Simon Ings

The musical note that can trigger cold sweats and sightings of the dead

30 April 2022 9:00 am

Imagine that all the frequencies nature affords were laid out on an extended piano keyboard. Never mind that some waves…

All successful spies need to be good actors

18 December 2021 9:00 am

On 2 October last year, when he became chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6, if you prefer), Richard…

The great disrupter: how William of Occam overturned medieval thought

28 August 2021 9:00 am

Astonishing where an idea can lead you. You start with something that 800 years hence will sound like it’s being…

Waiting for Gödel is over: the reclusive genius emerges from the shadows

29 May 2021 9:00 am

The 20th-century Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel did his level best to live in the world as his philosophical hero Gottfried…

Stephen Hawking: the myth and the reality

1 May 2021 9:00 am

I could never muster much enthusiasm for the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. His work, on the early universe and the…

Christiaan Huygens – hero of time and space

19 December 2020 9:00 am

This book, soaked like the Dutch Republic itself ‘in ink and paint’, is enchanting to the point of escapism. The…

Things mankind was not supposed to know — the dark side of science

14 November 2020 9:00 am

One day someone is going to have to write the definitive study of Wikipedia’s influence on letters. What, after all,…

How time vanishes: the more we study it, the more protean it seems

27 June 2020 9:00 am

Some books elucidate their subject, mapping and sharpening its boundaries. The Clock Mirage, by the mathematician Joseph Mazur, is not…

Taxonomy reaches celebrity heights

16 May 2020 9:00 am

Heteropoda davidbowie is a species of huntsman spider. Though rare, it has been found in parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia…

The trade in cadavers is rife with scandal

11 April 2020 9:00 am

John Troyer, the director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath, has moves. You can…

Master of disguise: the British genius who concealed whole Allied battle lines

21 March 2020 9:00 am

Early one morning in October 1874 a barge carrying three barrels of benzoline and five tons of gunpowder blew up…

The history, power and beauty of infographics

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

on the history, power and beauty of infographics

Believing in big data is equivalent to believing in the stars

18 January 2020 9:00 am

Look up at the sky on a clear night. This is not an astrological game. (Indeed, the experiment’s more impressive…

Who knew that chemistry could be so entertaining?

14 December 2019 9:00 am

Here’s how the element antimony got its name. Once upon a time (according to the 17th-century apothecary Pierre Pomet), a…

Hatsune Miku went on her first tour in 2016

Can computers compose?

3 August 2019 9:00 am

In 1871, the polymath and computer pioneer Charles Babbage died at his home in Marylebone. The encyclopaedias have it that…

‘Telepainting’, 1964, by Takis

Full of wonders: Takis at Tate Modern reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Steel flowers bend in a ‘breeze’ generated by magnetic pendulums. This is the first thing you see as you enter…

Plastic fantastic: British Industried Fair, 1948

How plastic saved the elephant and tortoise

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Plastics — even venerable, historically eloquent plastics — hardly draw the eye. As this show’s insightful accompanying publication (a snip…

The only thing that baffled Einstein was his own popularity

11 May 2019 9:00 am

On 6 November 1919, at a joint meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society, held at London’s…

James Clerk Maxwell: funny, flippant and charming, with an extraordinarily fertile mechanical imagination

The powerful magnetism of James Clerk Maxwell

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Chances are, you are reading these words in some room or other. Build a wall down the middle of it,…

Tibetan thanka representing the dakini Princess Mandaravna

The Tibetan Passion Book puts the Kama Sutra in the shade

9 June 2018 9:00 am

The Tibetan artist and poet Gendun Chopel was born in 1903. He was identified as an incarnate lama, and ordained…

Inhuman face: relying on robots to entertain or care for us could leave humans too vulnerable

What will it mean for mankind when robots start caring for us?

3 February 2018 9:00 am

‘I gotta be me,’ Sammy Davis Jr. croons as the android Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) steadies her horse, stands…

Help over the hump

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Losing our way in life’s trackless forest, whither should we turn for solace and advice? Wisdom used to be the…

Finger counting from 1 to 20,000. From De Numeris by Rabanus Maurus. (Carolingian school, 9th century)

The magic of maths

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s odd, when you think about it, that mathematics ever got going. We have no innate genius for numbers. Drop…