The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, February 19th 2014

    Another transformation in India
    Re: Camcorders for justice (pictured)
    This article about the Flip camera highlighted how a simple tool can bring about real change in the lives of many. I was interested because I am aware of another transformation in India. Twenty years ago a handful of yogis set up an ashram in the small hamlet of Rikhia, in Jharkhand. Now part of the Bihar School of Yoga, the ashram attracts thousands of visitors each year and has helped bring the local Santali tribe into the modern era. Schools have opened, water and electricity have been supplied and there is a resident doctor. Young women in particular are benefiting—previously the lowliest and least cared for in this society, many now lead programmes in English. But the question remains: how can more people be inspired to look beyond their own lives to transform the lives of others?
    Barbara Pidgeon

    read more » LettersReader comments

    ~ Posted by Hope Whitmore, February 14th 2014

    Brown patches stain the chart, as though from tea leaves, but the writing remains legible. The "Bills of Mortality”, also known as "The Table of Casualties", were weekly lists of the causes of death in London from 1647 to 1659. This sombre document is one of the earliest to appear in "Beautiful Science", a new exhibition at the British Library, which opens on February 20th. Some of the causes of death seem quaint to a modern reader—people died from "fainting in bath" or "The King’s Evil"—but the chart also shows high infant mortality and people dying as "lunatiques". Scanning these columns, it's possible to see at a glance what was killing people and when: in 1660, for instance, 3,414 died from consumption and nine people died of fright.

    read more » ExhibitionshealthHISTORYmapsSCIENCE

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, February 13th 2014

    If you've ever found yourself lying on a gurney in a mountain hospital—and maybe even if you haven't—watching the Winter Olympics is not an entirely comfortable experience. The danger level, compared with the summer games, is high: most of the activities involved would be excluded from the average insurance policy. If you fall over when you're sprinting round a track, you might injure yourself, or break a bone, but it's unlikely to be fatal. If you fall over doing 60mph on the ski slope, it just could be—there's a reason for the expression "breakneck speed". To me, watching the winter games feels like sitting beside a motorway to see if an accident happens, only more so.

    read more » healtholympicsRebecca WillisRussiaSPORTS

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, February 12th 2014

    To get into the Houses of Parliament in London, you have to schlep through airport-style security. It gives you time to see the real impact of occasional terrorism, which inflicts terror for a day or two, and tedium for years.

    About a hundred people trooped through at breakfast time this morning and went to the House of Lords for the launch of Prospering Wisely by the British Academy. It’s hard to say exactly what this is; the Academy, less than inspiringly, labels it "a multimedia publication". In fact, it’s a campaign, a series of debates, a video, a website, a booklet—and a call to arms.

    The brains behind it, led by the Academy’s president, the economist and climate-change guru Lord [Nicholas] Stern (above), want to show that prosperity is about more than just money. And that education is about more than collecting job qualifications.

    read more » cultureeconomyEDUCATIONthe artsTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, February 12th 2014

    Since the invention of the wheel humans have been finding new ways to journey faster and further. Whether for practicality or pleasure, we all need to get from A to B. For our last Big Question, we asked six writers to choose the best way to travel, and then asked readers to vote in our online poll.

    read more » Big QuestionLucy FarmertransportTravel

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, February 11th 2014

    A good magazine cover engages hearts and minds. But this is the first time we have tried to do it by making you wince. It was said of a famous scene in "Goldfinger" that if viewers didn't recoil when they saw the laser heading for Sean Connery's crotch, you could be fairly sure they were from another planet. Similarly with our cover star, who has been on the office wall for a few weeks. As people look at him, you can see them flinch as they think about what it must be like to get a tattoo on your scalp, and to love your football club so fiercely that you want that tattoo to be their crest. When the man went into the tattoo parlour, we like to think he came out with the Portuguese version of one of the oldest requests in the game: "On me 'ead, son."

    read more » BrazilFootballMarch/April 2014SPORTTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, February 6th 2014

    It's all the rage. Lorde says she's a feminist. Lady Gaga has admitted to being "a little bit of a feminist"; Miley Cyrus is "one of the biggest feminists in the world." A recent Lily Allen music video styles itself a feminist anthem. Both Beyoncé and Katy Perry have shied away from actually endorsing feminism but recently they've recorded songs—like "Flawless" and "Roar", respectively—that show where their loyalties lie. And now, Kathleen Hanna, the standard-bearer of punk feminism, is making her comeback. 

    read more » activismAmerican musicCharlie McCannfeminismpunkRock

    ~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, February 5th 2014

    Before yesterday, I had always thought of the scooter as the province of the urban child who couldn't be bothered to walk. I live in rural Wiltshire. My children have both received scooters as presents, but they are of little use on the rutted tracks outside our cottage. So they live inside, clogging up our cramped hallway.

    Until now. I knew there were going to be several days of tube strikes in London, so, with my bike out of action, I thought it was time to grab my son's scooter (a 13th-birthday present from an urban uncle) and jam it in the back of the car.

    read more » LondonSamantha Weinbergtransport

    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, February 5th 2014

    The first piece I wrote for Intelligent Life, in autumn 2007, was about a bunch of eco-bloggers. Seven years ago this month, a middle-aged New Yorker on Fifth Avenue had turned off the power supply to his apartment and set out to see if he could live for a year without making any net impact on the environment. He wasn't alone in attempting this as he had a wife and a two-year-old daughter; but he wasn't alone in other ways either. That very February, a young woman in Toronto was trying to take one green action a day—from banning all polystyrene to getting rid of her car—and each action she took had to stick. Another person was spending a year without using any plastic. And another had got rid of the freezer, and then the fridge. It was possible to follow each of these unusual adventures because the people involved were going online and chronicling their actions.

    read more » Australiaclimate changegreenNew YorkRobert ButlerTheatre

    ~ Posted by Sarah Woodberry, January 31st 2014

    This Sunday a 37-year-old makes his comeback in the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos quarterback, rose to fame during 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, winning the Super Bowl in 2006. His USP was that he could fire the ball up to 86 yards downfield with laser-like precision. But he had other qualities too: his boy-next-door demeanour and gift for poking fun at himself in goofy adverts endeared him to the fans. Whereas Roger Federer channels James Bond for Jura Coffee, Manning—with his receding hairline and affable smile—begs indifferent passers-by to give him a high-five for Mastercard. 

    read more » AmericaAmerican FootballSarah WoodberrySPORTSSuper Bowl