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, Geographical Magazine, Japan Times and Huffington Post.

The young female climate activists driving change in Asia

For Asia, where more countries are facing greater environmental risks than in other parts of the globe, climate change is an imminent issue that could threaten the lives of people through natural disasters, displacement from homes and shortages of natural resources. According to an environmental risk assessment published in May, Asia is home to 99 of the world’s 100 most vulnerable cities. The report found 80% of these are in India or China, while Jakarta was named the city most vulnerable to e

The Japanese scientist fighting prejudice, misinformation and COVID-19

“It feels like I’ve lived a decade within one year,” Akiko Iwasaki says. “The pandemic has definitely changed the way we do science.” In the midst of a global health crisis, the professor of immunology at Yale University has been a trusted voice of reason. Iwasaki has become known for breaking down complex science to deliver accessible messages to the public and the media, dispelling myths and publishing leading research on SARS-CoV-2. The Iwasaki lab, which the Japanese-born scientist set up

Five pioneering Asian scientists to look out for this year

From leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic to tackling climate change, scientists today are at the forefront of important discoveries, technologies and solutions for everyday life, helping humans understand the great mysteries of the universe. And the global health crisis was the latest reminder that development in science has huge societal and economic impacts and contributes to humanity’s progress. A notable trend over the past decade has been the growth of research and development i

In wake of Japan disaster, scientists aim for faster and more accurate tsunami warnings

In the 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, scientists have sought answers to a variety of questions relating to the deadly tsunami that began tearing through coastal communities just 15 minutes after the quake. Researchers have probed how a tsunami gathers height as it nears a shoreline and how this affects the damage it can cause. They’ve also begun to assess technologies for the early detection of tsunamis and improving tsunami observing systems acros

The young astronomer unlocking the secrets of how planets form

Yuki Okoda has always been fascinated by the great mysteries of the universe. Inspired by her high school physics teacher’s stories on the theory of relativity, elementary particle experiments and exoplanets, Okoda pursued a career in astronomy. She could never have anticipated what would happen next. In September 2018, as a second-year Master’s student at the University of Tokyo, the young astronomer became the first person to discover a dense disk of material around a newborn star. The discov

Celebrated codebreaker’s legacy lives on in Africa through the Turing Trust

“I think the one thing that almost everyone can agree on from Alan Turing’s legacy is that his life experience really highlighted the injustice and unequal treatment of people around the world,” says James Turing, over a Zoom call in mid-January lockdown. The great-nephew of the world-renowned mathematician and computer scientist is looking to keep his legacy alive — through a charitable Trust he created from his student bedroom eleven years ago. The Turing Trust aims to address the digital di

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

The Boston scientists on a mission to remove bias in US scientific hiring

The Boston scientists on a mission to remove bias in US scientific hiring “One major barrier to scientific innovation is workforce development,” says Elizabeth Wu, one of three scientists behind a new platform that seeks to remove bias in scientific hiring. Wu, alongside co-founder Danika Khong are setting their sights high, looking to address the $1B annual loss from inefficiencies in scientific recruiting in the US. The Boston-based scientists set up Scismic in November 2017, initially as a

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

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

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

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
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