Ancient Egypt: land of pyramids, animal-headed gods, pharaohs’ curses, and mummies. It’s fair to say that, perhaps out of any civilisation in history, it’s Egypt that mesmerises us the most. And it’s possibly mummies and mummification which hold the greatest sway over our fascination. The Egyptian belief that preserving the dead body guaranteed eternal life for the deceased’s soul ensured an intricate process of evisceration and embalming. And what’s the one fact about mummification that everyone, from child to adult, can recite with either glee or disgust?

“They pulled the brain out with a hook”


After all that Harry Kane is staying. Never mind the image of England’s captain effectively going on strike to try and force his move. Never mind the fact he signed a contract with no release clause in the first place. …

Success has many parents, failure is an orphan. The England men’s football team which has brought so much joy to a nation the past few weeks fell at the final hurdle. After defeat comes the post-mortem. And while for a few troglodytes this means carte blanche to unleash hatred and violence (and if you know what ‘troglodyte’ and ‘carte blanche’ mean you’re unlikely to be one of them) for the rest of us there is a chance to make an honest assessment of Gareth Southgate’s team.

Gareth Southgate’s achievements as England manager (a World Cup semi-final, a Nations League semi-final…

There is no gambling like politics.

Benjamin Disraeli UK Prime Minister 1868 and 1874–1880

The British Government is gambling. Cases of coronavirus are doubling every 10 days in England and hospital admissions have risen over 50% in the past week alone. Yet today the government is set to lift restrictions, from social distancing to mask wearing, in a bid to restore normality to the economy. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “if not now, then when?” with regard to lifting restrictions.

The new UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned that the country is entering “uncharted territory” as the last…

Football, like life, is full of those ‘sliding doors’ moments. What if Ali Bin Nasser had spotted Diego Maradona’s handball against England in 1986 and sent him off with the score kept at 0–0? What if Paul Gascoigne had not checked his run when Alan Shearer played the ball across to him against Germany in 1996? The butterfly effect in chaos theory would have us believe that just small changes can lead to differences far bigger than we could predict. …

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830 which toppled Charles X of France. A female personification of liberty is shown leading the people. In France, this figure has come to represent the French Republic and is called Marianne. I took this photo in the Louvre in 2017.

“Give me liberty or give me death”

Patrick Henry (1736–1799) American politician

A group of influential backbench Conservative MPs calling themselves the ‘COVID Recovery Group’ have put pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift lockdown restrictions by April. They argue that if the vaccination programme continues as planned there would be

“no justification for legislative restrictions to remain.”

Their leader Mark Harper argued that ‘vaccine = immunity from lockdown and restrictions”. Once again there are arguments about ‘the cure being worse than the disease’

The times they are a-changing. The last fortnight has seen the return of knock-out European football. Last autumn it was announced that UEFA look set to change the format of the Champions League in favour of a ‘Swiss system’ with four more matches. This will be a mistake. This is not the change needed. We got an idea of the change needed last summer.

Out of the horror of the COVID-19 pandemic have been glimpses at something different. Some of this has been profound: pollution reduced or the daily commute eliminated. Another change, albeit meaningless in the grand scheme of…

In the pantheon of appalling Premier League titles Chelsea 2015/16 and Leicester City 2016/17 stand front and centre as the worst examples. Following this, however, would have to be David Moyes’s Manchester United 2013/14. Moyes’s nine-month stint went from being handpicked as Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘chosen one’ to his banner being almost torn down by angry fans. Liverpool fans at the time gloated about the Scotsman’s troubles. Yet, now in the defence of their first Premier League title, the Merseysiders are officially worse in terms of points than Moyes’s Red Devils.

On 9th February 2014 Manchester United found themselves, after…

This week the respected German broadsheet Handelsblatt published an article claiming that the German government had leaked that the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine only gave pensioners eight percent protection against COVID-19. They hastily released a clarification: the article resulted from a mishearing of a statistic: that 8% of the subjects in the AstraZeneca efficacy study were between 56 and 69 years of age. From this mishearing came a snowballing and a potentially damaging piece of misinformation.

Misinformation comes in many forms. It’s easy to spot the obvious lies: that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, that it’s spread by 5G towers, that Bill Gates…

Masks are safe to wear. Thanks to analytics I’m aware that only about a third of readers of my posts actually read them in their entirety. So before you go I want you to know: masks are safe to wear. Whatever you may have read online, they are safe. If that’s all you take away that’s enough for me. My ego can take it. If you’d like to know more then please read on. It’s really very simple: size matters.

I’ve argued before that if you get 100 scientists in a room, broadly speaking, you’ll get consensus. The fact that…

James Thomas Doctor and Educator. Podcast Blog on Medical Education and History of Medicine

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