Blog

Intriguing and uplifting long reads from The Conversation

Weekend escapism. simona pilolla 2/Shutterstock

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.

Looking forward

CC BY-ND

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


Revolutionary treatment

CC BY-ND

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:

We performed the procedure on a Tuesday. The patient discharged himself on Thursday, against the will of the doctors, and completed a marathon on the Saturday.

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?

CC BY-ND

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

CC BY-ND

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.

For each of them, the interment of Dickens in the abbey might be considered the highlight of their careers.


Read more: Charles Dickens: newly discovered documents reveal truth about his death and burial


The meals of tomorrow

CC BY-ND

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:

To hear about new Insights articles, join the hundreds of thousands of people who value The Conversation’s evidence-based news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Want to write?

Write an article and join a growing community of more than 109,100 academics and researchers from 3,580 institutions.

Register now