'Sideways Look' Blog

Enough is Enough

April 21, 2015

“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse” 
(Edmund Burke speaking in the House of Commons on the 7th February, 1771)

In Praise of Authority

March 30, 2015

One of the many definitions of “authority” in my American Heritage Dictionary is “an accepted source of information or advice.” In some circles it may be questionable to confer the label of “auth

Words from the Wise

September 07, 2014

Publishers have all-but-abandoned conference volumes, but when I started my career, and thanks in large part to the Burg Wartenstein series of publications supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation,

Lost in the Mail

December 11, 2013

Thank you for asking me to comment on the attached manuscript by Lorkipanidze et al. entitled ‘A complete skull from Dmanisi, Georgia, and the evolutionary biology of early Homo.’

A Pioneer Who Deserves More Recognition

November 06, 2013

If you are in an aircraft that is landing at London Heathrow Airport from the east (i.e., approaching over London) and you are sitting on the left side of the ‘plane, and it is a

Publications That (Should have) Made a Difference: No. 3. 'Thinking Out of The Box'

October 03, 2013

If you go to a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) and make your way to the bar around 6pm an elderly but sprightly gentleman in a full white beard will be dining

A Fly on the Wall

September 02, 2013

I have spent much of the summer (but not as much as I should have done) going through the entries in the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Human Evolution and editing them into a format suit

Peer-Review: An Endangered 'Species'?

May 20, 2013

In the old days one of the “perks” of being medically-qualified in the UK was that if you or your family were sick, colleagues would bend-over-backwards to make sure you or your family were seen as

Whither the Peer-Review System?

April 25, 2013

My first real non-clinical job was as a very junior lecturer in the Anatomy Department of The Middlesex Hospital Medical School.

Careless Talk Costs Lives

An Unrepentant Prescriptivist

April 06, 2013

The New Yorker is a constant source of delight. If a person finds nothing of interest to read or look at in an issue you should check their vital signs.

Chant of Pleasant Exploration

Fruits of Browsing: No. 4. "A Feisty Spat"

March 16, 2013

I bought a copy of Wilfrid Le Gros Clark’s autobiography, Chant of Pleasant Exploration, when I was a junior doctor, but I was pleased to see a very clean copy in a secondhand bookstore in

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

February 25, 2013

Consider this thought experiment. You spend many years of your life preparing to be the first person to reach the top of the world’s highest mountain.

Guide to Academic Life

January 14, 2013

Never pass down an opportunity to visit the UC Irvine campus. It does not have history on its side, but it beats Oxford and Cambridge hands down for climate.

All In

December 30, 2012

I was sworn-in as a US citizen today in Portland, Oregon.

Percy Butler


November 26, 2012

The composer Elliot Carter died on November 6th. It would be dishonest to pretend that I listened much to his music, but I know musicians consider him an important composer.