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How did Albert Einstein become the poster boy for genius?

Before he died, Albert Einstein requested that his whole body be cremated as soon as possible after death, and his ashes scattered in an undisclosed location.

Can we consume our way to a fairer, more prosperous society?

Westerners are constantly worrying about consuming too much and living too well. This is not a new concern.

My daughter says Bilbo Baggins is a girl – who am I to argue?

Almost six years ago, when I became a parent, one of my very few certainties was that I would read to my daughter.

Cities thrive most when they are a tangled mess

Whitechapel Underground Station in the East End of London is a long, wide trench, an unexpected burst of sunlight that comes just a couple of minutes after your train leaves the City.

Could deep brain stimulation be a cure for anorexia?

‘Just try to explain to anyone the art of fasting! Anyone who has no feeling for it cannot be made to understand it.’ Franz Kafka: ‘A Hunger Artist’ (1922) Brenda Conley was 20 years old when she stopped eating.

If you can't choose wisely, choose randomly

We could start with birds, or we could start with Greeks. Each option has advantages. Let’s flip a coin.

Are kids today praise junkies, or is that just a myth?

When I took my son to visit my parents in South Carolina six months ago, my father yelled out ‘Good job!

How I learnt to survive like an 11th-century farmer

When there is a likelihood of even small amounts of snow, sleet or ice, I move my car to the top of the hill that shelters my farm.

Why has the idea of hell survived so long?

In December 2013, a hoax began circulating on the internet claiming that Pope Francis had called a Third Vatican Council that, among other things, purged a literal hell from Catholic doctrine.

What Facebook’s office design tells us about the future of work

Social networks have changed radically during the past 10 years, and so have their offices. Second Life, which created a virtual world online, was one of the first social networks to thrive in the years after the 1999 dotcom crash, by allowing tech workers to escape mundane reality for elaborate fantasy.

Will new drugs mean the rich live to 120 and the poor die at 60?

The disparity between top earners and everyone else is staggering in nations such as the United States, where 10 per cent of people accounted for 80 per cent of income growth since 1975.

Can tiny plankton help reverse climate change?

‘Call me Victor,’ says the mustachioed scientist as he picks me up from the airport on a brisk, fall afternoon in Germany.

Liberal ideals are not yet dead, but more relevant than ever

Liberals are living in alarming times. A few years before his death in 2012, the British historian Eric Hobsbawm passed summary judgment on the future of liberal democracy.

The terror and the bliss of sleep paralysis

Here I am, lying in bed. If you walk in now, you’ll think I’m sleeping. But I see you. Although my eyelids look shut, they are fluttering slightly.

These are my two Baltimores, black and white

So I’m posted up, sharing a sandwich and a cigarette with a friend in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in America last week, and my phone buzzes.

How life made the earth into a cosmic marvel

One could easily be forgiven for thinking that life bears little connection to rocks. From high-school science curricula to Wikipedia, the institutional separation of geology and biology seems as ingrained today as when the 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus first distinguished animals, vegetables, and minerals.

How magical thinking haunts all forms of thought

Would you say that astrology is very scientific, sort of scientific, or not at all scientific? The question was asked in a survey in the United States, and according to Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 ‘slightly more than half of Americans said that astrology was “not at all scientific”’.

How Africa helped me over my runner’s block

When you’re planning a trip to Africa, everyone tells you it will change your life. I certainly heard it more than once.

Will human sexuality ever be free from stone age impulses?

Literature tells us that our desires know no reason. We read Racine’s Phaedra or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and we see people captured by passion, acting in defiance of all sense or explanation.

Is there any real science behind the low-carb Paleo diet?

A decade ago, I said goodbye to wheat. I had been carrying around 15 extra pounds since high school and I was sick of it.