The Chinese translation of The Athletic Brain is out now, complete with an amazing cover. Hail to the chimp!
I write about science, technology and sport for national magazines and websites.
My work has appeared in Sport magazine, The Times, WIRED, the Observer, the Independent, the Telegraph, the Independent, FourFourTwo, Science Uncovered and more. I am the editor of Professional Engineering magazine, and a contributing editor at WIRED UK.
My first book, 'The Athletic Brain - How Neuroscience Is Revolutionising Sport and Can Help You Perform Better' was published by Simon & Schuster in August 2016.
I was shortlisted for Feature Writer of the Year by the Sports Journalists Association for my work in 2016, and Editor of the Year at the Memcom awards in 2019.
I also do talks and media work. I've appeared on the BBC, Sky, CNN, BT Sport and talkSPORT, and at events including SXSW 2018.
I'm available for freelance commissions and appearances.
The Chinese translation of The Athletic Brain is out now, complete with an amazing cover. Hail to the chimp!
Elon Musk is a science-fiction character. That's how one friend puts it. In some ways, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is the archetypical cartoon billionaire - Tony Stark meets The Simpsons' Hank Scorpio - with the rockets, the rollercoaster personal life and the fast cars - one of which is currently speeding away from us at 13,000kph.
In a letter to shareholders in October 2017, Jack Ma - the billionaire founder of Chinese online giant Alibaba - coined the phrase "New Retail" to describe the melding together of real world and digital shopping experiences. This wasn't just blue-sky thinking. Alibaba plans to open 1,000 smart supermarkets in China in the next five years.
At Kingston University in south-west London, a researcher in a white lab coat and safety goggles struggles to unscrew a large plastic jar full of cow eyes, fresh from the local slaughterhouse. Eventually he succeeds in prising off the yellow lid, before plucking out one sizeable specimen and popping it on a black tray, which he holds flat on his palm like a waiter offering out canapés.
The new-look Professional Engineering is up for two prizes at the 2019 memcom awards - Launch/Relaunch of the Year, and Editor of the Year
Life-changing decisions are happening in the dark. Machine-learning algorithms now determine decisions from loan applications to cancer diagnoses. In France, they place children in schools. In the US, they determine prison sentences. They can set credit scores and insurance rates, and decide the fate of job candidates and university applicants.
Catch the 1E bus from central Belgrade, Serbia, and you'll be riding the future. The five Chariot e-buses that operate on this route are some of the first in the world to run solely on supercapacitors, a fast-charging alternative to batteries that could revolutionise how we store energy.
Here's a thoroughly modern riddle: what links the battery in your smartphone with a dead yak floating down a Tibetan river? The answer is lithium - the reactive alkali metal that powers our phones, tablets, laptops and electric cars.
Thana Slanvetpan usually spends his days inspecting oil wells and gas pipelines. But when a call for help came in from rescuers searching for a football team of 12 boys and a coach lost in a cave in Northern Thailand, he sprang into action.
In September last year, Transport for London (TfL) decided not to grant Uber a new license to operate in the capital, sparking jubilation from the city's black cab drivers, and mild panic from the 600,000 Londoners who signed a petition to reverse the decision.
Sharon Forbes spends her evenings on the sofa, searching for another world. At her house in Wiltshire, with the television on in the background, the 63-year-old joins thousands of citizen-scientists in an astronomical treasure hunt that stretches back more than a century.
If you're reading this on your smartphone, you're holding a bomb. Beneath a protective screen, lithium - a metal so volatile that it can ignite on contact with water - is being taken apart and reassembled in the intense chemical reaction that powers much of the modern world.
The £20 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset won't open until at least 2025, and by then, it could already be a relic. The eye-watering cost of such large projects has led to an explosion of interest in alternative nuclear technology - small modular reactors (SMRs).
Apple is the most valuable company on Earth. It has unparalleled power and reach. Now what? I asked those in the know for their view on what's next for the cover of WIRED magazine.
