// Latest Posts

Images in the time of coronavirus

This post has been inspired by conversations with friends and colleagues on the SCIREPS list, particularly David and Dolores Steinman, Martin Kemp, Pascale Pollier and Roberta Buiani. How words become images When did I first hear the word ‘coronavirus’? That must have been during the outbreak of SARS in 2003, but I had surely forgotten. …

Silence, songs and solace: Music in the time of coronavirus

This post is jointly authored by Brigitte Nerlich (University of Nottingham), Martin Döring (University of Hamburg) and Pernille Bogø Jørgensen (University of Lancaster) *** Almost two decades ago, Martin Döring and I did a project on ‘the social and cultural impacts of foot and mouth disease’. Foot and mouth disease is an infectious and sometimes …

Controlling covid19: Where science meets policy

This is a GUEST POST by Abigail Woods, Professor in the History of Human and Animal Health, King’s College London. Since covid19 control shot up the agenda just over a week ago there has been an ongoing stream of commentary about how ‘the science’ connects up with ‘the policy.’ Many people seem to be struggling …

Metaphors in the time of coronavirus

On Sunday, 15th March, Kenan Malik wrote an article on metaphors for The Observer. This was inspired by Matthew Cobb’s new book on The Idea of the Brain which delves into the many metaphors of and for the brain that have been used over time. I have just started to read that book – a …

Flattening the curve to curb an epidemic

In my last blog post I noted the sudden appearance and wide spread of phrases like ‘flattening, stretching, extending, pushing down, drawing out the curve’ and/or the epidemic, meaning that if we can delay or slow down or ‘lower’ the peak of the epidemic for a while and make ‘it’ less steep, we can buy …

Mathematical models, political decision making and public perceptions

On Tuesday, 3 March, Boris Johnson revealed the government’s action plan on how to deal with the novel coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19. Despite doubts about the usefulness of experts expressed some years ago by some of his colleagues, he was flanked by experts, namely Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, and …

Gene drives and Trojan horses: A tale of two metaphor uses

I was reading a recent article on gene drive entitled “Engineering bugs, resurrecting species: The wild world of synthetic biology for conservation” and came across this sentence about a so-called ‘Medea drive’: “This genetic Trojan Horse could then be used to spread elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as triggering the death …

New metaphors for new understandings of genomes

This is a guest post by Sarah Perrault and Meaghan O’Keefe (University of California Davis) based on their article “New metaphors for new understanding of genomes”. The article goes beyond regular complaints about the inadequacy of old metaphors, such as the genome as a blueprint, and beyond regular calls for a new language. Instead, it …

Coronavirus: Risk, rumour and resilience 

I was just starting to write this post, when I saw a tweet from Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, quoting Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, who said, as widely reported: “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumours. This is the time for solidarity, …

Engineering biology? Sure! But which kind?

This is a guest post by Massimiliano Simons who is a postdoctoral researcher at the department of philosophy and moral sciences at Ghent University, Belgium. *** Biology is a mess, not only the natural processes out there but also the science in the lab. Every biological rule seems to have exceptions and all biological laboratories …