The pieces in this section are all from my contributions to The Nature of Things, a weekly column that I shared with Clive Cookson in the WeekEnd section of the Financial Times. I had pretty much complete freedom to choose my topic. As long I could make the topic sound interesting to the sub-editor and get a scientist or two to talk to me about it, I could write about it.

Writing newspaper articles about science was a lot of fun, particularly because I used my column as an excuse to satisfy my own curiosity.  Probably my favourite subject was Astrophysics, which I first encountered when I was on holiday in La Palma in the Canaries and I invited myself to go and look round the Los Muchachos Astrophysical Observatory. I also wrote about subjects in Biology, Health Sciences, Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Technology.

  • I wanted to make scientific research seem accessible, fun and interesting without making it trivial. The closer I got to my own subject, how the visual system works, the harder it got. The only article I ever had to rewrite was about colour vision.
  •  I wanted to push my own subject, neuroscience, which the psychology undergraduates that I teach usually find a bit too much of a challenge. The first column I wrote in the Weekend FT was about the computing machinery of the brain and sought to explain why the operation of the brain, which is basically a very complicated computer, is affected by drugs.

Finally I should make it clear that these columns owe a great deal to the scientists who spared the time to talk to me about their work and many of whom also helped me by checking what I had written for errors.

 Posted by at 16:40