I appeared on a panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas, discussing Action Intelligence and The Athletic Brain
How Neuroscience is Revolutionising Sport and Can Help You Perform Better (Simon & Schuster)
"Sport Magazine may have gone but Amit Katwala flies the flag for the publication by making the final six in the Sports Feature Writer category."
In the 1970s, Dr Donald Highgate found a way to make contact lenses more comfortable. With colleagues at the University of Surrey, he developed a transparent, flexible polymer that held water like a sponge. Now, the same technology has spawned a new supercapacitor material that could accelerate the adoption of electric cars, and solve one of the biggest problems facing renewables.
Ronnie O'Sullivan can exhale in a thousand different ways. He uses prolonged sighs and sharp intakes of breath like words, scattering his speech with them. At one point, he puffs out his cheeks and flaps his lips like a horse.
If you really want to understand Lewis Hamilton – the blistering pace, the private jet, the popstar parties – just ask him to take his shirt off. There, tattooed on his sculpted chest, you’ll find a compass (symbolising his guiding faith), a roaring lion (newly added) and the words ‘powerful beyond measure’. Sport meets the double F1 world champion for an exclusive interview the day after his pole-to-flag victory in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. We’re speaking to him at Brooklands in Surrey:...
Athletes aren’t supposed to have emotions. They are meant to be superheroes – immune to fear, doubt and mental health issues. They’re not.
"I’m a builder by trade,” says Troy Deeney, in the matter-of-fact tone you might use when making small talk at a barbecue. “It was never my life goal to be a professional footballer. I was more a normal council kid – I liked getting in trouble and chasing girls about.”
Fire shoots out of the ground on a hillside in the outskirts of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The flames are fuelled by natural gas seeping out from underneath, and they have been burning for a thousand years. That’s what some say, anyway. Others say that a farmer accidentally lit the gas stream alight with a discarded cigarette some time in the 1950s.
Superman might seem an unlikely saviour for an Olympic champion, but he helped Jessica Ennis-Hill recover from her lowest ebb. With her foot in a cast after the career-threatening stress fracture to her right ankle that wrecked her 2008 season, the heptathlete watched episode after episode of Smallville – the story of Clark Kent’s development from provincial teen to global icon. “It definitely kept my mind off being miserable and upset about being injured,” she tells us in an exclusive...
I was interviewed for Premier League World's special on sport science, shown on BT Sport, Sky Sports and worldwide
In southeast London, the technology has been installed in a fleet of five silver Land Rovers, driven by employees of Greenwich council. At the moment, they are being used to validate self-driving algorithms before they're unleashed on the world - to compare how a human reacted in a particular situation with what the AI would have done.
When Edward Snowden wanted to contact filmmaker Laura Poitras to blow the whistle on activities at the NSA, his first step was to find out her public PGP key. PGP stands for 'Pretty Good Privacy,' and it has been one of the dominant forms of end-to-end encryption for email communications since the 1990s.
How can we make computer language more accessible? By understanding how they see us and our world
Culinary innovations won't just change how food is created, they'll also create whole new flavours
The Athletic Brain
There’s a BASE jumper throwing up in the bathroom. We’re at the GSK Human Performance Lab, a squat industrial unit just off the M4 near Brentford, and the smell of sweat and effort fills the air.
Sensors built into mouthguards or worn on the body are helping researchers understand how high-speed impacts damage the human body
Footballers, rugby players and wrestlers are risking their lives by playing on through concussion. The end results can be devastating.
The level of physical ability in the world of sport is reaching a peak. Scientists don’t believe it is possible to shave too much time off Usain Bolt’s 100m world record, it is unlikely that football will be graced with another Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo for quite some time. Of course these people are exceptional athletes, but at one time they were just like many of the others in their field—until something changed.
Where does fatigue come from? It doesn't come from the body. Even when people exercise to exhaustion, studies have shown that there is fuel left in the tank - one found there was enough energy left in muscle tissue for participants to have kept going for another seven or eight minutes.
BY AMIT KATWALA Despite their reputation, elite footballers are smarter than many give them credit for. To succeed at the top level, they need to be able to make high-speed decisions under incredible pressure. One study in Sweden found that footballers...
