A reading list to expand your mind


Source: BBC

David Robson – Writer

My pick: How your eyes trick your mind

It’s been a privilege to see my stories appear alongside the work of some really talented writers this year. Tom Stafford’sNeurohacks column, and Rachel Nuwer’s Last Place on Earth, are consistently brilliant. I also enjoyed Howard Timberlake’s entertaining history of ghost photography, complete with some spine-chilling pictures. But my favourite article has to be Melissa Hogenboom’s “How your eyes trick your mind“, in which she skilfully guides us through the mind-bending science of visual illusions. Almost a year later, I still find myself revisiting the article to gawp at the deceptive images and remind myself of the fragility of human perception.

(Credit: Olivia Howitt)

William Park – Social Media

My pick: The people who drink human blood

While your immediate reaction to this story might be shock or horror, I really enjoyed reading about the people who drink human blood for the glimpse it offered into their strange lives and their attempts to justify their behaviour.

These people – “medical sanguinarians” – claim that drinking blood helps with a whole range of medical complaints. While it’s unlikely that blood has many medical benefits, I think this story highlights how strongly the placebo effect can affect some people; and while it might be strange to us, if it provides these people with relief from their ailments then maybe blood drinking is a good thing.

This piece was also a lovely collaboration between Olivia, with the pictures, and David who researched and wrote it. I think this is the sort of article that BBC Future does best.

(Credit: Olivia Howitt)

Olivia Howitt – Pictures and Art

My pick: Is another human living inside you?

A freakishly fascinating story that investigates the alien world of the human body. I believed that we are made up of our parents’ genes, and had never considered the idea that we could be influenced by many other organisms. “Microbes in your gut can produce neurotransmitters that alter your mood; some scientists have even proposed that the microbes may sway your appetite, so that you crave their favourite food.” A great excuse for those days when I fancy eating junk – it’s not me, it’s the microbes.

(Credit: Olivia Howitt)

Adam Proctor – Multimedia Producer

My pick: The network that runs the world

Tim Maughan explores the complex network that impacts on almost every aspect of our everyday existence. In doing so he takes us on an intriguing journey from the hypnotic ballet of port-side machinery to the corridors of the mighty cargo ships.

The article paints a striking image of the colossal engineering and unfathomable algorithms that underpin global logistics, but what really stands out for me are the descriptions of the people that inhabit this strange hinterland: for example, the Indian, Filipino and Chinese crew members (often paid a fraction of what Western officers and staff earn) searching for Wi-Fi signals so they might connect with loved ones back home. Or then there’s the ship’s captain receiving emails from the company servers directing them to change speed and route.

There are also altogether more disturbing images of the treatment of stowaways, more akin to seafaring tales from the golden age of sail. Seafaring may have changed with the digital revolution, but people haven’t.

(Credit: Olivia Howitt)

Stephen Dowling – Associate Editor

My pick: Back-up brains: The era of digital immortality

Our digital lives will outlast us, our social media accounts offering an ever-lasting avatar which never greys or wrinkles. But these are a two-dimensional account, as limited a way of expressing the fullness of our lives as a faded letter. Simon Parkin’s investigation into the work being done to create a digital archive of our memories is framed around the death of his grandmother and of the memories she had slaved a lifetime to keep. It’s as much about the radioactive half-life of art and friendships and family stories as it is the technology which may keep our memories alive for future generations. And it’s a story which gives until the very last line, and which I still think about nearly a year later.

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