Why there's no such thing as 'male' and 'female' brains 

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It was hailed as proof at last: for the first time, brain differences between the sexes had been found to be innate and identifiable in babies in the womb. Scientists at New York University Langone had successfully conducted scans of foetuses to look for changes in the connectivity of their growing brains. Supposedly their research had shown that biology plays an important role in their nature.

Had their evidence genuinely pointed to the existence of “male brains” and “female brains”, this would have been quite some discovery. But, at the risk of disappointing all those who have seized on this “proof” with enthusiasm, I would contend it does no such thing.

As a neuroscientist who has long been…

Comment: The knife-crime epidemic in Wild West Britain means we need to talk about ID cards again

A knife handed in to a West Midlands Police knife surrender bin A knife handed in to a West Midlands Police knife surrender bin Credit:  Aaron Chown/ PA

“Teenage gunman shoots girl, 11, woman, 30, and two young men with a BB-gun in south London park attack.”

“Newsagent worker is stabbed to death in a robbery as he opened his shop in ‘safe’ Pinner.”

“Man stabbed to death as six people knifed in night of bloodshed across London.”

Those were some of the headlines we woke up to on Sunday; just another weekend in Wild West Britain. And even with the degree of mundanity these daily maimings and slaughters have acquired, the weekend’s violent crime and death toll was enough to leave us reeling. “It’s happening every day,” shrugged Pinner local Mary MacNamara on television. “Nobody does anything about it.”

They’re too busy telling us how complicated…

Tonight's dinner: Mushroom and wild garlic lasagne

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I love cooking with ingredients which have a very short season. Rhubarb, blood oranges, asparagus, Jersey royals — these flash in the pan ingredients are a total joy to cook with because though they only linger in our greengrocers for a few brief weeks, they are at their absolute flavour peak and so require very little adornment to make them sing. 

Wild garlic tastes, put simply, of Spring. Fresh, earthy and peppery, it brightens up every dish it touches. There are whole festivals dedicated to it in America (where it’s called ramps), and infinite ways to prepare it.

Wild garlic can be expensive to buy — though of course it’s free if you happen to have a patch nearby you can forage from — but…

Antibiotics can harm your gut health – here's how to undo the damage

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Antibiotics have long been cited as one of the greatest medical discoveries of the 20th century. And with good reason: when they were first used to treat previously untreatable diseases in the 1960s, like TB and pneumonia, they helped to dramatically decrease death rates.

But in recent years, a slightly more complicated picture has emerged: research suggests they’re being over-prescribed and the NHS is currently trying to limit the number of antibiotics given by doctors, due to fears of antibiotic resistance. And evidence is increasingly finding they could be playing havoc with our gut health too.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) have recently discovered just a single course of…

Comment: The SUV age is upon us, but nothing will replace the romance of an old-fashioned estate 

Portugal road trip Renault Megane  Older cars are kept on the road far longer in Portugal than the UK, so the SUV epidemic has yet to fully take hold there

There is nothing particularly stylish about worn-down family estates. You won’t turn any heads on the street for driving a vehicle made specifically for families and their luggage, particularly once it has covered the length of England a couple of hundred times.

No wonder then that SUVs and their “compact” variants have taken over the roads. Both the new and used markets are flooded with these taller, bolder, brasher vehicles which promise all the comfort and practicality you may ever need, with the perceived benefit of a high-riding driving position and an imposing amount of bulk. 

Yet it is in the trusty family estate that I find solace. These unassuming workhorses undertake long journeys with…

The best men's watches at Baselworld 2019

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The new, ‘slimline’ Baselworld may be short of a few brands, notably including the entire Swatch Group stable, but it remains the industry’s most important get-together by far. Even taking the escalators at Basel offers a good chance of a useful encounter and with the likes of Patek Philippe and Rolex alongside LVMH’s brands, there was never going to be a shortage of news and creativity on offer.

Patek Philippe

Top of the bill goes to Patek with a wide-ranging collection that included a mega-complication in the Geneva brand’s pilot line; a khaki Aquanaut and the Annual Calendar Regulator 5235R in rose gold. It’s a watch that first saw the light in 2011 in a yellow-gold form, but the new version…

Comment: James Cracknell’s Boat Race Diary: “I miss my wife and children, but I’m showing my kids if you work hard you can achieve great things”

James Cracknell James Cracknell, outside the Captains Room at Cambridge University Credit: Jeff Gilbert

In the second extract of his exclusive weekly diary, the two time Olympian champion James Cracknell on missing family life and pre-race nerves…

We have two weeks left until the big day, and yesterday we lost a brutal race against Oxford Brookes University. It was pretty ferocious, with clashes and oars entangling and breaking.

The river is a tough, unpredictable course: one part always moves faster than the other; there may be swimmers in the water; debris getting caught in your oars; a tide going under your boat; a bendy route. It’s a moving course, unlike the Olympics, which is a sterile rowing environment and like a giant swimming pool. 

Yesterday we lost by just one second, and Oxford recently…

I was sexually assaulted by my best friend's boyfriend 

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Before Harvey Weinstein. Before #MeToo. And before I really knew what was happening, my best friend’s boyfriend sexually assaulted me in a nightclub. 

Under the guise of his usual ‘banter’, Max* leaned towards me, shoved his hand between my legs and squeezed my vagina. Hard. Yes, I was wearing a short skirt. No, I didn’t deserve it.

It happened so fast, my mind – a few drinks into what would have been a good night out – struggled to register. Was it an accident? A prank gone wrong? What the hell?

He had a big, sneery grin on his face and walked off giggling. He thought it was hilarious.

After the initial shock of his hand on me, I knew what he’d done was wrong; how disgusting and cheap it had…

The pashmina is back – just don't call it that

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If you never quite got over the demise of the pashmina, circa 1999, and think there may still be one that didn’t end up in the dog’s basket; if you love the feeling of being swaddled; if you always like to have a big scarf close at hand, just in case; if your favourite fashion film inspiration is The Revenant; if your take away from Dior’s recent blockbuster show was those blankety-coat things that will probably cost five grand when they hit the rails next winter, then rejoice: your guilty secret is about to be exonerated.

Blanket coats – not that different from actual blankets except in terms of softness, drape and price  – are set to be a chic statement next winter. They weren’t just at Dior….

'We were looking for a cool brand with an interesting history.' Norton revs up with Breitling

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Breitling can lay claim to kick-starting the 21st-century trend for collaborations between watchmakers and car companies when it partnered with Bentley in 2002.

But equally interesting to fans of revived British marques was the announcement that Breitling has also teamed up with Norton.

The latter went into liquidation in 1977, but its fortunes have been revived by British entrepreneur and motorbike enthusiast Stuart Garner, who acquired world-wide rights to the motorcycle manufacturer in 2008.

Previously in a nearly decade-long partnership with UK watchmaker Bremont, Norton announced the switch to Breitling in February last year, after being approached by the brand’s dynamic CEO, Georges Kern….