Author Archives: Rhys

Whales’ Legs, Flies’ Eyes and Human Tails

German scientist Ernst Haeckel made many contributions to the sum of human knowledge. He described thousands of species, coined scientific terms such as ecology and stem cell and made one of the first serious attempts to construct a tree of … Continue reading

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The Immunology of Bats

A few years ago I suffered a needle-stick injury at work. The needle was attached to a syringe containing Nipah virus. I spent the next two weeks alone in a quarantine unit, watching DVDs and checking my temperature regularly. My … Continue reading

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Tree Lobsters and Other Lazarus Species

In 1918, the S.S. Makambo ran aground on Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. It took nine days to repair and refloat the ship and when it sailed away, it left behind some of its non-paying passengers. Black rats … Continue reading

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The War Magician

Susanna Clarke’s 2004 novel Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell is set in an alternate Georgian-era Britain at a time when magic has fallen into disuse. The two eponymous characters resurrect the art, becoming the first practising magicians in centuries, and … Continue reading

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Operation GARBO

Juan Pujol was, like Eddie Chapman, a British double agent during the Second World War but was his antithesis in almost every other respect. Unlike the flamboyant, womanising former criminal Chapman, Pujol was an unassuming, bespectacled businessman and a loyal … Continue reading

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Agent ZIG-ZAG

Double-agents, spies ostensibly acting for one intelligence organisation while in fact working for the enemy, place themselves in a highly vulnerable position. They need to not only provide a credible service to their cover organisation, they must also continually prove … Continue reading

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The Windows to the Soul Part 2: Colour Vision

In 1844, the founder of modern chemistry John Dalton, died. By his own request, his eyes were removed at autopsy and the vitreous humour examined. Fifty years earlier, Dalton had provided one of the first accounts of colour blindness based … Continue reading

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