I have blood on my hands and only some of it is mine. The rest has splattered from the scores of mosquitoes that, over the past eight weeks, I have become proficient at killing. An engorged mosquito can hold three times her body weight in blood meals. Her own blood is a clear-ish fluid called haemolymph. It sloshes around her body, churned by a heart in the middle of the gut, just above where she stores your siphoned blood. Humans have discovered over 3,500 species of mosquito and I hate every single one.
Continue reading “Consumption”


The whiff of a particular food during a particular scene of Pixar’s Ratatouille transports a particular character back to childhood. Aromas evoke a subtle blend of memory and emotion and this scene always brings a little tear to my otherwise gristled, Saharan eyes. I won’t spoil it with particulars – go watch the film (warning: the food in the Blu-ray version looks so realistic, you’ll grow hungry within the first few minutes).

Food is an experience and flavour its essence. Flavour emerges from your senses and expectations, from swirling combinations of smell, sight, sound, feel and, of course, taste.
Continue reading “Foodstuff”

Scents and Sense Ability: My New BioNews Article

“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will,” Patrick Süskind wrote in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

Why does coriander taste soapy to some people? Is an impaired sense of smell really a way to identify psychopathy? Why do some people love the smell of napalm in the morning?

This week in BioNews, I write about two studies identifying regions of the human genome that may influence not only what you can sniff out but also whether your nose can stomach the smell – from a musky malt to the grand funk of blue cheese. Have a read.


I’m thinking about women. Drag your mind from the gutter – not in that way.

“Women are a forgotten part of the Saami story,” Marie says. She describes herself as a herder and a nurse and a feminist. She keeps her sunglasses in the fruit bowl. That’s not a euphemism and Marie isn’t her real name.
Continue reading “Divisions”

The Lean Island

This is what the end of the world looks like:

End of the world

Where there’s no more land to traipse, no further to go, the sun at midnight is far from set. This is the essence of døgnvill – the jet-laggy feeling of not wanting to sleep because of the sun. This is how the sky might look from a London park after an all-nighter. But I’m sober and I’m tired and I smell of reindeer.
Continue reading “The Lean Island”

Into the field

At a young age, I gave up learning the names for clouds. I’d put myself in the category of people who are not natural taxonomists. Now I can only appreciate them in a whimsical, unscientific way. They are more than visible masses of suspended particles. (Indeed, I’ve wittered on about clouds before.)
Continue reading “Into the field”