Alternatives to the word “mysterious”: A short guide to writing archaeology headlines for media editors

In these slow news days between Christmas and New Year, archaeology often finds itself highlighted in media. This morning, I saw yet another headline for an archaeology story that couldn’t manage to stay away from the word “mysterious”. A mysterious wooden structure, like an apparition at low tide, beckoning us to the deep, just off…

Understanding the visceral reaction to Laura’s Spinney’s History as a giant data set

This week, Laura Spinney covers recent developments in the use of big data in history, the potential it has for illuminating the present, and for helping us prepare for the future. The online reaction from at least some of the history, archaeology, and social science community, has been visceral. Spinney simply ran headlong into the…

Reply to Neil deGrasse Tyson: The past is not inaccessible, and it is worth studying

Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson caused some significant consternation last week among historians and archaeologists by tweeting that “We are prisoners of the present, in perpetual transition from an inaccessible past to an unknowable future”. Reactions from archaeologists and historians were swift and critical. I take this as an opportunity for reflection on questions that we,…

Luck is very important, but just how insignificant is talent? A comment on Pluchino et al. (2018)

A tweet recently came across my feed about an article by Pluchino et al.  that generated some media interest last year, and that looks at the relative roles of luck and talent in people’s success. The paper gives some interesting empirical support to a contention that many, including me, intuitively feel is true: “The most…