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  • 2023 Roundup
    I started 2023 with pretty bad fatigue, having had covid in December 2022, following on from a different virus in November which had already given me weeks of post-viral fatigue. This improved slowly over the course of the year, only for the same thing to happen at the end of 2023 – this time, I… Read more: 2023 Roundup
  • On Autism
    I was formally identified as autistic at the age of 31, in 2010. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years exploring what it means, for me and for other autistic people, as well as for the rest of the world. In that time I’ve slowly been getting more open about being… Read more: On Autism
  • Frazzle-Fried Sprouts
    It’s a Christmas miracle! If you know someone who is threatening to make boiled sprouts for Christmas, it may not be too late to make them make these instead. You’ll be glad you did, and so will everyone else who eats them. Ingredients: Brussels sprouts Flour for batter (I use gram flour; optionally, add baking… Read more: Frazzle-Fried Sprouts
  • The Octet Rule
    The Octet Rule expresses the idea that atoms like to have eight electrons in their outermost shell, known as the valence shell. This provides something like an explanation for many chemical phenomena – for a start, the noble gases which make up the right-most column of the Periodic Table don’t usually bond with anything at… Read more: The Octet Rule
  • Buffalo Bots
    It is well-known that Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo, or to put it another way, Buffalo bison bully bison. It is also a common problem that police police police – as Juvenal put it, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ We might ask, which police police police? The answer is, of course, that police police police police. And… Read more: Buffalo Bots
  • Can ‘the centre’ hold?
    This week’s Conservative Party Conference saw Theresa May attempting the fascinating manoeuvre of claiming the ‘centre ground’ by combining far-right xenophobia with economics seemingly slightly to the left of Labour under Ed Miliband. The whole concept of the centre ground has always been questionable, and perhaps May’s surreal yet straight-faced take on it will help put the idea to rest.… Read more: Can ‘the centre’ hold?
  • The A Word
    The A Word is a beautifully shot, dramatic and deeply problematic BBC series about the family of an autistic child. That description might give you a clue what makes it so problematic: despite the autism theme, it’s really not about the autistic kid, Joe, at all. Joe himself is played quite convincingly by 5-year-old Max Vento, but the… Read more: The A Word
  • Common Podcasting Mistakes
    Most of the art of making a good podcast is also the art of making good radio, and I’m not here to teach you that (but please use a decent microphone, edit it at least a bit). However, there are a few important things that are specific to podcasts. Some of these may seem obvious,… Read more: Common Podcasting Mistakes
  • Fabaceae
    The bean family, also known as the legumes, leguminoseae or papilionaceae. One of my favourite plant families. Their flowers are beautiful, very distinctive and pleasingly perky; and I like seed pods that really look like pods. There’s also something charming about the unfolding, trefoil leaves at the end of every branch, and I’m a fan… Read more: Fabaceae
  • Asianish Kale, Carrot and Broad Bean Feast
    I made a large vegetable dish last night which turned out particularly well, and I’ve had a request for the recipe from one of the people who ate it. I didn’t measure anything, I’m afraid, so all the quantities are going to be pretty vague. I was feeding five, but probably made enough for seven… Read more: Asianish Kale, Carrot and Broad Bean Feast
  • Royal Society Summer Exhibition
    I made it to the last day of this year’s Royal Society Summer Exhibition on Sunday: a fascinating collection of scientific exhibits and scientists happy to talk about them. It’s a pleasing format, especially if you’re interested in hearing scientists talk about their work – which is one of my favourite things. I wanted to… Read more: Royal Society Summer Exhibition
  • A Coup without a Clue
    Here’s the thing about Corbyn: as far as I can tell, his analysis of what’s gone so wrong with British politics, and specifically the Labour Party, is absolutely spot on. So are his prescriptions for how to fix it. None of the attacks he’s faced have addressed these. None of his attackers have ever put… Read more: A Coup without a Clue
  • The House of Calabash
      We met Mr. Chang when we were standing outside his house near the Forbidden City, admiring his squashes. He asked us some friendly questions – do you play music? (a bit) Speak French? (seule un petit peu) What’s the English name of these squashes? (bottle gourds) – and ended up inviting us inside. We’d… Read more: The House of Calabash
  • Solar Eclipse 2015
    On Friday the 20th of March 2015, the moon’s shadow passed over a stretch of the northern half of planet Earth from Greenland and north Africa to Mongolia. I was in its penumbra, where it didn’t quite block all of the light from the sun. Its umbra, where it eclipsed the sun entirely, passed a… Read more: Solar Eclipse 2015
  • Shanghai
    Shanghai is a long way south of Beijing – about 750 miles, the distance from Dundee to Paris, which still only gets you half-way down China’s coast. It’s even hotter than Beijing in the summer, and it’s even bigger, too – in fact it’s now considered the biggest city in the world, depending on how… Read more: Shanghai
  • The Greens and the Left
