Talking organelles: A riot of metaphors

A few days ago, somebody tweeted an article on organelles and somebody else tweeted an article on how worms regenerate their bodies. I was just in a slump of Brexit malaise when I saw this and thought, “oh, there is life outside Brexit at least in worms and cells”. So, I started to read an …

CRISPR culture

CRISPR is a way of changing and replacing parts of DNA using enzymes like a pair of molecular scissors (of course things are more complex than this!). This new technology for ‘editing’ DNA, genes or genomes began to attract public attention between around 2012 and 2015. When I started to write about metaphors used to …

Is STS trivial? Chris Toumey reflects on writing a book about nanotech and the humanities

This is a guest post by Chris Toumey, a cultural anthropologist who has observed and studied developments in nanotechnology for many years. Chris and I have known each other for a long time, and his work and words have always inspired me. He has just published a book entitled Nanotech and the Humanities: An Anthropologist …

Mice, dice and copycats: Metaphors for gene drives in mammals

When you hear the word ‘gene drive’, you will either be baffled or you will think about mosquitoes, engineered to eradicate insect-born disease like malaria, Dengue fever, or Zika for example. But gene drive research has now moved from insects to mammals. Mammals On the 23rd of January, researchers at University of California, San Diego, …

Public Understanding of Science – the 1960s

At the end of last year I wrote a blog post about a book in which Sheila Jasanoff asks ‘Can science makes sense of life’. She answers this question in a rather bleak and negative way. However, questions about the nature of science and the nature of life have stayed with me ever since, which …

Gene drive communication: Obstacles and opportunities

The other day I was talking to two people about various developments in science. Both are interested in science, but they are not natural scientists. I mentioned ‘gene drives’. Their faces went blank. I then said: “it’s something like the gene editing of a whole population of creatures, such as insects, for example. This can …

Nature’s first article: Huxley on Goethe

I have blogged before about science popularisation during the 19th century and the role of periodicals in this process, as they “played a far greater role than books in shaping understanding of new discoveries and theories in science, technology and medicine”. My interest in popular science magazines was rekindled when I saw an announcement that …

Science communication: Does social science help or hinder?

On 20th December Alice Bell tweeted a science communication story that made me laugh out loud! And then it made me think. Here is the story “Drunk suit fell over getting on the tube, exclaimed ‘Gravity! That’s physics! That’s the cleverest thing!’ and then started asking people in the carriage if they love physics and …

Making Science Public: End of year blog round-up, 2018

2018 is the year that the Leverhulme Trust funded programme ‘Making Science Public’ really ended (today our director Sujatha Raman is submitting the final report to the Leverhulme Trust). My last post on the programme, entitled ‘Making Science public: six years on’, mentioned one of the most important milestones of our work, namely the publication with Manchester …

Making science by publicity stunt: The case of the CRISPR babies

Science is supposed to be a public, systematic, consensible, evidence-based and collaborative enterprise. It’s also supposed to be carried out responsibly, not recklessly. Making science in public and making science public are complex processes. Making public science normally doesn’t consist in presenting fellow-scientists and members of the public with a ‘fait accompli’. This is however …