I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Science / Human Sciences

Time to Listen

Mental function is immensely complicated and our understanding of it still in its relative infancy; in Ireland our first psychiatric institutions date back only to the early eighteenth century. Could it be that it is the human brain or mind, and not space, that is the final frontier?

A Postmodern Disease

Up to 1 per cent of the population may have coeliac disease but many more have self-diagnosed themselves as gluten-sensitive. Is gluten sensitivity based on any scientific evidence or is it the product of a misalliance between academic medicine and commerce?

There Shall Be Blood

Mentions of blood across the millennia are cited in a new medical history and the role of the microscope in the study of blood is recounted from the discovery of the lens itself through to early developments in its manufacture.

Webs of Meaning

We manage our existence largely by conferring meaning on the world around us. World views play a significant role in motivating humans to engage in purposeful actions and our beliefs and dispositions have a shaping role in the constitution of society, broadly defined.

The Great Dying

In the eighty-million-year time span from the mid-Permian to the mid-Jurassic periods, two massive extinctions occurred, as well as four of lesser magnitude. In the biggest of these, 250 million years ago, ninety-five per cent of existing plant and animal life perished.

Doing The Locomotion

Dubliner Dionysius Lardner couldn’t wangle a job at Trinity despite his remarkable gifts of clarity and exposition, but he was nevertheless a successful publisher in England and criss-crossed America, addressing huge audiences as one of the great scientific popularisers of his era.

Dum Spiro Spero

Many patients with a debilitating terminal disease might, one would think, be glad to hear their time is short. Still, ignoring the statistics, oncologists will offer ‘hope’ and more treatment. Why, asks the old doctors’ joke, do coffins have nails? To keep the oncologists out.

Towards the Light

A diagnosis of schizophrenia was once regarded as ‘the kiss of death’. However we now know that with effective and multiple interventions people with even the most acute condition can make a significant recovery and contribute to their community as valued citizens.

A Little Lost

When the first rough draft of the human genome was sequenced in 2000, President Clinton announced: ‘Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by human kind.’ Now it seems that the difficulties that lay ahead were underestimated.

Leading on Climate Change

The outlook after the COP21 summit is certainly better than after Copenhagen in 2009. But there is still a mismatch between the EU’s declaration of climate leadership and the resources it devotes to exercising that with the huge states of China and India.