Click the picture to listen.
“In her old age, Olga Lepeshinskaya became entranced by the mystical concept of the ‘vital substance’, and recruited her extended family to work in her ‘laboratory’, pounding beetroot seeds in a pestle to demonstrate that any part of the seed could germinate.”
Stalin’s more eccentric scientists are the subject of this blogpost for Faber & Faber.
“A modest biography that should have taken me a bit less than a year became a five-year behemoth that burned through three editors and which takes in more or less every major scientific advance and controversy in the Soviet Union from Russia’s failed liberal revolution of 1905 to Khrushchev’s removal in a bloodless coup in 1964. A book that nearly killed me. A book that — since by then I had actually got myself an honest job — I had to write on the bus. (The 521, to be exact.)”
Talking Stalinist science with Tom Hunter of the Arthur C Clarke Award
Drunk as we are on the illusion of personal control, we should remember that data trickles uphill toward the powerful, because they are the ones who can afford to exploit it. Today, for every worried-yet-well twentysomething fiddling with his Fitbit, there is a worker being cajoled by their employer into taking a medical test.
for The Guardian, 2 November 2016
Marcel Theroux and I are chatting about Soviet science and Stalinism at Pushkin House. This is where I first lectured (long before I had earned my licence) and without this opportunity to talk my ideas through, Stalin and the Scientists would never have got written. So it’s their fault.
It’s a ticketed event: details here
On Sunday 25 September at 1:00pm I’ll be speaking to writer Marcel Theroux about Stalin and the Scientists, and explaining how a handful of impoverished and underemployed graduates, professors and entrepreneurs, collectors and charlatans, bound themselves to a failing government to create a world superpower.