3 Feb 2015: My piece for Intelligent Life – now FREE to read on moreintelligentlife.com.
Dr Nathan Myhrvold in his office with a prehistoric shark fossil and an ICBM nose cone
HEAD EAST FROM downtown Seattle, into the suburban technopolis that has grown up around Microsoft’s headquarters, and you will find the warehouses and towers of a company called Intellectual Ventures. A featureless block turns out to be the cave of a geek Aladdin. In the corridors are a second-world-war German cipher machine (part of the Enigma apparatus), a Japanese anti-aircraft gun and a whole host of shabby Bakelite and wooden machines that are the ancestors of the computer on your desk. The staff kitchen has a hybridised coffee machine, which remembers all the espressos it has ever made and can replicate them. At reception, a full-size T. rex roars out of the wall: it appeared in the film of “Jurassic Park”. In the boss’s corner office, when you’ve taken in the view of the snow-peaked Cascade mountains, you can gaze upon dinosaur toenails and an entire fossilised prehistoric crocodile. You may also spot a model of a Gulfstream V jet. The coffee table, part of a nuclear-reactor core, stands beside a hip-high cone tipped with dull metal and a shabby column of plastic and old circuit boards. This is the nose cone and command centre of a Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile, the tactical nuclear device that saw the United States through the early cold war: technology that worked because it was never used. The hoard is more than a monument to its owner’s bubbling curiosity. It is also a statement from a self-styled “technological optimist”, a man who, at 55, has an unshaken belief that human ingenuity will sort everything out. Read the rest here
10 Jan 2015: Thrifty or lavish, we all are now guests at the discounted, buy-one-get-one-free, year-round cheap food feast, eating more than we need and paying less for it – as a proportion of our incomes – than our grandparents did, or their parents before them. This, it turns out, is not entirely a good thing.
Cover story for Newsweek magazine – free to read here
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 the 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
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.
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
25th February, 2010
The headline read “Why I lost my appetite for meat”, the article was by a favourite novelist, but my wife wouldn’t pick up the magazine. “If I read it, I know I’ll have to become a vegetarian again and I just can’t bear to,” she said. I was braver — nothing this side of Armageddon is going to make me give up meat — and I did read it. The excerpts from Jonathan Safran Foer’s new non-fiction book Eating Animals left me feeling uncomfortable — so much so that I had to read the whole thing.
Read on here at Times Online