AS A research methodology, it would not pass muster nowadays; but, in the early 19th century, it was by counting the empty pews in rural churches that William Cobbett became convinced of the threat of depopulation in England
IF LEGEND is to be believed, the early designs for spacecraft for manned lunar expeditions had just two buttons for the astronauts to press: “Take me to the moon,” and “Bring me back.” So nervous were the scientists that their expensive machines might be trashed by bungling humans that all decision-making was delegated to computers
TO THE chair of tourism, it is “the heart of the North Wessex Downs”. To those under the age of 40, it is an innocuous Berkshire market town. But to those of us of a certain age, Hungerford is something more: the town that, in our historical imaginations, was the site of the first mass killing of innocents by a gun-wielding crazy: the proto-massacre
LIBERAL anger is becoming a bore. Self-reinforcing, all this angst about Donald Trump is so last week. Get over it, and enjoy the ride
WOULD you baptise an extra-terrestrial? It is not a question that I imagine the clergy concern themselves with, but somebody has to consider these daunting questions, and that person is Steven J. Dick, the American astro-biologist asked by NASA to devise protocols for engagement with alien life-forms: everything from quarantine procedures to care of the immortal soul
THE post-Christmas season has, for centuries, been a topsy-turvy time. The Roman Saturnalia, the tradition of boy bishops in medieval cathedrals, and lords of misrule in Renaissance courts — all enacted a conceit in which the world was temporarily turned upside down
CHRISTMAS can look after itself; but what of the feast days that get “buried under the pine needles”? The phrase was Tim Montgomerie’s, who, in Slaughter of the Innocents (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week), made an appeal for greater recognition of the feast, which, more than any other, has in its favour the benefit of unavoidable contemporary resonance
THE futurologists got it wrong. We all got it wrong. When, almost a year ago, the BBC’s correspondents gathered to predict the main events of 2016 (in Correspondents Look Ahead, Radio 4, January), the worst that they could foresee was falling house-prices. Perhaps that is because, as we have ...
WHEN a couple divorce, the altar weeps. So it is said among the Orthodox Jewish Haredis. But, as Faith or Family (Radio 4, Tuesday of last week) revealed, that is not the half of it. Intimidation and stalking might also be the result if you get on the wrong side of the community.
In this documen...
THE internet can be a sinister place. That much we knew even before the post-Truth era descended like a pea-souper on our consciousness
IN HIS last book, Apocalypse, D. H. Lawrence writes of the “oriental” mind-set “whose image-thinking often followed no plan whatsoever . . . flitting from image to image with no essential connection at all”. It is the mind-set of the Psalmist, and of whoever was responsible for the book of Revelation