We take a look back over the past six months of the pandemic, and discuss how far the world has come. It’s been a period of turmoil and science has faced an unprecedented challenge. What lessons can be learned from the epidemic so far to continue the fight in the months to come?
Also in this episode:
12:55 Unanswered questions
After months of intensive research, much is known about the new coronavirus – but many important questions remain unanswered. We look at the knowledge gaps researchers are trying to fill.
20:36 How has lockdown affected fieldwork?
The inability to travel during lockdown has seriously hampered many researchers’ ability to gather fieldwork data. We hear from three whose work has been affected, and what this means for their projects.
Butterflies are one of the world’s most beloved insects. From butterfly gardens to zoo exhibitions, they are one of the few insects we’ve encouraged to infiltrate our lives. Yet, what has drawn us to these creatures in the first place? And what are their lives really like? In this groundbreaking book, New York Times bestselling author and science journalist Wendy Williams reveals the inner lives of these “flying flowers”—creatures far more intelligent and tougher than we give them credit for.
In this fascinating book from the New York Times bestselling author of The Horse, Wendy Williams explores the lives of one of the world’s most resilient creatures—the butterfly—shedding light on the role that they play in our ecosystem and in our human lives.
Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles each year from Canada to Mexico. Other species have learned how to fool ants into taking care of them. Butterflies’ scales are inspiring researchers to create new life-saving medical technology. Williams takes readers to butterfly habitats across the globe and introduces us to not only various species, but to the scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying them.
Coupled with years of research and knowledge gained from experts in the field, this accessible “butterfly biography” explores the ancient partnership between these special creatures and humans, and why they continue to fascinate us today. Touching, eye-opening, and incredibly profound, The Language of Butterflies reveals the critical role they play in our world.
“Shadowplay” opens in Dublin in the winter of 1876, with O’Connor painting that ravishing city with a soft lyricism that Stoker himself might have envied: “Smacks heading down the estuary, trailing petticoats of nets, out towards the expanse of the sea.” Stoker, a government clerk who moonlights as a theater critic, is reeling from the visceral intensity of Irving’s performance in Dublin as Hamlet. “Eyes glowing red in the gaslight,” Irving terrifies the audience, “slinking towards the lip of the stage, left hand on hip, wiping his wet mouth with the back of his sleeve. Sneering, he regarded them. Then he spat.” (NY Times Review)
Henry Irving is Victorian London’s most celebrated actor and theater impresario. He has introduced groundbreaking ideas to the theater, bringing to the stage performances that are spectacular, shocking, and always entertaining. When Irving decides to open his own London theater with the goal of making it the greatest playhouse on earth, he hires a young Dublin clerk harboring literary ambitions by the name of Bram Stoker to manage it. As Irving’s theater grows in reputation and financial solvency, he lures to his company of mummers the century’s most beloved actress, the dazzlingly talented leading lady Ellen Terry, who nightly casts a spell not only on her audiences but also on Stoker and Irving both.
Bram Stoker’s extraordinary experiences at the Lyceum Theatre, his early morning walks on the streets of a London terrorized by a serial killer, his long, tempestuous relationship with Irving, and the closeness he finds with Ellen Terry, inspire him to write DRACULA, the most iconic and best-selling supernatural tale ever published.
A magnificent portrait both of lamp-lit London and of lives and loves enacted on the stage, Shadowplay’s rich prose, incomparable storytelling, and vivid characters will linger in readers’ hearts and minds for many years.
Novelist, screenwriter, playwright and broadcaster, Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. He is the author of nine novels including Star of the Sea, Ghost Light (Dublin One City One Book novel 2011) and Shadowplay (June 2019). Among his awards are the Prix Zepter for European Novel of the Year, France’s Prix Millepages, Italy’s Premio Acerbi, an American Library Association Award and the Irish Pen Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature. His work has been translated into forty languages. In 2014 he was appointed Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. Twice-Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey has written, ‘There are few living writers who can take us back in time so assuredly, through such gorgeous sentences. Joseph O’Connor is a wonder, and Shadowplay is a triumph.’
