Bacteria, metaphors and responsible language use

A lot has been written about the war on bacteria, especially in the context of antimicrobial resistance. Some articles reflect on the metaphor of war in medicine and in microbiology more generally, others deal with the metaphors of bacterial communication and communities. A few papers look more closely at the way bacteria are anthropomorphised in the …

Brains, organoids and cultural narratives

For a while now I have been observing developments in neuroscience, stem cell research and tissue engineering, in a rather desultory fashion. Behind my back things began to happen and grow. Organoids In 1989 the journal Science reported on research into ‘organoids’ (or, as the OED defines them, the “growth of cells or tissue in culture …

In the shadow of Frankenstein: Mapping and manipulating genes and genomes

I was starting to prepare a talk for Pint of Science in May, for “The Body” strand, which this year here in Nottingham focuses on regenerative medicine and genetic engineering. It’s entitled “GMYou”. I know, it’s a long way off, but they needed a title and so I began to muse. In the end I …

Promises, promises, promises

It all started with this tweet – a conversation between Oliver Morton, Jack Stilgoe and David Keith about the hopes and fears related to geoengineering. In this conversation, they stumbled against the words ‘promise’ and ‘promising’, with Oliver and Keith interpreting them in terms of ordinary language use, while Jack interpreted them also in terms …

Genome editing: Invisible mending

Last week I had a few days in Oxford to visit old haunts, such as the Ashmolean, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum. I also went to a little exhibition in the basement of the Museum of the History of Science. The exhibition by Anna Dumitriu was entitled BioArt and Bacteria. …

Science and metaphor: Some historical perspectives

Over the last thirty years or so I have written about metaphor and its importance to language, thought and social interaction. In the last fifteen years, I have focused in on the relation between metaphor and science, especially science communication. However, only recently has it dawned on me how little I actually understand about metaphor …

Science/climate communication: A view from reception theory

There has been some controversy recently surrounding a paper published in Nature Geoscience on global warming or, if I understand things correctly, about whether there might be a slightly better chance of avoiding it. This paper appears to have been misunderstood, misrepresented and misreported. One Mail Online headline read: “Fear of global warming is exaggerated, …

Designer babies? Not again!

Preface: I had just put the finishing touches to this post and I was doing the washing up, when I heard on the six o’clock news that the paper I’ll talk about below has now been published in Nature. I’ll still publish this post though. It would great to compare the pre-paper news coverage with the post-paper …