What glass ceiling?

Abstract: Let's discuss why the glass ceiling isn't... Every time a social commentator or political activist bleats about the ever present 'glass ceiling' hanging in the way of the advancement of women in senior management positions, I want to grab them by the ear and drag them off to the closest magazine stand. It is there where they will find the real culprit - splashed all over those glossy covers. The term 'glass ceiling' dates back to the corporate America of the early 80s. It only really became a 'legitimised' buzzword when it appeared in a March 1986 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Since then it has earned its colours as a rallying flag for feminists and equal rights campaigners. It's just a pity that their passion is blinding them to the real problem - the women themselves. They have no real interest

Suspending disbelief? Don’t you believe it.

Abstract: The intellectual downgrading of today's TV programming... There’s an advert on TV that is particularly infuriating. It features two attractive women standing next to identical washing machines positioned in the middle of an unbelievably uncluttered kitchen. One of the women is bemoaning her inability to remove a stubborn stain from a garment she has just pulled out of the machine. She obviously hasn’t realised her machine is neither plugged in nor connected to the water supply. I know what you’re thinking: it’s only an advert. But that’s the part that interests me – you know that the two women are fooling you, and yet you’re still expected to trust them. Not only that, but trust them to the extent that you will rush out and buy the product they say works without water or electricity. This means you must be gullible. There is of

You know what they say about what they say

Abstract: Science explains why you should beware those who employ the wisdom of they. You know what they say: a good man is hard to find. If you're nodding your head in agreement you're guilty of employing one the oldest tricks in the book of twisted logic, as well as a form of selective thinking popular with psychology. Don't feel bad, just about everyone does it. Forget war correspondents; investigative journalists are the real hardcore purveyors of the so-called 'fourth estate', because, like Jack Russells on acid, they'll dig and dig until their paws are bloody and the evidence of their digging is piled proudly next to them. They believe in following the trail to find the original source of a claim, because that is where you'll find not only true accountability but also the real nub of a story. Science journalists have to be investigative

The stars and you and the uncomfortable truth

Abstract: The truth about astrology may be a little uncomfortable...but there is a twist... Those who know me are well aware of the special place in my toolbox for those who believe in astrology. It's a compartment that holds a set of jumper cables, which I use to jolt believers of astrology into the real world. However, and to this I must admit, there's a sliver of truth in what they believe; and what's more, there's a twist. Because there's always a twist. Astrology is one of those things that we've inherited from the dark pages of history, when ignorance of science was painted over with the murky hues of occultism. In a way it's like a nasty rash that people love to pick at to see what's underneath. Back in its formative years, supposed 'wise men', known as soothsayers, would conjure up all

When the pickles say you’re getting old

Abstract: Science provides evidence when you are getting old - a jar of pickles. There are several things no father wants to hear from his teenage children. There are those that are obvious because they're harbingers of serious emotional disruption: "Dad, I'm pregnant", "Dad, I think I crashed the car" and "Dad, I want to play for the Blue Bulls". Some, on the other hand, are less obvious, and invite only a little discomfort: "Dad, did you just buy a Carpenters CD?" and "Dad, what are those handcuffs doing next to mom's side of your bed?" But there's one thing that you really don't want to hear from the lips of your teenage child, even though it is often said with the most profound love and deep respect. The first time I heard it I was trying to open a jar of pickles. They were

Do not look into the light

Abstract: Neurology explains why near death experiences are not glimpses of heaven... Near-death experiences have a terrible habit of sneaking up on you when you least expect them, and for that reason they can be quite bothersome. However what we should never do is see them as opportunities to have a sneak peek at heaven. My such experience was, rather ignominiously, while I was perched upon the toilet. I was gathering my thoughts and thinking about the day ahead, when I was suddenly overcome by the sensation of a cold, wet cloak being thrown over my shoulders. At the same time everything seemed to go dark around me, and I found myself looking down a tunnel of light. I heard the voice of an angel calling my name. I came round to find my wife helping me off the floor and nursing a rather cruddy

Everything gives you cancer…and also helps you live longer

Abstract: Why everything gives you cancer...and also helps you live longer... There can be few things guaranteed to put off a potential reader of an article more than the headline 'Everything gives you cancer', especially in a Sunday newspaper magazine where they're looking for something light, relaxing and entertaining to read. So let me rise to the challenge; besides something tells me you already have a sneaking suspicion where this story is heading. One of the biggest challenges for science journalists such as myself - those who dabble at the craggy interface of science and society - is that every time we write something we have to win over an audience who may not necessarily be interested in science. We have to do so by writing wonderfully engaging copy and surreptitiously slipping in a little science. It's like wrapping a pill in bacon so

The wretched imbalance of popular interest

Abstract: The tragic tale of two tweeters exposes the imbalance of popular interest... For those interested in following someone else's thoughts, there is little to beat Twitter. Unfortunately it's dominated by the followers of so-called reality; when in fact the true stories are found in real life. I am willing to bet all the money I have that the typical fan of Kim Kardashian has never heard of Tony Nicklinson. For those clever enough to shun reality TV, Kim Kardashian is the undisputed queen of this turgid genre of entertainment. She is a celebrity because she is on TV and she is on TV because she is a celebrity. She busies herself shopping, having her nails and hair done, and enduring the 'OMG' rigours of a celebrity lifestyle. The good news is that evolution will eventually trim the human species of her ilk; the bad

What’s in a woman’s name?

Abstract: Women's rights remain unfulfilled as long as they're expected to take their husbands' names upon marriage... Women's Day has come and gone, but the rest of the month remains dedicated to women, so expect the continued lauding of women leaders, and the debating of issues around gender equality. However, during this time an elephant will remain in the room, seemingly unnoticed, sitting patiently in the corner, quietly knitting away. I never studied Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but I am familiar with one of its most powerful lines, uttered, importantly, by Juliet; and no, it's not the one you're thinking of. It's this one: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." In a nutshell Juliet predates women's liberation ideology by declaring that the cultural importance attached to a name is artificial, especially one

Why women are aways right. Sometimes.

Abstract: The psychology of why men should believe women are always right. Sometimes... My wife has a habit of being right all the time. Part of it's because she has multiple degrees, a searing intellect, a virtually photographic memory, and three best-selling books to her name; but it's mainly because she's a woman. What she and other women don't know though, is why this is so, and especially now. Before I explain everything I must plead guilty to the anticipated charge of generalisation. This is purely because of deadlines - I can't account for the behaviour and opinion of all women and still write it up in time for you to read it. There are three reasons why women are always right, sometimes; and interestingly science has a part to play in it, again, sometimes. Firstly, women are always right because you can't argue with them.