Lynn Barber, the demon of Fleet Street, talks interviewing; the good, the bad and the bollocks
Barber started her career at Penthouse Magazine, writing about the parameters of sexuality. “It trained me never to be embarrassed and never to show shock or disgust.”
The secret to a good interview, according to Barber, is getting people to talk. “I am genuinely interested in them at the point I am interviewing, I want to understand them”.
But it’s not always plain sailing, the real disasters are never written up and the ones that make the cut are not always perfect.
“If someone else did it better, that’s slightly frustrating, or sometimes every conceivable question has already asked, what more is there to get?”
For Barber, contemporary artists are a favourite but can be difficult to interview. “The reason they are artists is they don’t trust words very much and they express themselves in other ways. To find a way of interviewing that isn't bollocks and has an attachment to reality is a challenge.”
Why do so many American people believe their government is conspiring against them?
In this episode of Little Atoms Kathy Olmsted examines the development of the culture of conspiracy in American society from grassroots to President.
Olmsted identifies World War One and the birth of the modern state as the origin of mass American conspiracy culture.
“As government gets bigger and more powerful and surveillance agencies enforce espionage acts, the American people start to feel the fear of the government as an institution.”
For Olmsted, the state is both the subject and origin of conspiracy theories. She argues that as the government starts watching people, people start to fear they are being watched.
“America starts to believe government is starting to lie cover up and conspire, because it is.”
Conspiracy theories are not confined to the public in American society. Leaders too fall pray to paranoia.
Olmsted argues this is because: “Leaders have access to information; they know that conspiracies exist so come to logical conclusion that more are taking place.”
The culture of transparency perpetuates the notion of conspiracy. The release o information about Northwoods for example, formed the basis of many contemporary conspiracy theories. Many Americans saw it as a template for 9/11.
Omstead explores the irony of democracy and conspiracy from Hoover to Obama to argue that America’s unique contradiction of transparency but lack of accountability serves only to perpetuate conspiracy culture. A culture ingrained in America’s past and present.
First broadcast 10/07/09
John Lanchester is the author of Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay.
As a journalist and novelist, he was winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award for his debut The Debt to Pleasure.
John’s article on our love affair with the City,Cityphilia generated much response on its publication in January 2008, and indeed predicted a worldwide crash based on the misuse of financial derivatives.
First broadcast 15 April 2011
Jonathan Meades is a broadcaster and the author of several books including three works of fiction - Filthy English, Pompey and The Fowler Family Business - and several anthologies of which the most recently published is Museum Without Walls, which received 11 nominations as a book of the year in 2012.
Professor Will Alsop is one of Britain’s most renowned architects. He is currently a professor at the Technical University of Vienna.
George Orwell wrote some of his most renowned essays for the British left-wing publication Tribune between 1940 and 1947, including "Books vs Cigarettes", "You And The Atom Bomb" and the regular "As I Please" column. These works were compiled by Paul Anderson in the book "Orwell in Tribune."
Interview first broadcast on 18th August 2006.
The 1st October 2009 saw the launch of The Atheist Guide to Christmas. This episode of Little Atoms features Neil and Padraig in conversation with 3 old friends of the show, editor Ariane Sherine, and contributors Natalie Haynes and Josie Long. We discuss the genesis (!) of the book, our contributions, the ideal christmas, and argue over the definitions of atheism, agnosticism and secularism, then the rubbishness of various ex-boyfriends gift buying skills are discussed.
Edited by Ariane Sherine, The Atheist's Guide To Christmas features 42 contributions from the world's most entertaining atheist scientists, comedians, philosophers, writers and journalists, including: Richard Dawkins, Derren Brown, Charlie Brooker, David Baddiel, Ben Goldacre, Josie Long, Richard Herring, Simon Singh, Brian Cox, Jenny Colgan, AC Grayling, Simon Le Bon, Claire Rayner, Robin Ince, Natalie Haynes, Zoe Margolis, Phil Plait, Mitch Benn, Lucy Porter, Adam Rutherford... and many, many more (Including Little Atoms own Neil Denny).
