Recent Essays

A make-believe nation
Indonesia was brought together by Dutch commercial interests and wilful founding fathers. Can the glue hold as political decentralisation spotlights its dazzling diversity?
Prospect Magazine – June 2012

An end to polio?
The drive to eradicate polio has gone into top gear. But will it really be possible to send polio the way of smallpox? And even if it is, is it worth doing?
Prospect Magazine – March 2011. pdf here

Has the Internet Changed Science?
A look at how science is changing in the petabyte age. For all the talk of the end of scientific method, the essay concludes that not all that much has changed since the seventeenth century, when scientists complained of the data deluge, and when British commentators scraped data sets to show that England’s health service was far better than France’s.
Prospect Magazine – December 2010. pdf here

Tilting at windmills and the evidence base on injecting drug use
“But there’s another body of evidence, just as overwhelming. It shows, time after time, that elected politicians don’t give a damn about scientific evidence when it comes to policies that benefit a minority that holds little sway over other voters.”
Published in The Lancet, Volume 376, Issue 9737, Pages 226 – 227, 24 July 2010

Chinese Whispers
“Twenty years after Tiananmen Square, a journalist puts her experiences under the microscope”
Published in Granta Magazine 105 “Lost and Found” (Spring 2009) (.PDF – 205k)

No Laughing Matter
“As a third world doctor, I thought I’d seen it all. Until I signed up for a British medical survey”
Prospect Magazine – 26th April 2009 — Issue 157

The plague is over, let’s party
“An HIV diagnosis in Britain is no longer a death sentence—thanks to costly new drugs. But as the spectre of death fades, so do the most visible reasons to avoid risky behaviour. Now the Aids prevention industry has a whole new set of problems”
Published in Prospect Magazine – 29th June 2008 – Issue 147