Alex Jackson

UK-based journalist and digital editor. Writes about science, health and technology, with sporadic moments of music punditry. Contributed to The Guardian, Nature, Scientific American, BBC, National Geographic, Geographical Magazine, Japan Times and Huffington Post.

Sickle cell disease: Africa’s most prevalent ‘invisible condition’

Eight years ago, Arafa Salim thought she was on the verge of death. “The doctors who were treating me didn’t know how to deal with it, my bone marrow couldn’t produce blood. I needed a lot of transfusions to save my life,” she said. Salim, who has sickle cell disease, a genetic blood disorder that can result in severe anaemia, had survived a real scare. Her story is not uncommon. More than 10,000 children with sickle cell disease die each year before they reach their fifth birthday, in Tanza

Blind Japanese inventor harnessing technology to improve lives of visually impaired

Dr. Chieko Asakawa’s life motto: Make the impossible possible — by never giving up. Blind since the age of 14, Asakawa has dedicated the past three decades to researching and developing new technologies to help transform the lives of the visually impaired. Asakawa’s inventions have impacted millions worldwide, and now one of them will receive one of the ultimate in industry accolades. The Osaka-born computer scientist, who lives in the United States, is among 19 innovators who will be inducted

Educating Abuja girls to STEM the cost of hi-tech research

Down a quiet tree-lined street on the periphery of Abuja, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, a classroom brims with activity. A group of teenage girls huddle eagerly around a robotic trash collector they’ve just built, while others rummage through tool kits and test virtual reality headsets. Infectious laughter echoes through the hallway from outside. More young women are trialling their solar-powered phone chargers and solar ovens, in the shadows of the majestic Aso Rock, which ri

Wikipedia Day — Celebrating Wikipedians across the globe

“It is like a library or a public park. A temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others,” states Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales. When the US entrepreneur first mooted the idea of an online encyclopaedia (in 2001) which could be created by allowing anyone to build pages on any topic, it seemed a fairly novel, yet improbable concept. Not even Wales though could have predicted it would evolve into the world’s leading general reference wo

Japanese winner of L'Oreal-UNESCO award for female scientists looks to reshape materials research

From a young age, Dr. Yukiko Ogawa knew she wanted to become a scientist. Growing up in Komaki, Aichi Prefecture, she would spend hours after school creating objects in her bedroom. It was this curiosity and early ingenuity when it came to designing novel things that led Ogawa to where she is today. “Materials science is the foundation of modern society,” Ogawa said from her research base at the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, one of Japan’s largest scie

Tokyo researchers’ Paper Digest makes academic jargon a cinch

They come from very different worlds, yet have remarkably similar tales to tell. One hails from Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, while the other was brought up in the shadows of the Merendon mountains in the Sula Valley of northwestern Honduras. Bonding over a “love of good coffee and jazz,” Yasutomo Takano and Cristian Mejia have come a long way since they first met four years ago while studying bibliometrics at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Back then they were both enthusiastic students with

Let's celebrate 150 years of Beatrix Potter: author, scientist and fungus-lover

Tomorrow marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of revered children’s author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, celebrated worldwide for such beloved literary characters as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck. In this celebration of her literary and artistic legacy, it is easy to forget she was a keen natural scientist. Influenced by family holidays in Scotland, Potter was fascinated by the natural world from a young age. Encouraged to follow her interests, she explored the outdoors with sketch

Inspiring Young Men from Minority Backgrounds to Code | Voices, Scientific American Blog Network

On a sign that adorns the premises of the vibrant New York technology charity, All Star Code, the bold messaging could not be clearer.  Displayed in large writing are the top ten principles that inspired the charity’s creation. Most prominently placed, and one that will ring true to many Americans, is number one. It reads: “Boys Matter: Young men of color are one of our nation’s greatest sources of

Bill Bryson: A Champion of Science and Science Communication

The popular author embarked a decade ago on his eye-opening journey of research for the acclaimed science book A Short History of Nearly Everything. At that time, he could never have envisaged the popularity and esteem his book would be held in today Bill Bryson’s bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, A Walk in the Woods and Notes from a Small Island, which in a national poll was voted the book that best represents Britain. His acclaimed book on the history of science, A Short H

The astrophysicist on a mission to get more women into physics : Soapbox Science

“Very often the famous names we know and read about in science are not those of women,” says Professor Jo Dunkley. “To get more young girls studying the subject, we must change cultural perceptions and have more visible female role models.” As we sit discussing the women who have inspired Dunkley, a professor of physics and astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, to study the universe, the mood is rather sombre. On a morning when the first female frontrunner for US presidency has missed

Buzz Aldrin: Space policy, cooperative efforts to Mars and the need to inspire future generations : Soapbox Science

“To realize the dream of humans on Mars we need a unified vision. We need to focus on a pathway to the prize.” These were the strident historic words articulated by Buzz Aldrin in July 2009 at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s John Glenn Lecture Series for NASA’s 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Five years on, and having very recently celebrated his 84th birthday, Dr Aldrin’s enthusiasm, ambassadorial work, resolute attitude and ideals are no less subdued.

Distinguished South African Professor Tebello Nyokong on science, education and innovation : Soapbox Science

“I keep telling people I’m no longer a role model, I’m too old, too straight and not hip enough,” asserts a hysterical Professor Tebello Nyokong in her own typically modest and charismatic demeanour. Of course, her defiance is far removed from the truth. The quick-talking, affable and extremely accommodating distinguished professor is today not only one of the most internationally respected scientists in the world, lauded for her pioneering research into photodynamic therapy for cancer treatment, but is a constant source of inspiration for students across Africa.

UNESCO Regional Chair on Women, Science & Technology, Dr Gloria Bonder, talks women in science and gender equality : Soapbox Science

“What I would love to see is more qualitative research not on why women can’t and why so few, but who the women are that are successfully developing careers in engineering, technology or sciences,” strongly asserts Gloria Bonder, coordinator of the global network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender and the Regional Chair on Women, Science and Technology in Latin America. She continues: “We should look at why they chose that career, what their experiences have been so far, and what they like and don’t like, as well as how they overcome obstacles. We must move away from the basic question of why so few.”

From despair to repair: Empowering communities to restore their oceans : Soapbox Science

“People used to talk about the size of the fish they caught vertically,” says a perspicacious 15-year-old Curaçaoan holding his hands off the ground at head height. “But now we show fish size horizontally.” As the young man lowers his hands at shoulder width apart to demonstrate this, it is strikingly clear the great fishing catches of old have all but gone in the southern Caribbean Sea.

Citizen Science: In the Shadows of Volcán Tungurahua : Soapbox Science

Seemingly unflappable, tall and with a sharp sense of humour betrayed by a cheeky grin that can’t help but make you smile, Benigno Meneces is by no means your average citizen scientist. As a farmer in the modest surroundings of the Ecuadorian Andes village Bilbao, Meneces ploughs the land by day and monitors volcano eruptions by night. He is one of 35 residents across local villages and towns in the path of Volcán Tungurahua that make up a network of volunteers, known as the ‘vigías’.
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