First broadcast on 25th September 2009.
Andy Miller is a reader, author and editor of books. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian, Esquire and Mojo. He's the author of Tilting at Windmills: How I Tried to Stop Worrying and Love Sport, among others. His latest book is The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life.
First broadcast on 8th August 2014
Julian Baggini is editor of The Philosophers' Magazine. His books include Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP), What's It All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life (Granta) and The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten and 99 Other Thought Experiments (Granta), Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into The English Mind (Granta) and Complaint (Profile).
His journalism has appeared in publications such as the Guardian, Independent, Times Higher Education Supplement, Times Education Supplement and the Sunday Herald. He is frequently heard on BBC radio in programmes including In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, Off the Page and Nightwaves.
Cara Hoffman is the author of the critically acclaimed 2011 novel So Much Pretty. She grew up in northern Appalachia, where she dropped out of high school to work full time. Hoffman spent three years travelling and working as an agricultural labourer in Europe and the Middle East. She returned to the US, had a baby and found a job delivering newspapers which eventually led to work as a reporter covering environmental politics and crime. She has been a visiting writer at St. John's, Columbia and Oxford, where she lectured on Violence and Masculinity for the Rhodes Global Scholars Symposium. Hoffman lives in Manhattan and teaches writing and literature at Bronx Community College. Cara 's latest novel is Be Safe I Love You.
First broadcast on 16th August 2014
Claudia Hammond is a writer, broadcaster and psychology lecturer. She is the voice of psychology on BBC Radio 4 where she is the presenter of All in the Mind and Mind Changers. She is also a part-time member of faculty at Boston University in London. She won the British Psychological Society's Public Engagement and Media Award in 2012, Mind's Making a Difference Award in 2011, the Society of Personality and Social Psychology's Media Achievement Award in 2012 and the Public Understanding of Neuroscience Award from the British Neuroscience Association in 2012. Claudia Hammond is the author of one previous book, Emotional Rollercoaster and in this interview we talk about her latest, Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception.
First broadcast on 9th August 2013.
Professor David Colquhoun, FRS, held the established (A.J. Clark) chair of Pharmacology at UCL, and was the Hon. Director of the Wellcome Laboratory for Molecular Pharmacology. In October 2004, he became a Research Fellow. Like many previous holders of the chair (in particular, A.J. Clark, J.H. Gaddum, H.O. Schild and J.W. Black) his interests are in quantitative analysis of receptor mechanisms.
He graduated from Leeds with a BSc and then went to Edinburgh to work for a PhD. After doing research at University College from 1964-69 on immunological problems and completing a book on statistics, he went to Yale University to work on nerve conduction. After returning from the USA he eventually returned to the Pharmacology Department at UCL in 1979, and has worked on single ion channel mechanisms since then. In 2004, he was made an Honorary Fellow of University College London.
Chris French is a professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and heads the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, which he founded in the year 2000. He is a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society.He is also the co-editor of The Skeptic magazine.
First broadcast on 15th May 2009.
Conor Woodman is an economist, author, film-maker and presenter. He is the author of Around the World in 80 Trades - which had an accompanying four-part television series for Channel 4. His most recent book was Unfair Trade: How Big Business Exploits the World's Poor - and Why it Doesn't Have to, which we discussed on a previous episode of Little Atoms. In this show we talk about Conor's TV series, Scam City, which is currently airing on Wednesday evenings at 8pm on the National Geographic Channel. Conor has been our guest on Little Atoms twice.
Colin Blakemore studied Medical Sciences in Cambridge and completed a PhD in Physiological Optics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968. From 1968-79 has was a Demonstrator and then Lecturer in Physiology at Cambridge, and was also Director of Medical Studies at Downing College. From 1976-9 he held the Royal Society Locke Research Fellowship. In 1979 he was appointed Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford and Professorial Fellow at Magdalen College, and from 1996-2003 he directed the Oxford Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience. Between 2003 and 2007 he served as Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council. He held the title of Waynflete Professor until 2007 and is now Professor of Neuroscience. He also holds Professorships at the University of Warwick and the Duke University – National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, where he is Chairman of Singapore's Neuroscience Research Partnership.
