16 Aug

Science writing

Some examples of my recent work…

The fire inside: how to extinguish the inflammation epidemic, New Scientist, 17 June, 2017

Stress, obesity and poor diet trigger persistent inflammation, which can lead to heart disease and depression. We’re finally working out how to fight it

 

Daydream believer: how to mindwander your way to better concentration, New Scientist, 20 May 2017

Daydreaming need not be the enemy of focus. Learn to do it right and you could reap the benefits from more successful revision to more motivation

 

Mind the gaps: The holes in your brain that make you smart, New Scientist, 22 March 2017

A map of the brain’s wiring reveals the spaces may be just as important as the connections – and you have the holes to thank for your most impressive mental feats

how-to-see-the-thoughts-you-dont-know_-https___www-newscientist-com_articDon’t think: How your brain works things out all by itselfHow to see the thoughts you don’t know you are having. New Scientist, 28 September, 2016

You predict the future, decode words in your dreams and judge faces in 0.1 seconds. Thoughts you don’t know you have run your life – here’s how to eavesdrop. Part of ‘Six Amazing things your unconscious can do’, which I commissioned and edited for New Scientist

 

BlueberryMiracle meal or rotten swindle? The truth about superfoods, New Scientist, 6 August 2016

YOU don’t have to shop at Whole Foods or hang on Gwyneth Paltrow’s every nutritional word to have heard  about exotic-sounding seeds that replenish your energy or obscure berries from afar that disease-proof your organs. Such are the promises of so-called superfoods…

 

Sleep

How much shut eye do I need / How to get to sleep. Part of New Scientist’s Sleep special, 28 May 2016

Everyone knows that 8 hours is the magic number – or is it?

 

Are your obsessions normal_ I New Scie_ - https___www.newscientist.com_articAre my obsessions normal? Part of New Scientist’s Am I Normal? special, 30 September, 2015

No one knows where the “men think about sex every 7 seconds” rumour comes from, but it’s almost certainly untrue. In 2012, Terri Fisher of Ohio State University in Columbus armed three groups of students with clickers and asked them to click whenever they thought about either sex, food or sleep…

BoredomWhy being bored is stimulating – and useful, too. New Scientist, 26 August, 2015

AS I sit, trying to concentrate, my toes are being very gently nibbled. It’s my dog, Jango, an intelligent working breed, and he’s telling me that he is bored…

 

BBC - Future - nicer than a childAre you nicer than a child? BBC Future, 8 April, 2015

It’s commonly held that young children are, well, selfish, but as Caroline Williams discovers, they are often kinder than adults.

 

Second blow to the head for effects of _ - http___www.newscientist.com_article_Second blow to the head for the effects of brain zapping, New Scientist, 29 January, 2015

Researchers who threw a bucket of cold water over brain stimulation science last year have done it again. In November, they found that transcranial direct current stimulation (tCDS) has no consistent physical effect. Now it seems the same may apply to its effect on the brain’s information processing.

Guardian inflammTaming the black dog: is depression an allergy to modern life? The Guardian, 5 January, 2015

Barely a week goes by without a celebrity “opening up” about their “battle with depression”. This, apparently, is a brave thing to do because it is still seen as some kind of mental and emotional weakness. But what if was nothing of the sort?

 

Colour night

Animals that see colour at night, BBC Earth, 1 December 2014

…From nocturnal geckoes to moths, lemurs and bats, animals of all shapes and sizes are turning out to have colour vision even in near-total darkness.

 

BrainzapHas the brain zap backlash begun? New Scientist, 28 November,  2014 

Stimulating the brain with electricity improves working memory, mental mathsfocused attention, creativity and could help treat depression. You can even buy DIY kits online… The bad news is that the most recent investigation has found it has almost no measurable effect on the brain.

 

Zap with brain image

Concentrate! How to tame a wandering mind, BBC Future, 16 October, 2014

I am about to be zapped in the head with an electromagnet, once a second, for eight minutes… “All you need to do is relax,” says Mike Esterman, the researcher about to zap me. That’s easy for him to say – he’s holding the magnet.

 

Mind users guide

The Human Mind, a User’s Guide, New Scientist, 4 October, 2014

The human mind has all sorts of useful design features but also many glitches and weaknesses. The problem is, it doesn’t come with a user’s manual. You just have to plug and play. We asked neuroscientists to explain how to use it to the max.

 

Dolphin mindsBehind the Smile: What dolphins really think. New Scientist, 29 September 2014

They have been hailed as the second most intelligent animal on the planet, but could a soft spot for dolphins have led us to terribly misjudge them?

 

How pickpockets trick your mind, BBC Future, 30 June 2014Pickpockets

… the key requirement for a successful pickpocket isn’t having nifty fingers, it’s having a working knowledge of the loopholes in our brains. Some are so good at it that researchers are working with them to get an insight into the way our minds work.

 

Hessdalen scan

The Light Fantastic, New Scientist, 10 May 2014

Strange balls of light are flying around a Norwegian valley. Now, after three decades of detective work, we could be close to solving the mystery…

2300 words. Full text available on request

Reflex Edu-neuroLearning on the brain. Reflex Magazine, October 2013

If you can read this, thank a teacher. But you might also spare a thought for a small area of your brain just behind your left ear….

1800 words. Full text available on request

Don’t swallow them: Six health myths you should ignore, New Scientist, 23 August 2013

Debunking some of the commonest health myths. Including: that we should all drink eight glasses of water per day, that sugar makes children hyperactive, that the body can (and should) be detoxed, and that antioxidant pills will make us live longer.

2600 words. Full text available on request

The silent partner. Part of New Scientist’s Consciousness Special, 18 May 2013

HUMANS are rather proud of their powers of conscious thought – and rightly so. But there is one aspect of our cognitive prowess that rarely gets the credit it deserves: a silent thinking partner that whirrs away in the background. Behold the power of the unconscious mind… 

700 words. Full text available on request

One and only you. New Scientist, 28 July 2012

   … There are about 7 billion of us alive now and by some estimates about 100 billion people have lived and died in the past 50,000 years. As far as we know each of them is, or was, a total one-off. The same applies to all those yet to be born. So your mother was right: you are very special indeed. But don’t just take her word for it …

3600 words. Full text available on request

The Consciousness Connection. New Scientist, 21 July 2012

The origin of consciousness has to be one of the biggest mysteries of all time, occupying philosophers and scientists for generations. So it is strange to think that a little-known neuroscientist called Constantin von Economo might have unearthed an important clue nearly 90 years ago…

2500 words. Full text available on request

    The Secret Ingredient. Optima. July 2012

What strengthens steel, makes vehicles lighter, thereby reducing carbon emissions, and can even help keep a human heart beating? Caroline Williams reports on niobium, the element that can do it all.

900 words. Full text available on request

Power Plants, New Scientist, 11 February 2012

What if you could grow your own electricity and cut climate-warming methane emissions at the same time? Caroline Williams reports.

2300 words. Full text available on request

A Beautiful Mind, New Scientist, 6 June, 2011

BETTY the octopus is curled up in her den, eyes half-closed and clutching a piece of red Lego like a child with a teddy bear. She is, says Kerry Perkins, cephalopod researcher at the Sea Life aquarium in Brighton, UK, much better behaved than some of the octopuses she has worked with…

2300 words. Full text available on request

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