Premier League clubs are using new technology and techniques to train their players' brains and make them smarter on the pitch, as new book The Athletic Brain reveals. Arsenal's Petr Cech uses a variety of innovative techniques, including practicing one-handed saves against a table- tennis robot.
Aaron Cook used to be a prodigy. Now he is an outcast. At 17, he went to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to represent Great Britain in taekwondo - a frenetic martial art with an emphasis on fast and accurate kicking. Now the three-time European champion doesn't compete for his country of birth.
Elite sport is a constant search for a competitive advantage. Even athletes who stay on the right side of the law take a cocktail of vitamins and supplements, and use cryotherapy chambers and oxygen tents. Now, coaches and teams on the hunt for the next edge are turning to the brain. "Neural doping" could be sport’s new revolution, or its next big scandal.
Chelsea’s Victor Moses tells Sport how fortune, forgiveness and faith have helped him – eventually – reach the top
On England. On United. On life after football.
Gary Lineker, Damon Hill, Victoria Pendleton and other sporting stars reveal their secret desires and pet hates
You can trace Mauricio Pochettino’s football philosophy back to an old photograph, and a stranger at the door.
Leighton Baines snuck out of Everton’s Christmas party for a 20-minute walk, with a camera hanging off his shoulder. The left-back has been learning photography. He takes his camera with him on away trips, and often wanders the streets looking for subjects. He found the perfect snap that night in Leeds – two women, made-up and smoking outside a bar, their breath hanging in the air under atmospheric lighting. He pressed the shutter. Click.
Jim White thinks it all started with Robinho. Manchester City’s stunning swoop for the Brazilian in 2008 announced their arrival as a major player in the Premier League, and helped change transfer deadline day from an administrative footnote into a genuine entertainment product in its own right.
When Romelu Lukaku was 12 years old, he made a promise. The Everton striker had recently joined Anderlecht in his native Belgium as a youth player. “I went to one game,” he remembers. “It was Anderlecht against Lierse, my former team. It was funny, but I promised myself to never go and watch another game until I was on the pitch myself. I was 12. I waited four years. We had Champions League games and everything, and I never went to the stadium. It was a good thing, to motivate me, and it went...
Michail Antonio’s non-league career came to an abrupt end. Eight years ago, the powerful West Ham winger was a raw 18-year-old, playing for local side Tooting & Mitcham in the Isthmian League, part of the seventh tier of English football. His performances had caught the eye of Reading, however, and the Royals had signed Antonio and loaned him back to south London as a much-improved player.
The Champions League trophy looms large over Gary Lineker. It’s pictured on an array of giant screens at BT Sport’s expansive studios in Stratford, slowly rotating like a doner kebab. “It’s big ears and big ears,” quips the other king of Saturday nights, as we sit down for an expansive chat.
English football is in the grips of an identity crisis. This week, Roy Hodgson’s men face two sides with strong footballing philosophies: World Cup winners Germany and the Netherlands – the originators of Total Football.
For most people, this would be a fairly simple exercise: a thumping playground volley, a glancing header in Sunday league, a five-aside flick you’re adamant was deliberate, even though no one believes you.
When he was a kid, Daniel Sturridge idolised the lycra-clad giants of the ring. His favourite wrestler was The Undertaker. “When you are younger, you don’t understand whether wrestling is real or isn’t real,” the Liverpool striker tells us. “But it was just the way in which they went about their business. It was exciting to see, and it was inspiring actually – it was a fun thing to watch.”
In the build-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, I wrote a series of articles delving into the competition's rich history. Each week, I shone light on an untold World Cup story - from Osama bin Laden's plot to target the England football team, to the time Roger Milla imprisoned a pygmy football team in the basement of Cameroon's national stadium. At the end of the series, I collected the articles into an e-book.
Ryan Giggs made a name for himself terrorising defenders. We’re pretty sure Martin Keown still has nightmares. The 43-yearold spent two decades flying down the left wing for Manchester United at Old Trafford, so it’s ironic that the one thing that used to frighten him more than anything else was the prospect of getting on an aeroplane.
While his Birmingham City teammates played in the 2001 League Cup final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Curtis Woodhouse was drunk in the city centre, tearing up a curry house in an argument over the bill.