From Hyperallergic (June 13, 2020):
In his paintings we see books on their own, or books in the company of people or other objects; small, lonely ziggurats of books, or a book beside a candle. That last juxtaposition is telling in the extreme. Vincent had a reverence for books. They were sacred ground. They have a kind of inner glow about them.
He reverenced books for their intellectual and emotional content.
He read Dickens, Carlyle, Flaubert, Balzac, Maupassant, and Zola in the original. Dickens and Carlyle were never very easy to read, then or now, but this Dutchman did so. He even read English poetry – John Keats, for example.
From Open Magazine (May 29, 2020):
And with The Mysterious Affair at Styles (published a 100 years ago, in 1920) Christie would introduce readers to Monsieur Hercule Poirot, an old Belgian detective who resembled Holmes superficially (‘eccentric detective, stooge assistant’, as the author would admit in her autobiography later) but whose psychological insights and near-mystical idiosyncrasies would make him arguably the most successful and beloved literary sleuth of all time.
IN 1916, THE 26-year-old Agatha Christie finished writing her first detective novel at Dartmoor, a quiet upland in Devon, UK, known for its beautiful granite hilltops. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had published The Hound of the Baskervilles, in 1902, which would become one of the most widely read Sherlock Holmes adventures—and the story was set in this same corner of the world, Dartmoor.
Books like Murder on the Orient Express (1934), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and Death on the Nile (1937) remain some of the bestselling murder mysteries in the world today, over eight decades after their original publication (Christie’s net sales for all of her books combined are over two billion now).
Although it might seem to be a story of ever-increasing knowledge of biology, Cobb shows how our ideas about the brain have been shaped by each era’s most significant technologies. Today we might think the brain is like a supercomputer. In the past, it has been compared to a telegraph, a telephone exchange, or some kind of hydraulic system. What will we think the brain is like tomorrow, when new technology arises?
For thousands of years, thinkers and scientists have tried to understand what the brain does. Yet, despite the astonishing discoveries of science, we still have only the vaguest idea of how the brain works. In The Idea of the Brain, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb traces how our conception of the brain has evolved over the centuries.
The result is an essential read for anyone interested in the complex processes that drive science and the forces that have shaped our marvelous brains.
Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester. His previous books include Life’s Greatest Secret:The Race to Discover the Genetic Code, which was shortlisted for the the Royal Society Winton Book Prize, and the acclaimed histories The Resistance and Eleven Days in August. He is also the award-winning translator of books on the history of molecular biology, on Darwin’s ideas and on the nature of life.
Alexis Christodoulou, a self-taught 3D artist living in Cape Town, South Africa has spent the last 6 years building a collection of works focusing on imaginary architecture. While working professionally as a copywriter for the last decade, Alexis taught himself 3D rendering as a hobby.
From a lifelong fascination of digital worlds and 3D graphics from playing video games a boy, Alexis became frustrated with the lack of modern aesthetics represented therein. The images he creates are a simple extension of this desire to see fantastic spaces come to life that echo a more modern and clean aesthetic.
In search of a replacement for his lost Hermès agenda, Brigitte Benkemoun’s husband buys a vintage diary on eBay. When it arrives, she opens it and finds inside private notes dating back to 1951—twenty pages of phone numbers and addresses for Balthus, Brassaï, André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, Leonor Fini, Jacqueline Lamba, and other artistic luminaries of the European avant-garde.
After realizing that the address book belonged to Dora Maar—Picasso’s famous “Weeping Woman” and a brilliant artist in her own right—Benkemoun embarks on a two-year voyage of discovery to learn more about this provocative, passionate, and enigmatic woman, and the role that each of these figures played in her life.
Longlisted for the prestigious literary award Prix Renaudot, Finding Dora Maar is a fascinating and breathtaking portrait of the artist.
Brigitte Benkemoun is a journalist and writer. She is the author of La petite fille sur la photo (2012) and Albert le Magnifique (2016). Jody Gladding is a poet and translator. She has translated some thirty books from French, including, most recently, Roland Barthes’s Album: Unpublished Correspondence and Texts (2018), Michel Pastoureau’s Yellow: The History of a Color (2019), and Jean Giono’s Occupation Journal (2020).