“Some only appear crazy. Others are as mad as a bag of cats.”

unnamed

“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.

 

Achievement, naivety and dread

fofvzlpx

“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

Fitbitters of the world, unite!

2560

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

Talk, 25 September: Stalin and his scientists visit Hampstead

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.

!19 fly lovers cartoon

Tickets are £10 from JW3, the London Jewish Cultural Centre. Part of the Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival 2016