Colin is a Fellow of the Royal Society (since 1992) and the Academy of Medical Sciences. He is an Honorary FRCP and an Honorary Fellow or Member of the Institute of Biology, British Pharmacological Society, Physiological Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, British Association for the Advancement of Science and Cambridge Union. He is a member of Academia Europaea and a Foreign Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Indian Academy of Neurosciences. He has been President of the British Association, the British Neuroscience Association, the Physiological Society and the Biosciences Federation. He is Chairman of the Food Standard Agency's General Advisory Committee on Science and the Health Protection Agency's Electromagnetic Fields Discussion Group.
Colin has been actively involved in the public communication of science for more than 30 years. He is a frequent broadcaster on radio and television, has published a number of books about science for a general readership, and he writes for the national and international media. He works with and for the Science Museum, London, the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, the Cheltenham Festival of Science, the Science Media Centre and Sense about Science. He is President of the Association of British Science Writers.
First broadcast on 14th November 2008.
Brian Clegg is a science journalist and writer. He runs www.popularscience.co.uk and is the author of Inflight Science: A Guide to the World From Your Airplane Window. Brian's other books include Armageddon Science, Before The Big Bang, and A Brief History of Infinity.
First broadcast on 6th May 2011.
Greg Jenner is the historical consultant to CBBC's multi-award winning Horrible Histories,Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry, and the various HH spin-offs. As well as contributing sketches and co-writing Stephen Fry's links, over the past four years he has been solely responsible for the factual accuracy of nearly one thousand comedy sketches with subject matter that has spanned the entirety of human history.
Greg studied at the University of York and, after dropping initial plans for a life in academia, has worked on historical documentaries and dramas for the past seven years. Greg's first book is A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life from the Stone Age to the Phone Age.
Dr Cordelia Fine is an academic psychologist and writer. She is the author of A Mind of Its Own: How your brain distorts and deceives, and writes regularly for the press. She wrote the introduction for the Britannica Guide to the Brain, and her second book, Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Difference is now published.
Cordelia studied Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, followed by an M.Phil in Criminology at Cambridge University. She was awarded a Ph.D in Psychology from University College London. From 2002 to 2007 she was a Research Associate at Monash University, and then at the Australian National University. She is currently a Research Associate at the Centre for Agency, Values & Ethics at Macquarie University, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
First broadcast on 10th September 2010.
Late last year, Little Atoms took part in an audio installation, Mind’s Eye, which consisted of a number of interviews with scientists involved in current space missions.
Mind’s Eye is now on tour, and can been heard from 16 to 22 February as part of Smashfest UK at the Albany Theatre in Deptford. Here are two interviews recorded for this tour. Dr Shoshana Weider was a postdoctoral fellow on NASA’s Messenger mission to Mercury, and Dr Matt Taylor is currently Project Scientist on ESA’s Rosetta.
Arthur I. Miller is emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at University College London. He is the author of several acclaimed books, including Einstein, Picasso, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Empire of the Stars, which was shortlisted for the 2006 Aventis Prize for Science Books, and 137, which we’re discussed on a previous Little Atoms. An experienced broadcaster, lecturer and biographer, he is particularly interested in the relationship between science and creativity, and his latest book is Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art.
Simon Ardizzone is a freelance editor and filmmaker living and working in the UK. Since graduating from the National Film and Television School in 1995, Simon has worked on over 50 films for English and American broadcasters. Hacking Democracy, his first documentary, co-produced and directed with Russell Michaels, was nominated for Outstanding Investigative Journalism at this year's Emmy Awards. Hacking Democracy which proved that vote-counting computers could reverse the results of an American election, was shown last year by HBO to widespread critical acclaim and has become a tool for election reform activists across the states.
