The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine – review

Lindsey Fitzharris’s story of Lister’s battle to introduce hygiene to the operating theatre makes compelling reading

Armed with surgical instruments, chloroform and his sterilising spray, Joseph Lister was ready for action. It was 1871 and the eminent surgeon was about to tackle an enormous abscess that, left unchecked, could prove fatal.

There was one further complication: the patient was the Queen. It was a crucial operation – not just for Victoria, but the practice of surgery itself. Radical change was afoot, at its heart the substance Lister was about to use on the monarch: carbolic acid.

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Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong by Angela Saini – review

A new study suggests that science is rewriting the old theories that ‘explain’ why women are best suited to housework and men are natural philanderers When Theresa May declared that there are “boy jobs and girl jobs” in her house, the backlash was immediate: “#everydaysexism from the top”, tweeted Sasha Scambler, a sociologist from King’s College, London. While the suggestion that taking out the bins is the preserve of one sex is patently absurd, the furore prodded at something more profound – and controversial. With some people eager to label not only household chores, but toys, jobs, behaviour and desires as “pink” or “blue”, scientists have long been probing the question of how different men and women really are. Continue reading...

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong by Angela Saini – review

A new study suggests that science is rewriting the old theories that ‘explain’ why women are best suited to housework and men are natural philanderers When Theresa May declared that there are “boy jobs and girl jobs” in her house, the backlash was immediate: “#everydaysexism from the top”, tweeted Sasha Scambler, a sociologist from King’s College, London. While the suggestion that taking out the bins is the preserve of one sex is patently absurd, the furore prodded at something more profound – and controversial. With some people eager to label not only household chores, but toys, jobs, behaviour and desires as “pink” or “blue”, scientists have long been probing the question of how different men and women really are. Continue reading...

Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence review – beyond food

These tricks of the scientist’s trade conjure up a feast for the sensesCharles Spence is not afraid of stirring things up. “The pleasures of the table reside in the mind, not the mouth,” he writes, no doubt triggering much gnashing of teeth from cookbook writers the world over. In fact, while Gastrophysics is about cracking the conundrum of the perfect meal, it has almost nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of cuisine. Instead, this is the science of the “everything else”, a blending of gastronomy and psychophysics to probe the myriad, seemingly peripheral, ingredients that influence our perception of flavour, steer our culinary choices and make all the difference between a memorable meal and one to be forgotten. Continue reading...

Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence review – beyond food

These tricks of the scientist’s trade conjure up a feast for the sensesCharles Spence is not afraid of stirring things up. “The pleasures of the table reside in the mind, not the mouth,” he writes, no doubt triggering much gnashing of teeth from cookbook writers the world over. In fact, while Gastrophysics is about cracking the conundrum of the perfect meal, it has almost nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of cuisine. Instead, this is the science of the “everything else”, a blending of gastronomy and psychophysics to probe the myriad, seemingly peripheral, ingredients that influence our perception of flavour, steer our culinary choices and make all the difference between a memorable meal and one to be forgotten. Continue reading...

Time Travel: A History by James Gleick review – from mechanical to mental

This roving study of our enduring fascination with time travel covers well trodden ground but finds the concept constantly evolving Are we trapped in the present, free to move in space yet unable to travel in the fourth dimension? Or is there a chance, a glimmer of a possibility, that the past and future could unfurl to our physical experience at will? Despite the punchline being apparent from the off – lest we forget, such journeys are impossible – James Gleick’s latest offering sets out to question the questions, probing how the idea of time travel emerged, gripped our imaginations and shaped our society. Our relationship with the slippery concept of time is far from static: technology continues to shape our view, even now Continue reading...

The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel – review

The bestselling author of Longitude tells the fascinating story of a brilliant all-female team who helped to redraw the universe – and a woman’s place in it Just over a century ago, in the Harvard College Observatory, a team of star-hunters turned their eyes to a new view of the heavens – an unprecedented collection of glass photographic plates, each capturing a rash of light from the skies, many of the faint pinpricks never before seen by the human eye. It was the start of a painstaking scientific endeavour that was to reshape our understanding of the cosmos – from the discovery of stars that orbit each other like wary dogs, to a grasp of the breathtaking vastness of the universe. Continue reading...