Simon Usborne

Simon Usborne is a features writer at The Independent and i.

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Call to alms: Marcelle Speller

How much money do you need to be a philanthropist?

Charitable gifts of over £1m are at a five-year high. But in addition to giving more, people are giving smarter thanks to training provided in donor workshops.

Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother

"Stand-up mathematician" Matt Parker is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences

Simon Usborne joins Parker on a fun-filled trip to the Science Museum to talk about his first book
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm

Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom was written in 1962 by an eccentric Dutchwoman and has sold a million copies. Will it, ponders Simon Usborne, herald a new publishing era?

Ebola outbreak: Meet the men and women on the frontline against the deadly virus and other hazards

They are first responders, disease experts and emergency doctors. But who are the people who tackle killer viruses for a living? Simon Usborne hears how they (and their families) cope with work
PHONE LANTERN Impress your fellow night owls by putting a water bottle on top of your phone to create a makeshift lantern. The light from the screen will turn the water bottle into a light. Remember to turn off the lock on your phone to keep the light continuous and make sure that the bottle has water in it for optimum refraction.

Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Hacking doesn't have to mean taking something - software or celebrities - down

Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem

The ‘Oasis of the Seas’, the largest cruise ship in the world

Super-sized ships arrive in Britain: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week. Simon Usborne measures up some giants of the sea
A view of car-tipping from space

UK academics set up shop as the world’s first space detectives

Raymond Purdy and Raymond Harris use the growing constellation of cameras that orbit Earth to help solve crime on the ground

Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump

Michael Owen claims to have watched only eight films ... but we all have our cultural blind-spots

Never seen a play? Failed to finish a book for years? Don't know your Bake Off from your Breaking Bad? You're probably not alone...

Black-faced morris dancers: Traditional disguise or simply racist?

David Cameron's photo with black-faced morris dancers sparked controversy this week, but its practitioners deny that the tradition is rooted in racism

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NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own