Right now, the news cycle is faster and more anxiety-inducing than ever. The Conversation’s longform journalism offers the chance to delve into the detail, exploring fascinating discoveries and in-depth stories from leading researchers. We’ve put together a selection of some of our most hopeful, surprising and inspiring long reads.
We have always been obsessed with predicting the future, relying on horoscopes, tarot cards and oracles to see what’s around the corner. In the early 20th century, though, new, more evidence-based seers emerged: futurologists, who tried to use science to forecast the world of tomorrow. Max Saunders from the University of Birmingham explores what these futurologists envisioned – space stations, cyborgs, wireless internet – what they failed to imagine, and the alternate futures that we might now be living in had history taken a different path.
Read more: Futurology: how a group of visionaries looked beyond the possible a century ago and predicted today’s world
In 2006, Iris Grunwald, now director of neuroscience at Anglia Ruskin School of Medicine, was a junior doctor involved in a trial of a new stroke treatment in Germany. She remembers the first time she carried it out, on a patient who had lost the ability to speak, or move his right arm or leg:
The treatment is thrombectomy, which uses suction to remove a blood clot – a “vacuum cleaner for the brain”. Grunwald’s fascinating account takes her from Germany to establishing a thrombectomy unit in the UK. “The effectiveness of thrombectomy is beyond doubt and is unmatched by any previous therapy in stroke medicine,” she says.
Read more: Vacuum cleaner for the brain: doctor’s first-hand account of using groundbreaking stroke treatment
What is love?
The Conversation recently launched Life’s Big Questions – a series which sees experts respond to our readers’ most profound queries. Jo, newly besotted, wondered what it was she was feeling. Is love a cocktail of brain chemicals, or something else? Parashkev Nachev, professor of neurology at UCL, considers John Donne, the pair bonding of prairie voles and brain imaging experiments in his answer.
Read more: Love: is it just a fleeting high fuelled by brain chemicals?
The death of a literary titan
Charles Dickens ranks among our most well-known, well-beloved and well-studied novelists. But there is always more to discover, as this account from Leon Litvack of University College Belfast proves. His research in libraries, archives and cathedral vaults has put together a new picture of Dickens’ death and burial, and the efforts of two men to have the author interred in Westminster Abbey rather than his preferred resting place.
Read more: Charles Dickens: newly discovered documents reveal truth about his death and burial
The meals of tomorrow
Food trends aren’t always good for the planet. The global food system has led to the development of monocultures, where huge areas of land are given over to one crop, and a dependence on fertilisers. Food often goes wasted. But we can make choices to change this. Here, a group of researchers from Trinity College Dublin consider how we can adapt the way we eat for a more sustainable future. We can use technology to grow, share and eat communally, and rediscover past techniques of sourcing and preparing meals to protect traditional food cultures.
Read more: For a sustainable future, we need to reconnect with what we’re eating – and each other
For you: more from our Insights series:
‘They put a few coins in your hands to drop a baby in you’ – 265 stories of Haitian children abandoned by UN fathers
The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst
Decades neglecting an ancient disease has triggered a health emergency around the world
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Author: Grace Allen – Cities and Young People Editor