The curse of Ebola

Ebola has arrived in Spain, and many in Britain are now suggesting that we screen new arrivals at our airports for the disease.  But deadly as the virus is, it is also easily destroyed, Tom Chivers reports In a hospital somewhere in a rural part of sub-Saharan Africa, a patient presents with an unknown disease….

Why Donald Trump was right about the handshake

There are few things in life more galling than the realisation that Donald Trump may have been correct. But the implausibly haired buffoon-tycoon, it seems, got at least one thing right: handshakes aren’t very good for you. Stopped clocks and all that. Research by scientists at Aberystwyth University suggests that the handshake spreads germs. Rather…

Medicalising the healthy: is ‘pre-diabetes’ a useful term?

Diabetes is the great modern scourge. More than three million people suffer the disease in this country. The NHS says that about 10 per cent of its budget, roughly £10 billion a year – £27 million a day – is spent treating it and its complications – including but not limited to blindness, kidney stones,…

Botany: the roots of civilisation

Plants underpin all life, yet botany fails to capture our imagination. Tom Chivers hopes a BBC radio series will change that view A billion years ago, a primitive single-celled organism ended up inside another, slightly less primitive organism, and something strange happened: it didn’t die. Now, a billion years later, the descendants of that hybrid…

Brazil v Germany, Nate Silver v Piers Morgan: do sport pundits ever get it right?

The Reverend Thomas Bayes, RA Fisher, Johann Gauss: your boys took one hell of a beating. That’s right, apparently it wasn’t only the Brazilian national team that suffered ignominious defeat on Tuesday night, as Germany tore them apart in a brutal, tragicomic home-turf humiliation. It was also the abstract concept of statistical probability. Nate Silver,…

No, climate change isn’t going to make gingers extinct

Weird things you never thought you’d have to write: man-made global warming is not going to make red-headed people disappear. The Independent newspaper says that it is, you see. (And since I’ve started writing this I’ve just noticed that we do too. Ah well.) Here’s the hypothesis: Dr Alistair Moffat, managing director of Galashiels-based ScotlandsDNA,…