Interview first broadcast on 7th December 2007.
This week’s Little Atoms is a special edition recorded at FutureEverything 2015 in Manchester on 26 and 27 February 2015. The show features a long interview recorded live with writer, researcher and activist Alice Bell, and shorter interviews with FutureEverything CEO and founder Drew Hemment, Sonic Pi creator Sam Aaron, Hack Circus founder Leila Johnston and Data Artist Jer Thorp.
Salena Godden writes and performs poetry, fiction, memoir, radio drama and lyrics. Her latest book of poems, Fishing in the Aftermath, was published in 2014 by Burning Eye Books. She runs The Book Club Boutique, London's louchest literary salon, and is lead singer and lyricist of SaltPeter, alongside composer Peter Coyte. She can regularly be heard on Radio 4 and last year presented the documentary 'Try A Little Tenderness – The Lost Legacy of Little Miss Cornshucks'. Her literary memoir Springfield Road was recently published by Unbound.
Kate Hamer grew up in Pembrokeshire. She did a Creative Writing MA at Aberystwyth University and the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. She won the Rhys Davies short story award in 2011 and her winning story was read out on BBC Radio 4. She has recently been awarded a Literature Wales bursary. The Girl in the Red Coat is her first novel.
Dr Hannah Fry is a mathematician and complexity scientist from University College London’s Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis. Fry also regularly presents the Number Hub strand of BBC Worldwide’s YouTube channel, and regularly appears on radio and tv in the UK, most recently Climate Change by Numbers on BBC4. Her first TED talk attracted more than 500,000 views and evolved into her first book, The Mathematics of Love.
Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many bestselling books, including Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie, Lost at Sea: The Jon RonsonMysteries, The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, starred Michael Fassbender. Jon’s latest book is So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
Dr. Dennis C Reuter is a New Horizons co-investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the instrument scientist for Ralph, the New Horizons color imager and infrared spectrometer. New Horizons launched on 19 January 2006 and is scheduled to fly-by Pluto and its moons in July 2015. This is another interview recorded by Little Atoms for audio installation Mind's Eye,which will be coming to Manchester, Bristol and Bradford over the coming months.
Susan Pinker is a developmental psychologist and award-winning newspaper columnist who writes about psychology and social science in the Globe and Mail. She has worked as a clinical psychologist for twenty-five years and has taught at McGill University in Montreal. Known for her progressive and thought-provoking work, her previous book The Sexual Paradox took an unflinching look at the gender gap. Her latest book is The Village Effect: Why Face-to-Face Contact Matters.
Gary Wilson is the presenter of the popular TEDx talk The Great Porn Experiment and hosts the website Your Brain on Porn, which was created for those seeking to understand and reverse compulsive porn use. He taught anatomy and physiology for years and has long been interested in the neurochemistry of addiction, mating and bonding. Gary Wilson is the author of the book Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction.
Susan Pinker portrait by Susie Lowe
Dan Hind was a publisher for ten years. In 2009 he left the industry to develop a program of media reform centered around public commissioning. His journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New Scientist, Lobster and the Times Literary Supplement. His first book, The Threat to Reason, was published by Verso in 2007. Dan's latest book is The Return of The Public.
Dorian Lynskey is a music writer for the Guardian. He was the Big Issue's music critic for three years and has freelanced for a host of titles, including Q, Word, Spin, Empire, Blender and the Observer. He is the author of The Guardian Book of Playlists, and his latest book is 33 Revolutions Per Minute:A History of Protest Songs.
Damian Thompson is a leader writer for The Daily Telegraph and editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald. He blogs for the Telegraph on religious affairs and is the author of a number of books, including Waiting for Antichrist: Charisma and Apocalypse in a Pentecostal Church and The End of Time: Faith and the Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium.
In February 2008, Damian's latest book, Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History, will be published. You can discover more by visiting www.counterknowledge.com.