2010-2011. The Test series, the most high-profile part of the tour, was played first, followed by a series of Twenty20 and…

Norway gives a dignified lesson in how to deal with horror

[ooyala id=”pwbWpwNToRsNTA9FnR3n3XO6D1243sZf” ] Breivik surely wanted a backlash, which makes Norway’s response all the more heartening If Anders Breivik is released at the end of his 21-year sentence – which is unlikely – he will have served just 13 weeks for every one of the 77 lives, mostly children, that he took. It’s a testament…

The economic consequences of the peace

My former colleague, Ed Conway, now of Sky, has put together a fascinating Tumblr of great John Maynard Keynes quotes. Since I have, for family reasons, something of a fondness for the great man, I thought I’d use this as an excuse to stick my favourite Keynesianism up here: What an extraordinary episode in the…

Don’t play politics with votes for 16-year-olds

From Tuesday’s paper: Party self-interest shouldn’t be allowed to colour the debate about widening the franchise It’s a sad thing that, when politicians move to extend the franchise or otherwise change the voting system, the party doing it always seems to be the one that benefits. So, for instance, David Cameron and the Conservatives are…