Musings on language and life, with special reference to ‘programming’

This morning I opened the newspaper and read an article about a new language that lets researchers design novel biological circuits. I mumbled something about this over coffee and my husband said, oh but wasn’t that old hat, we all knew that DNA was a language, code etc. So what was new? I looked again …

On books, circuits and life

I have recently been trying to understand CRISPR, gene editing and genome editing. While reading about these new developments in genomics, I noticed that in the avalanche of news reports reference is only rarely made to synthetic biology (on 5 January there were 188 articles on CRISPR in Major World Newspapers on the LexisNexis news …

On the metaphorical origins of gene drives

This morning I woke up to a bit of chat about ‘gene drive‘ – this year’s science breakthrough of the year –, first on twitter, then on the radio. This made me think about the use of terms like gene drive, gene driver, gene driving and where they come from. It also made me think …

Climate linguistics

In a recent news article about the origins and spread of the concept ‘climate denial’, the E&E reporter Jean Chemnick refers to me as a specialist in ‘climate linguistics’. Somebody asked me on twitter whether this field existed and some people searched my academia profile to find out more. I myself also googled around a …

Paddling in the shallow end of knowledge

This post was prompted by two things. I, a social scientist of sorts, recently tried to read two books, Smashing Physics by Jon Butterworth and Synthetic Biology: A Primer by Paul Freemont and Richard Kitney. I also listened in to some conversations where people spoke about how problematic they find it to understand social science …

Philae: Where space science meets language science

As those who care about that type of thing will know, Philae, the robotic lander on board the Rosetta spacecraft, will try to touch down on the surface of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12. While we await the next episode in this space adventure, another episode in an adventure here on earth is unfolding …

Tracking fluctuations in climate change debates

Our ESRC funded project on climate change is coming to an end soon and we are just starting to prepare our end of award conference in Amsterdam. As part of our project we intended to monitor and describe fluctuations in debates about climate change. This aim overlaps with that of a project within the Leverhulme …

Climate realism: What does it mean?

During the publications of the various IPCC reports between September last year and today, I have increasingly come across the words ‘realism’ and ‘climate realism’. Here are just some examples: In a BBC report Roger Harrabin says about a draft of the IPCC WG3 report that it “adopts a new tone of realism”. This echoes …

Certainty

There has recently been some discussion in climate change circles about climate sensitivity and predictions of warming trends about which I will not talk, as I have no expertise in those fields. However, as I am nevertheless trying to keep up-to-date, I recently read a reblogged blog post about just such issues on And then …