    This is a guest post from my brother Leo Murray, creator of the climate change animation Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip and various others. We’re in broad agreement about most things. ∮ Interesting times! Today, Green Party membership has overtaken both UKIP and the Lib Dems (editor’s note: this was first… Read more: The Greens and the Left
  • To Vote, Or Not To Vote
    The House of Commons is hopelessly unrepresentative of the population of the UK, both politically and demographically. It has been dominated from its inception by wealthy older white men belonging to one of two or three political parties, and the policies of those parties have converged in recent decades on a so-called ‘centre ground’ which… Read more: To Vote, Or Not To Vote
  • Jingshan
    On our first full day in Beijing, partly by way of helping me get a feeling for the city’s geography, we climbed up Jingshan, the large artificial hill in the historical dead centre of Beijing, overlooking the Forbidden City. The views are stunning from the pavilion at the top of its highest peak, but it’s… Read more: Jingshan
  • Coming to Beijing
    This summer gone I had the rare chance to spend almost two months in China with Sonya – mostly in Beijing, but with some travel towards the south. We arrived in Beijing exhausted but not exactly sleepy. While we waited for our sleep deprivation to catch up with the difference in time zones, we went… Read more: Coming to Beijing
  • On Democracy and Hope
    On the 18th of September, 1.6 million people in Scotland voted to break away from the United Kingdom. When asked, about three quarters cited dissatisfaction with Westminster politics as one of their main reasons for voting Yes to independence. No big surprise there: just a quarter of the population here is happy with how the… Read more: On Democracy and Hope
  • On Independence
    I’m not a nationalist. I thought I should get that out of the way at the start. I don’t think nation states are a good thing to base political structures around, and I was raised to view expressions of patriotism with deep suspicion. What I am is a localist, or a decentralist. Concentrations of power… Read more: On Independence
  • Magnet Mushroom
    At the end of 2013 Sonny Hallett and I invented a game. We’re calling it Magnet Mushroom, and you can play it too if you have an iron or steel tray, a bunch of magnets and some small pieces made of iron or steel. We used a baking tray, a pack of polished magnetite from… Read more: Magnet Mushroom
  • Our Chief Mistakes
    And How to Fix Them Sometimes I like to imagine that people in general are capable of being swayed by strong arguments, and changing their behaviour when it becomes clear they have been making a terrible mistake. In that spirit, here is a list of things that Western society is clearly getting wrong, and strategies… Read more: Our Chief Mistakes
  • Recent Science Writing
    I don’t always post everything I write here, so I thought I’d just share a link to some of my recent science writing. Most of these are things I wanted to make sure I understood well enough to explain them clearly to a class of 13 and 14 year olds. Ionic bonding Metallic bonding Rock… Read more: Recent Science Writing
  • Project Wild Thing
    Now free to view. Kids in Britain don’t play outside so much these days. Where our parents were left to roam at will, and their parents wandered much further still, the children of the early twenty-first century are mostly kept indoors. It isn’t safe to go out – the traffic is dreadful, kids have terrible… Read more: Project Wild Thing
  • Podcasts
    I started listening to podcasts regularly some time early this year, when I finally got round to installing software for it on my phone (Podkicker). I’d previously been a regular BBC Radio 4 listener at various times in my life, and started pulling together the Everything2 podcast a few years ago, but it was only… Read more: Podcasts
  • Ionic Bonding
    What Ionic Bonding Is Ionic bonding is the type of chemical bonding that binds non-metals with metals, and occasionally other things*, forming ionic compounds. An ion is just an atom (or sometimes a molecule) with an overall electric charge – many atoms and molecules have exactly as many electrons as they have protons, so the charges cancel out; when that doesn’t hold true, we end up… Read more: Ionic Bonding
  • The Everyday Signs of Light Waves
    Light, like all the basic constituents of our universe, seems to be made of waves. Waves that act a bit like particles, sometimes, but which spread out and interfere with each other just like other waves. It’s about 200 years since physicists finally agreed that light behaves like a wave, after Poisson proved himself wrong… Read more: The Everyday Signs of Light Waves
  • Iron Noder
    This November I posted 30 finished pieces of writing on Everything2, on whatever I felt like writing about at the time. By doing so I completed the Iron Noder Challenge, which has been running every November since 2008. This was the first time I took part in earnest – making the effort to write and… Read more: Iron Noder
  • Reading about Thinking
    This year I’ve found myself reading a bunch of books about the mind, the brain, and the nature of the self. For some reason I’m reading them all in parallel, picking one or the other depending on how I’m feeling on any given day, which is probably why I haven’t actually finished any of them… Read more: Reading about Thinking
  • Camellia’s Tea House
    I am currently working part-time at Camellia’s Tea House, in Kingly Court, on Carnaby Street. It is the sort of place that immediately feels like a slice of heaven to a tea lover – you enter and there is one wall filled almost to the ceiling with caddies and big glass jars. There are about… Read more: Camellia’s Tea House
