Jonathan Barrington

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Is this the end of Britishness?

A shared history of 300 years could be washed away if Scotland votes for independence. What was the complex identity the United Kingdom created – and should we mourn its loss?<p>In 1951, a little-known Bengali journalist, already well into middle age and staring failure in the face, published a book …

The myth of religious violence

The popular belief that religion is the cause of the world’s bloodiest conflicts is central to our modern conviction that faith and politics should never mix. But the messy history of their separation suggests it was never so simple<p>As we watch the fighters of the Islamic State (Isis) rampaging …

Jonathan Powell: How to talk to terrorists

Terrorism can never be defeated by military means alone. But how do you go about negotiating with people who have blood on their hands? Britain’s chief broker of the Northern Ireland peace deal explains how it can – and must – be done (for a start, always shake hands)<p>In 1919, the British government …

The western model is broken

The west has lost the power to shape the world in its own image – as recent events, from Ukraine to Iraq, make all too clear. So why does it still preach the pernicious myth that every society must evolve along western lines?<p>“So far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the western model,” …

Nightmare at the Picasso Museum

The greatest museum of Picasso’s works has been engulfed by scandal and crisis. Closed for the past five years, it is finally ready to reopen its doors to the public. But has the bitter struggle for Picasso’s legacy been resolved?<p>• The Picasso Museum – in pictures<p>On 30 June 1972 Pablo Picasso …

The truth about evil

Our leaders talk a great deal about vanquishing the forces of evil. But their rhetoric reveals a failure to accept that cruelty and conflict are basic human traits<p>When Barack Obama vows to destroy Isis’s “brand of evil” and David Cameron declares that Isis is an “evil organisation” that must be …

How the England football team came to embody Englishness

England fans were once branded hooligans and identified with the far right. So howhave the team and its supporters become the sole representation of English nationhood?<p>Lisbon, 2004. A quiet crowd is gathering on the platform of the sparkling Lisbon metro. We are waiting for the train that will take …

How insects could feed the world

Is eating bugs the solution to feeding the world’s growing population of human beings and livestock? Emily Anthes chews on locusts, beetles, mealworms and more as she tries to find out<p>At first, my meal seems familiar, like countless other dishes I’ve eaten at Asian restaurants. A swirl of noodles …

Christopher Nolan: the man who rebooted the blockbuster

He is one of the few directors who can walk into a Hollywood studio with an idea and come out with $200m. So will Nolan’s latest epic, Interstellar, reinforce his reputation asthe auteur who thinks big?<p>In early spring of 2013, Christopher Nolan and his crew were scouting for locations in Iceland – …

Julia Gillard’s delusions of gender bias

In the township of Camden, on the fringe of Sydney’s suburban flatlands, there are four pubs: the Crown, the Camden, the Merino and the Plough and …

Julia Gillard

The Secret Formula for Right-Wing Republicans: Appear Moderate

For all Mitt Romney's aloofness and bumbling inauthenticity, he had one quality that served him well as a presidential candidate: He looked like a …

'Realism Is a Figure of Speech'

Ernest Hemingway's matter-of-fact style taught author Vikram Chandra to find sublime in the ordinary, and depth in deceptively flat prose.<p><b>By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature.</b> <b>See entries from Claire Messud, Jonathan Franzen, Amy Tan,</b> …

What Does 'Islamophobia' Actually Mean?

A brief history of a provocative word<p>When I recently asked Sam Harris what he thought of the word 'Islamophobia,' he directed me to a tweet that noted the following: “Islamophobia. A word created by fascists, & used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”<p>“I don’t think [the tweet] overstates the case by …

Near-death experiences may not be hallucinations after all

A new study finds that we can retain consciousness for minutes after our hearts have stopped beating<p>Floating out of your body, seeing a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel—these common recollections have long been regarded in scientific circles as hallucinations or illusions of the mind that …

Robert Reich: The Ivy League is ripping off America!

Exclusive universities with giant endowments get big handouts from the government. And public colleges? Not so much<p>Imagine a system of college education supported by high and growing government spending on elite private universities that mainly educate children of the wealthy and upper-middle …

Do we really want to use predictive policing to stop crime? – Henrick Karoliszyn

When a troubled young man named Adam Lanza stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School and slaughtered 20 first-graders and six teachers in a small …

The U.S. Won't Say What Its Secret Space Drone Did for Two Years

Experts say the highly classified plane—which returns to Earth today—could be testing spacecraft longevity or developing anti-satellite weapons.<p>America’s top-secret space drone is coming home today after a record 22 months in orbit—and we have no idea how it spent its time up there.<p>The X-37B, made …

Lone Geniuses Are Overrated

In a very optimistic book published at a very pessimistic moment, Walter Isaacson explains how a group of oddballs and savants collaborated to create the world we live in today.<p>Somewhat to my surprise, Walter Isaacson’s new book, <i>The Innovators</i>, a group portrait of the men and women who invented …

A Portrait of the Whistleblower as a Young Man

Laura Poitras's new documentary captures the moment when Edward Snowden told the world that the NSA was watching.<p>The world will never see Mark Felt's body language as he told Bob Woodward about the Nixon administration's illegal behavior or hear the timbre of Daniel Ellsberg's voice when he handed …

China’s Dangerous Game

The country's intensifying efforts to redraw maritime borders have its neighbors, and the U.S., fearing war. But does the aggression reflect a government growing in power—or one facing a crisis of legitimacy?<p>In the tranquil harbors that dot the coastline of Palawan, a sword-shaped island in the …

Why Nigeria Was Able to Beat Ebola, but Not Boko Haram

Six months after 276 girls were kidnapped, President Goodluck Jonathan hasn't been able to bring them back. So why was the country so effective in combating Ebola?<p>For Nigeria’s embattled government, October 20 is a date worth circling on the calendar: That day will mark 42 days since Nigeria’s last …

The On-Again, Off-Again Catalonian Independence Vote

After pushback from the Spanish government, the leader of Catalonia's independence movement has decided to move forward with a "non-binding" vote.<p>Catalonia was set to hold a formal referendum on November 9 to decide if the northern region would part with Spain. Independence, however, will not be …

Asteroid Mining Could Become a Reality in Our Lifetimes. Is It Even Legal?

There’s gold in them thar skies, or at least some platinum and a substantial amount of water, according to hopeful space prospectors. Over the past …

The idea of ISIS: The history and future of the Islamic State.

The first thing we're going to have to realize in any discussion on ISIS is that, despite the media hysteria, they are not a cyborg army of super …

Images and Interests at War

On the very day of 9/11, one of the wisest men I’ve known said that the choice it would present for us would be between experiencing the attack as an imagery and experiencing it as an injury. If you allowed it to become imagery, running on perpetual loop in your mind (the planes exploding, the …

The Planning Machine

Project Cybersyn and the origins of the Big Data nation.<p>In June, 1972, Ángel Parra, Chile’s leading folksinger, wrote a song titled “Litany for a Computer and a Baby About to Be Born.” Computers are like children, he sang, and Chilean bureaucrats must not abandon them. The song was prompted by a …

The Empire of Edge

How a doctor, a trader, and the billionaire Steven A. Cohen got entangled in a vast financial scandal.<p>As Dr. Sid Gilman approached the stage, the hotel ballroom quieted with anticipation. It was July 29, 2008, and a thousand people had gathered in Chicago for the International Conference on …

The Limits of Friendship

Robin Dunbar came up with his eponymous number almost by accident. The University of Oxford anthropologist and psychologist (then at University College London) was trying to solve the problem of why primates devote so much time and effort to grooming. In the process of figuring out the solution, he …