An Irish Man Interprets the World

A Story of Everyday Heroes

A little north of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, you’ll find the small Postman’s Park. Nestled beneath an unassuming wooden shelter, there is a wall with a series of 54 tiles. Each one carries at least one name, every name the name of a hero who laid down life to save another. Surprisingly, many are the names of children.

This is the Memorial to...

What is going on in this picture?

Can you make sense of this picture? It is April Fool’s Day, but the above image is taken naturally, and has had no computer-generated alteration…

Three questions:

What about the pool? It looks like this artist worked with a sculpted pool. Perhaps he created it, or perhaps he...

The Pain of Painlessness

Imagine having a condition which meant you are unable to feel pain. It sounds blissful.

Yet, for Steven and his brother, this was far from the case.[1] When he was 4-5 months old, he began chewing on his tongue as he was teething, unable to sense the pain this would usually...

GDP vs. Gross Domestic Happiness?

When did you last see a headline celebrating a growth in GDP as a major success for a country? A falling GDP is part of what it means to be in ‘recession’ – that dreaded word that has haunted Western economies for the past few years. If a recession is severe enough (if GDP falls more than 10%), it becomes labelled the even more ominous term,...

Why does an extra X chromosome make such a difference?

Sunday was International Women’s Day.  It adopted the strapline “Make it Happen”. It’s a clear statement that enough talking has been done – it’s time to ensure gender equality.   What is gender? When we’re born, whether we are male or female depends on whether we end up possessing a slightly different strand of DNA. If a...

Hinamatsuri Stand

Happy Hina-matsuri!

Yesterday was Hina-matsuri, otherwise known as “the Doll’s Festival”, in Japan. Families construct seven-tiered stands onto which they place Hina-ningyo: dolls made especially for the festival. They carefully arrange figurines representing the old Emperor and Empress and the imperial household. The display can even include lampstands, models of furniture and plants. The tradition...

Could you patent the sun? The Beginning of the End for Polio…

The 1952 polio epidemic killed 3,145 and paralysed 21,269 men, women and children in the US.  Two years later, on 23 February 1954, Virologist Jonas Salk brought a glimmer of hope to Pittsburgh.  On this day,  61 years ago, the first large-scale inoculations of children began today. Just over a year later, the vaccine was...

Happy Pie Day! Why pies have saved lives…

Today is National Pie Day in the USA. It’s not to be confused with the number Pi, or the film the Life of Pi, which focusses more on being stuck in a lifeboat with a tiger! It’s genuinely a day celebrating the symbolic, economic, and tasty qualities of pie! It’s sponsored by the American Pie Council (such an organisation does exist!), which...

Happy Old New Year…

Today would have been the date St Patrick, Jonathan Swift and William Shakespeare celebrated as New Year’s Day. You and I might say it’s the 14th January, but according to the Julian calendar, today is 1st January.

For some Orthodox Christian communities, yesterday was still 2014, and today begins 2015. the Julian calendar,...

Is this a distantly-related cousin?

Do we have the right to eradicate diseases?

180 years ago today, 7th January 1835, HMS Beagle dropped anchor on the Chonos Archipelago. Charles Darwin was on board. He would spend the next number of weeks conducting research. By November 1859, Darwin had published ‘On the Origin of Species’. His book transformed the study of the natural sciences.

Darwin’s central thesis argued that the...

Children of Cape Town

Celebrating Kaapse Klopse…

On 2nd January every year, the streets of Cape Town, South Africa, are filled with ecstatic crowds. It’s the Kaapse Klopse (‘Cape Clubs’) carnival, a time of joyful music, bright costumes, and unified community.

Kaapse Klopse has its roots in the regrettable days of slavery. Until the 1830s, slavery was common in South African society. Like us, the slaves celebrated...

Running out of soil?

Do we feed landfill sites better than the starving?

Did you see last Friday’s cartoon? The statistic is startling. The United Nations confirms that 12 million hectares of land useful farming land is lost each year.[1] That’s an area almost one and a half times the size of Ireland.

There are only 150 million km2 of land area in the entire world. 34% of that is hostile to vegetation and therefore...

Expensive Mocha...

Don’t spill that Mocha!

What could you buy with €1? Most places in Ireland wouldn’t even give you a glass of lemonade for this price, let alone a Mocha coffee! Yet for a quarter of India, a quarter of a billion people, this is the reality at good times. Spilling a Mocha coffee could signify starvation for half a week! How much do we really value fairness?

Any...

Ground-breaking research

World Soil Day: Ground-breaking Research

How are you celebrating “World Soil Day”? I suspect that, for most reading this blog, it wasn’t high on your agenda.

There is a global community of 60,000 scientists who dedicate their lives to the study of soil. They’re constantly questioning what the rest of us take for granted. For most of us,...

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody.”

– Mother Teresa

Carrying around the cure to AIDS?

Potential in your Pocket: Carrying around the cure to AIDS?

Today is World AIDS day. Whatever you do to count down to Christmas, spare a thought for countless HIV-positive individuals would give anything they owned to be cured in the next 24 days. AIDS is at present incurable, and severely weakens the immune system, making the victim open to a deadly cocktail of diseases and cancers that ordinarily the immune system prevents....

Nativity Scene

The most wonderful time of the year?

Today is Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day – It marks the beginning of a season which many will associate with growing anticipation, even impatience, for the coming of Christmas. Nostalgic Christmas songs send shivers down our spines. Violet or blue colours adorn trees and churches, representing a Royal coming. In a culture and...