  • The Rain in Carballo
    I’ve been a little slow to start going through my photos from this Summer’s two-month trip around the Iberian peninsula. I stayed for about two weeks in the town of Carballo, which is 35km from A Coruña, 45km from Santiago de Compostela and 10km from the nearest beach. It’s a small, quiet town full of… Read more: The Rain in Carballo
  • Travel in Iberia
    I spent much of this summer travelling overland around the Iberian Peninsula – the parts of the world commonly known as Spain and Portugal. I was teaching and looking after kids at a summer camp in the Basque Country for two weeks, and then I had about a week and a half travelling in a… Read more: Travel in Iberia
  • Photo Point
    I crouch below the eyeline of the crowd Half-watching  Water dance, half  in-camera. The drumming and the wash-rags beating loud I strive to  trap in electronic  amber. With flashes or by squatting frozen-still I  take away the movement of the night. This festival of  Nowness on the hill Distilled in  slices,  slides for  future sight.… Read more: Photo Point
  • Climate Camp
    Climate Camp (or the Camp for Climate Action, in full) is a reaction to the failures of our governments to take anything like the steps that science tells us will be necessary to avert catastrophic climate change, and to the failures of our democratic system to represent dissenting voices. When even majority opinions are readily… Read more: Climate Camp
  • Chocolate and Chestnut Risotto
    Sometimes I get seized by a vision of something I think I could cook, that I’ve never heard of anybody else cooking but which feels to me like it could be really, really good. Every now and then it turns out that I’m wrong, and my crazy ideas don’t add up to something delicious after… Read more: Chocolate and Chestnut Risotto
  • Climate change animation – it’s much, much later than you think
    Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo. My brother, Leo Murray, is an animator as well as an activist. He made this film for his animation master’s degree at the Royal College of Arts, and I was very impressed indeed with the job he did of communicating the… Read more: Climate change animation – it’s much, much later than you think
  • Ice and Frost
    I think most people don’t pay nearly enough attention to what they’re walking on, especially in cold weather. The richness of the patterns that ice forms is staggering, and provides an intriguing glimpse into the physical processes going on both at a molecular level and on a much larger scale. Some of the most fun… Read more: Ice and Frost
  • Treebike
    One day, many years ago now, I was taking my dog for a walk on Hampstead Heath when I met two men who had just hauled a bicycle up into this tree. I think that’s as far as their plan went – they didn’t have a camera to record the moment for posterity, or anything… Read more: Treebike
  • Gyokuro
    I finally got to try Gyokuro green tea at a beautiful little salon de thé called The Tea Caddy, in the Latin Quarter of Paris. It is never a cheap tea, but they had it for around half the price I’ve seen elsewhere. The leaves and the infusion are remarkably green, quite vividly so, and… Read more: Gyokuro
  • North Calcutta
    We get up early in the morning to meet Sunayana and Kenji from Calcutta Walks, at Shovabazar ((Best pronounced ‘Shobabajar’ – Bengali doesn’t actually have any v or z sounds, but they’re often used in transliteration of words and names out of deference to their Sanskrit or Persian origins)) Metro station ((I’ve written about my… Read more: North Calcutta
  • Caustics
    I have been fascinated by caustics for a long, long time. I still remember the first time I noticed them – a bright, ethereal form dancing in the shadow of my mother’s wine glass. I was entranced by the way the light moved when the wine swished in the glass, and disappointed when my usually… Read more: Caustics
  • Tea Tasting
    On Tasting Flavour perception is a deceptively complex thing. Human taste buds are capable of sensing salty, sweet, sour and bitter (the four classical elements of human taste) plus umami (the savoury taste of glutamates such as MSG, found in things like mushrooms, soy sauce and meat) and probably fat (the jury is still out… Read more: Tea Tasting
  • The Cloudspotter’s Guide
    The Cloud Appreciation Society was founded by Gavin Pretor-Pinney in 2004, to ‘fight blue-sky thinking’, with the motto: ‘Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and live life with your head in the clouds‘: Sound advice if I ever heard it. The Cloudspotter’s Guide is its first official publication, and the author’s first book. Pretor-Pinney… Read more: The Cloudspotter’s Guide
  • Skywatching
    I recently finished reading The Cloudspotter’s Guide (see review), and have concluded that it is one of my all-time favourite books. I have made skywatching a hobby for as long as I can remember, but the book has raised my awareness of the skies above us to new heights. As it happens, this has coincided… Read more: Skywatching
  • Salt Forms
    The salt bin opposite my flat provides me with a suprising amount of intrigue. Somewhere down the line, it filled up with water enough to become distended – or became distended enough to fill with water – so now it sits there and forever grins invitingly, like some kind of fat plastic crocodile. It’s permanently… Read more: Salt Forms
  • Oo…
    Welcome to Fergus Ray Murray‘s new blog. Why ‘Oolong‘? Well, what with this being Teh Internets and all, I thought I had better come up with some kind of a pseudonym. I took the name of my favourite tea because I liked the sound of it, I wrote a song about it once, and it… Read more: Oo…