Philip Ball is a freelance science writer. He trained as a chemist at the University of Oxford, and as a physicist at the University of Bristol.
He worked previously at Nature for over 20 years, first as an editor for physical sciences and then as a consultant editor. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.
Philip is the author of many popular books on science, including H2O: A Biography of Water, Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour, The Music Instinct and Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything. His book Critical Mass won the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books, while Serving the Reich was shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Science Book Prize in 2014.
Philip writes regularly for publications including Nature, New Scientist, the Guardian, the Financial Times, Prospect and New Statesman. He has broadcast on many occasions on radio and TV, and is a presenter of Science Stories on BBC Radio 4. He was awarded the William Thomson, Lord Kelvin Medal and Prize in 2019 by the Institute of Physics for communication of physics, and the American Chemical Society James T Grady–James H Stack Award in 2006 for interpreting chemistry for the public. He holds honorary degrees from Bristol University and Union College, NY.
The long and short of telomere rejuvenation
Telomerase is unlikely to be a straightforward elixir of youth
Interpreting the impact of AI large language models on chemistry
LLMs may outperform Alphafold, but currently struggle to identify simple chemical structures
Human genome editing in perspective
Ethical, cultural and safety considerations are high priorities for researchers
New phase of amorphous ice formed by ball milling
Medium-density amorphous ice has a structure and density similar to liquid water
What does AI mean for chemistry?
Phil Ball looks at whether letting machines do our thinking for us will change our understanding of chemistry itself
Fluidic chemical systems can mimic the way the brain stores memories
Imitating the way that neurons communicate could lead to low-power neuromorphic computing
Protein filaments allow ‘diary’ of cell events to be read
Expression recording islands show when and where cells responded
Exploring AlphaFold’s knowledge of energy landscapes
The algorithm needs a little help to find the global energy minimum
Quantum computing has its limits
Error-prone qubits mean quantum systems do not yet surpass classical methods
A promising breakthrough in liquid condensate compartmentalisation
Tears are RNA solvent droplets that could help engineer new functions into bacteria
Understanding how chemistry links RNA triplets to the properties of amino acids
James Lovelock, a gentleman scientist
Philip Ball reflects on the legacy of the creator of the Gaia hypothesis, who has died aged 103
Period of discovery
Chemical space contained sufficient information to formulate the periodic system 25 years before Mendeleev
From prebiotic soup to fine-grained RNA world
Theories about how life emerged need to be closely attuned to conditions on the early Earth
Is there a natural order in which complex objects appear?
Assembly theory suggests there might be
Beyond the transition state
Entropy production could be a key guide to predicting how a reaction product forms
Causal emergence might explain how living systems can operate
Life does not run like clockwork
A century of curly arrows
Celebrating the simple symbols that – along with their straight counterparts – encapsulate complex chemical behaviours
Direct evidence emerges for the existence of two forms of liquid water
Low temperature experiments with sugary solution reveal transition from low- to high-density states at pressure
Ned Seeman’s legacy
A system based on DNA ‘tiles’ can embody Darwinian evolution, raising new possibilities for understanding natural selection and materials development