David Robson

Science writer and editor

I am an award-winning writer and editor, who specialises in writing in-depth articles probing the extremes of the human mind, body and behaviour. My subjects have included the limits of intelligence, the true stories of 'real-life' vampires, and our burgeoning understanding of the ways that culture shapes your psychology.

My first book, The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Stupid Mistakes and How to Make Wiser Decisions, will be published on 7 March 2019. It is available for pre-order now.

I hope you enjoy my clippings. If you would like to get in touch, please email d_a_robson "at" hotmail.com.




The viruses that may save humanity

It was the early 1890s, and Ernest Hankin was studying cholera outbreaks along the banks of the Ganges. As the locals dumped their dead in the holy water, the river should have...


How much would you pay to live for an extra year?

Human life is so precious, it seems crass to put a price on it. How can a pile of coins, paper or gold bars match a year on Earth? Life should be, quite literally, invaluable....


The air that makes you fat

Take a deep breath, and exhale. Depending on where you live, that life-giving lungful of air might just be pushing you towards diabetes and obesity. Two people can eat the same...


The secrets of living to 200 years old

Just 30 years after the publication of Moby Dick, a group of Alaskan whalers attempted to tame their own ocean giant. Their target was a male bowhead whale, the second largest...

And the rest...

BBC Capital

The secrets of the 'high-potential' personality

Are you curious, conscientious and competitive? Do you also have the more mysterious qualities of "high adjustment", "ambiguity acceptance" and "risk approach"? If so,...

BBC Capital

Do Elon Musk's radical work ideas add up?

Tesla is in turmoil. The electric car-maker's shares have fallen by over 25% in value since last September, and analysts are predicting further losses. One reason is the...


We have the wrong idea about males, females and sex

Once upon a time, animal courtship was thought to run something like a Barbara Cartland novel. The rakish males battle it out for a chaste female, who sits around choosing the...


An inside view of Hong Kong's hidden rooftop farms

A butterfly perching on a lettuce leaf is not normally a cause for marvel. But I am standing on the roof the Bank of America Tower, a 39-floor building in the heart of Hong...


The 'hidden talent' that determines success

Editor's Note (December 21, 2017): Through to the end of the year, BBC Capital is bringing back some of your favourite stories from 2017. Imagine meeting someone for the first...


How to save the world's most trafficked mammal

For millions of years, the pangolin's natural reserve had been its best defence. The only mammal with hard, plate-like scales, it looks something like a badger in chainmail -...


The dark tales of the world's most epic sleep-talker

"Do you know Edwina didn't even cry when that crocodile popped off her leg? She didn't even cry, Edwina. She was fascinated, just fascinated. Her mother fainted dead away, and...


The strange Victorian fashion of self-electrification

Are you tired? Plagued by migraines? Or suffering from anxiety? Then Isaac Pulvermacher had the answer with his famous "hydro-electric belt". Shaped like a cowboy's bullet belt,...


A dream-traveller's guide to the sleeping mind

As with many nightmares, Mary Arnold-Forster was being chased. She seemed to be in London around the First World War, and she had somehow become embroiled in dangerous...


The reasons why exhaustion and burnout are so common

A few years ago, Anna Katharina Schaffner became the latest victim of the exhaustion 'epidemic'. It began with a kind of mental and physical inertia - as she put it, a "sense of...


The mysterious appeal of 'silent music'

In March 1941, a New York audience gathered outside a Broadway theatre to experience one of the more unusual concerts the city had ever seen. The 13-piece orchestra was led by...


The Victorians who flew as high as jumbo jets

The dead pigeons should have been James Glaisher's warning. On 5 September 1862, the scientist was taking one of his first balloon flights - and alongside the compass,...


Did the Maya create the first 'comics'?

Long before Bugs Bunny came along, a cheeky rabbit terrorised Mayan gods. With speech bubbles, stink lines and naughty jokes, they are uncannily similar to graphic novels.


The surprising perks of being easily embarrassed

A few days into my first job, a colleague walked into my team's office to complain about a "situation" with the toilet. I won't go into the messy details; let's just say that...


What Sherlock Holmes taught us about the mind

Soon after Andrew Lees embarked on his medical career at University College Hospital London, one of his superiors gave him a rather strange reading list. Rather than the usual...