Following Galileo’s discoveries, a rugged, cratered moon is depicted (with papal approval) by Ludovico Cigoli in his ‘Assumption of the Virgin in the Pauline Chapel’

Moving heaven and earth: Galileo’s subversive spyglass

We live in an age of astronomical marvels. Last year Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft made a daring rendezvous with the comet…

Florence Maybrick and husband James Maybrick, once thought to have been Jack the Ripper Photo: Getty

On the trail of a Victorian femme fatale

Kate Colquhoun sets herself a number of significant challenges in her compelling new book, Did She Kill Him? Like Kate…

human beehive edit

E.O. Wilson has a new explanation for consciousness, art & religion. Is it credible?

His publishers describe this ‘ground-breaking book on evolution’ by ‘the most celebrated living heir to Darwin’ as ‘the summa work…

Is there geological evidence for Noah’s Flood — and if so, was it a local or  world-wide catastrophe?

The Rocks Don’t Lie, by David R. Montgomery - review

James McConnachie finds that theology and geology have been unlikely bedfellows for centuries

Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in Hyde Park incorporated within its structure several magnificent elms — a tree that has now all but vanished from Britain

The Man Who Plants Trees, by Jim Robbins - review

Remember the ‘Plant a Tree in ’73’ campaign? Forty years on, has anyone inquired into what happened to all those…

The Cleansing of Naaman by Elisha. Woodcut from the Biblia Sacra Germanaica

The Serpent’s Promise, by Steve Jones - review

The weight of bacteria that each of us carries around is equal to that of our brain, a kilogram of…

Two Hunting Dogs by Jacopo Bassano (1510-92)

What dogs know about us

In Aesop’s fable of the Dog and the Wolf, the latter declares that it is better to starve free than…


A gruesome sort

Everybody knows that the heart pumps blood around the body, and that a man called William Harvey somehow discovered this…


His dark materials

Like the dyslexic Faustus who sold his soul to Santa, the life of John Dee was a black comedy of…


Robot on the loose

In December 2005, a passenger on an early-morning flight from Dallas to Las Vegas fell asleep. Woken by a steward…

More big questions

There is something rather odd about the current state of science. The funding for its prestigious institutions and mega projects…

Quirky Books: Treasure-troves of trivia

Connoisseurs of the Christmas gift book market — we are a select group, with little otherwise to occupy our time…


The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard

With all the advances of science, we may be no nearer to understanding ourselves than before, says Anthony Daniels — but we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility outright

Speak, Memory

One day, the American journalist Joshua Foer is surfing the net, trying to find the answer to a specific question: who is the most intelligent person in the world? He can’t find a definitive answer.

The mind’s I

The quasi-religious zeal with which certain popularising neuroscientists claim that man is no different, essentially, from the animals, and that consciousness is but an epiphenomenon, strikes me as distinctly odd.

The nature of evil

Simon Baron-Cohen has spent 30 years researching the way our brains work.


Massacre of the innocents

‘La justice flétrit, la prison corrompt et la société a les criminels qu’elle mérite’ — Justice withers, prison corrupts, and society gets the criminals it deserves.

Care or cure?

Cancer is usually associated with death.

Perchance to dream

This book reads like an interesting after- dinner conversation between intelligent friends.


Learning to listen

How Music Works opens with a blizzard of reassurances.


A plague of infinities

Stephen Hawking is the most distinguished living physicist, who despite the catastrophe of motor neurone disease has been twice married, is a bestselling author and a media super-star.


In and out of every dive

Robert Coover’s Noir is a graphic novel.

Faith under fire

Giles St Aubyn, in this long, scholarly book, sets out to chronicle the shifts in the Christian churches from the scientific revolution of the 17th century, and the Enlightenment of the 18th, to the apparent triumph of secularism in the 20th.


A cosmic comedy

Not long ago I had an email from a friend, wondering if I’d yet read the new Ian McEwan.


Array of luminaries

In November 1660, on a damp night at Gresham College in London, a young shaver named Christopher Wren gave a lecture on astronomy.