Highlights

From the geeks who took over poker to the nuclear safety experts who want to prevent the next banking meltdown, these are my favourite long-form articles.

The Tyranny of Spreadsheets

Early last October my phone rang. On the line was a researcher calling from Today, the BBC’s agenda-setting morning radio programme. She told me that something strange had happened, and she hoped I might be able to explain it. Nearly 16,000 positive Covid cases had...

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What magic teaches us about misinformation

“The things right in front of us are often the hardest to see,” declares Apollo Robbins, the world’s most famous theatrical pickpocket. “The things you look at every day, that you’re blinded to.” As he says these words, he’s standing on stage at a TED conference in...

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Daniel Kahneman has lunch with the FT

As I wave my plate of paella in front of the webcam, Daniel Kahneman drops the bombshell. “I have had my lunch.” Awkward. A lunch over Zoom was never an especially appetising prospect, and perhaps it was too much to expect Kahneman to play along. He is, after all, 87...

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From forgeries to Covid-denial, how we fool ourselves

They called Abraham Bredius “The Pope”, a nickname that poked fun at his self-importance while acknowledging his authority. Bredius was the world’s leading scholar of Dutch painters and, particularly, of the mysterious Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. When Bredius was...

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Why we fail to prepare for disasters

You can’t say that nobody saw it coming. For years, people had warned that New Orleans was vulnerable. The Houston Chronicle reported that 250,000 people would be stranded if a major hurricane struck, with the low-lying city left 20ft underwater. New Orleans’s...

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Why we fall for cons

There may be times and places where it’s a good idea to talk back to a military officer — but Germany in 1906 wasn’t one of them. So the young corporal didn’t. The corporal — let’s call him Muller — had been leading his squad of four privates down Sylterstrasse in...

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