New stories – on drones, herring and a tech tycoon

December 2014 – versatile

Nathan Myhrvold My profile of the polymathic ex-Microsoft CTO – he’s also the top Tyrannosaurus Rex hunter and author/publisher of Modernist Cuisine, the world’s most expensive cookbook –  is in the January 2015 issue of Intelligent Life

Return of tdog barking at airborne dronehe Silver Darlings I went to the island of Bornholm to hunt down Denmark’s legendary cured herring recipes with Nordic sushi chef Silla Bjerrum – here’s the story in the Guardian

Droning on And for the Observer magazine my dog and I tried to take down 2015’s most invasive suburban annoyance – camera-carrying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Drones. They can fly in through your letter box. Here’s the story

Dead zones, acid seas and no fish

2 July 2014: My story in Newsweek magazine on the latest science of the rapidly-changing chemistry of the oceans – largely brought about by mankind. None of it’s good news. Unless you like jellyfish.

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On the Boqueria’s fish stands I count 10 types of bivalves—creatures like clams, oysters and mussels that use calcium carbonate to make their endlessly varied shells. In as little as 20 years they will be very different and, in some parts of the world, entirely gone. Then there are the ranks of huge Asian prawns and tiny shrimps, terra-cotta crabs from Scotland, and lobsters, magnificent admirals in blue fringed with gold. Lucky for them, these creatures make their shells differently (mostly out of a polymer called chitin), so the rapidly acidifying waters of our oceans won’t dissolve them as it will the exteriors of the bivalves. But the acidification—which some scientists believe is the fastest change in the ocean’s chemistry in 300 million years—appears to harm the working of the gills and change the behavior of the crustaceans when they are very young.

Read on in Newsweek here

The bravest fishermen

December 2013: I spent a night with the Gaza fishing fleet, trying to catch sardines under the guns of the Israeli navy… the words and Gianluca Panella’s stunning pictures were published in the Observer magazine.

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Sometimes the sea calms at sunset: and so it is here in the bottom corner of the eastern Mediterranean. The little fishing boat has been tugging on its anchor rope like an excited puppy. But now, as the waves ease, the deck steadies.

We’re going to catch sardines. It’s an all-night trip. So in the afternoon we’d loaded the boat with £190-worth of diesel, sweaters, lots of cigarettes, water, pitta bread and some nuts and dates. That’s it, I asked? No VHF radio? No safety equipment? No lifejackets?

The fishermen laughed. “Lifejacket? In Gaza, there’s no need for a lifejacket!” That’s the kind of joke that goes down well here. Skipper Abu Nayim, big, sun-dried, smiling, sniffed the wind. “It’s from the north. Good for sardines,” he said. “Yalla! Let’s go.”

Now we are waiting. The generator chatters, powering a string of arc lights hung around the boat. These will dazzle and seduce the fish; in six hours we’ll drop a net to gather them in from under the keel. The crew relax on salt-crusted rugs – eating dates, teasing each other, smoking. Two of the men step up to the foredeck to prostrate themselves and pray.

It’s nearly dark. A couple of Israeli F-16 jets make twin scratches across the glow in the southeast, above the Egyptian border. “They own all the world,” mutters old Abu Nayim. But, for now, this feels like the most peaceful place you could find on this crowded coast, where there live some of the most disputatious people in the planet. There’s not much to tell you that this is a very risky way to catch fish…

Read the rest of the story here