Science editor at UnHerd and freelance science writer. My second book, "How to Read Numbers", is out now.
Author: Tom Chivers
I'm a freelance science writer. Until January 2018 I was science writer for BuzzFeed UK; before that, I was a comment and features writer for the Telegraph, having joined in 2007. My first book, "The AI Does Not Hate You: Superintelligence, Rationality and the Race to Save the World", for Weidenfeld & Nicolson, is due to be published June 2019. Since leaving BuzzFeed, I've written for the Times, the Guardian, New Scientist, the i, the Telegraph, UnHerd, politics.co.uk, and elsewhere.
There’s no evidence that social media is to blame for an increase in teen deaths
There’s this trick that climate deniers used to use. They used to say “there’s been no warming since 1998”. And in a weird way they were right: looking at global atmospheric surface temperatures, none of the years that followed was as hot as 1998.
But they were cheating. They picked 1998 deliberately since it was an outlier – an El Niño year much hotter than the years around it. If you were, on the other hand, to measure from 1997 or 1999, then there were lots of much hotter years on record; and the clear trend was that later years, on average, were hotter than earlier ones. It was a wobbly, noisy line, with some outliers, but the average temperature really was going up, and the only way you could hide that trend was by cherry-picking statistics.
I was thinking about this as I read the Sunday Times splash this week, which (using as-yet unavailable data from the Office for National Statistics) claimed that the “suicide rate among teenagers has nearly doubled in eight years”. It expressed concerns that we are raising “a suicidal generation”.
New biomedical techniques, like next-generation genome sequencing, are creating vast amounts of data and transforming the scientific landscape. They’re leading to unimaginable breakthroughs – but leaving researchers racing to keep up.
Sure, the Remain-Leave argument can get pretty angry. The rows between Labour and Conservatives, too, and the respective supporters of Israel and Palestine. But the deadliest and most intractable fight of all is between people online and their completely made-up imaginary opponents.
I’ve won several awards, including the Royal Statistical Society’s award for statistical excellence in journalism (twice, in 2018 and 2020) and the Association of British Science Writers’ science journalist of the year (in 2021). My first book was one of the Times’s science books of the year.
It is tempting to describe the government’s approach to cannabis as a spectacular failure. But that would be untrue: the government’s approach cannot fail, because the government has no approach. It has no goals, it has no aims, it has no policies.
After 20 years in space, some amazing science, and some unbelievable images, the Cassini-Huygens mission finally came to an end. We asked two of the scientists who worked on it what the mission meant to them.
Analysis by BuzzFeed News found that more than half of the most-shared scientific stories about autism published in the last five years promote unevidenced or disproven treatments, or purported causes.