Adam Clayton's timing could not have been worse. The 28-year-old Middlesbrough midfielder joined Manchester City's academy at the age of seven, but by the time he got to the first team he found his route blocked by a wall of expensive bought-in talent.
Doing an interview through a translator is a strange process. You ask questions in English, nod sagely as your subject answers them in a language you can’t understand, before a third person gives you the gist of what they said. You’re never quite sure who to look at.
Jason Puncheon has an eye for the spectacular. He demonstrated it last weekend, smashing in Crystal Palace’s only goal from the edge of the box in a 4-1 defeat to Southampton.
Geoff Cameron is that guy. He is the person at work who downloads the latest hot television shows before they’ve aired in the UK, and spends the intervening period dropping unsubtle hints and loudly talking about what happens.
Chris Martin once scored four goals in an FA Cup game. “Paulton Rovers away,” he remembers. “Not many people will have heard of them. I think they were the lowest-ranked team left in the competition at that time – I can’t remember what division they played in, to be honest. I just remember we won 7-0.”
Secondary school. Science lesson. All your classmates gathered round a screen, watching a video of you recorded over the weekend. It’s the stuff of nightmares, right?
Gareth Bale and Adam Lallana came through the ranks together at Southampton. The England player says Bale’s rapid rise has been no surprise. “I always knew he had a spectacular talent,” says Lallana, ahead of today’s long-awaited Euro 2016 Group B clash with Wales. “It’s just a credit to how hard he has worked. You don’t get these things without working hard, and he has sacrificed big parts of his life. He’s a great lad. I still speak to him when we play against him.”
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill’s vision for his country’s first major tournament in 30 years
Former policeman Howard Webb always carried an air of authority on the pitch. The imposing 44-year-old from Rotherham retired at the end of the 2013/14 season, after 11 years officiating in the Premier League.
Ben Gibson leads Sport down a narrow corridor at Middlesbrough's Rockliffe Park training ground, pointing out those who have gone before him in squad photos that line the walls. There's Jonathan Woodgate, who came through Boro's academy and had spells with Leeds, Real Madrid and Tottenham.
Christian Eriksen has caught the sun. It’s the hottest day of the year, and there’s a definite reddish tinge to the Dane’s face when he comes in after training for our interview. He’s spent three weeks on holiday – Sardinia, Mallorca, and back in Denmark with his and his girlfriend’s families – before returning to submit to Tottenham’s gruelling pre-season conditioning regime. He wasn’t at Euro 2016, but the 24-year-old did manage to squeeze in some sport during his time off – including a...
At Bournemouth, loyalty to the manager runs deep. When central defender Steve Cook plays Football Manager, he copies Eddie Howe’s highpressing style, and instructs his virtual XIs to play the ball out from the back. But he never takes control of his own team.
Jamie Vardy is having a party. And you’re trapped inside. With Tottenham 2-0 up, and a remarkable title race still alive, most of the Leicester players who had gathered at Vardy’s house in Melton Mowbray would have made their excuses: half-drunk bottles of Jupiler placed quietly to one side, training in the morning and a game to win at the weekend.
Lewis Hamilton has a bucket list on his phone.
Nico Rosberg talks the way he drives – fast but controlled. There is a steel behind the 31-year-old’s eyes that could be read as coldness, and he speaks in a rapid but even tone, attacking our questions like they’re corners on a Formula 1 track, racing to the end of the interview.
Mechanics swarm around Jenson Button’s McLaren. They wield pneumatic guns for whipping off the wheels, air blowers for cooling the brakes and a roll of bubble wrap, which seems almost comically out of place among the space-age shine of the team garage.
We catch up with Britain’s MotoGP contingent as the 2016 season roars into life
James Hunt was frequently sick before a race. It is 40 years since the British driver won his only Formula 1 title in an epic tussle with Niki Lauda in 1976. In the intervening years, he has morphed into a stereotype: the playboy, devil-may-care racer; the drinking, smoking bad boy of the paddock.
As a child in Brazil, Nelson Piquet Jr spent hours playing Mario Kart. He still loves the game, so much so that he recently put a message out via Twitter trying to track down a Nintendo 64 so he could play while away travelling for the Formula E electric racing series.
Every year, 300,000 people descend on the most famous oval in motorsport – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – for the Indianapolis 500. “It’s the biggest sporting arena in the world,” says British driver Max Chilton, who is set to race there for the first time in his rookie season in IndyCar
Sleep deprivation and warm chocolate milkshake. What it takes to triumph in the Dakar Rally, by Sam Sunderland – Britain’s first ever winner of the race
Four-time Olympic gold-medallist Mo Farah on falling, family and the future.
We were somewhere around Cordoba on the edge of the hills when the crowds began to convene. The rain had been falling in a thick curtain all day but still they came, strung out for miles along the highway, grouped under awnings and bridges to catch a glimpse of the famous Dakar Rally – the world’s longest and toughest motor race, which comes to a close this weekend.
There’s a moment in the 10,000m when everything crystallises. Something clicks, like a switch being thrown. The competitors make their choices, and the shape of the race is set.
Triathletes spend a lot of time working on the transition. Precious seconds can be saved when switching from swim to bike to run - you certainly wouldn't want to lose out on a medal because it took you too long to put your shoes on. For British paratriathlete Lauren Steadman, there's a further complication.
Inside the mind of big-wave surfer Andrew Cotton
Rowing is tough on the hands. The constant motion of the oars against the palms and fingers causes them to dry and crack. Eventually the skin toughens up - some choose to accelerate the process by rubbing white spirit on it - and forms calluses to protect against the hours, days and months of hard practice.
Each of these chapters of manufacturing innovation upended the established economics of production, to a greater or lesser extent, leading to significant impacts on the prices of goods, the dynamics of supply chains, business models and labour market conditions.
Premier League preview supplement for EE, featuring team-by-team guides to the 2016-17 season
Featuring interviews with BT Sport pundits Rio Ferdinand, Steve McManaman and James Richardson, and guides to all the groups ahead of the 2015-16 Champions League.
A promotional pull-out for the launch of Xbox One game Sunset Overdrive. It was written 'in-universe,' and designed and printed as if the corner had been burnt away in an explosion.
Sports organisations chasing global goals risk leaving their local supporters feeling left behind, explains Amit Katwala, staff writer at Sport Magazine.
Science and medicine
I wrote a number of features for this monthly consumer science magazine, including articles on the world of the dinosaurs, bionic contact lenses, and this fascinating piece on Crossrail.
High-performing small practices are being held back because QOF thresholds are set too low to reward achievement adequately, a study suggests. Researchers compared the performance of practices since the QOF was introduced in 2004, in terms of points scored and achievement rates.
Drinking a cup of coffee a day can help prevent heart disease, according to newspaper reports. Greek researchers found elderly hypertensive patients who drank one to two cups of coffee a day had improved elasticity of blood vessels around the heart, a predictor of cardiovascular events.
SIGN has issued an updated guideline on the assessment and treatment of venous leg ulcers for patients in Scotland.
Vitamin D could help prevent cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS) and arthritis, newspapers have reported. UK researchers found that vitamin D levels affect the expression of genes relating to a range of diseases. What did the study examine? Researchers from the University of Oxford studied the effect of vitamin D on human gene expression.
Educating type-2 diabetes patients is a cost-effective way of increasing their quality of life, a study suggests. Patients could gain the equivalent of an extra fortnight of perfect health over the course of the lifetime, the researchers believe.
Plans to target vascular screening at high-risk groups in Wales could do more harm than good, a public health expert has warned. The recommendation to target high-risk groups was made in a report published by the Welsh Assembly government last week.
GPs should be trained on how to deal with patients who access healthcare information online, according to a report released this week.
Light drinking in pregnancy does not raise the risk of harm to children at the age of five years, a British study suggests.
Following England in the Euros this summer? If you have no idea where you are going or what you are doing – or if you are just looking for stuff to do before the football starts – Sport’s handy guide to some of the cities the Three Lions will visit this month is here to help.