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 …

Making lasers public: The European X-ray Free Electron Laser

Last weekend, my mum phoned me from Germany to tell me about the new x-ray laser inaugurated in Hamburg (as I later learned this is the European X-ray Free Electron Laser or XFEL) and asked me whether I had heard about it and whether I could explain what it did. I hadn’t and I couldn’t. …

Putting the colour into 3D printing with atoms

A while ago Phil Moriarty and I started a project, namely, commissioning a graphic novel to make public an EPSRC funded project on 3D printing with atoms. I have written two posts about this here and here and Phil has also talked about this here. Progress has been a bit slow because university bureaucracy put …

Milton and Galileo: Affinities between art and science

I don’t know much about John Milton and Galileo Galilei. However, I have stood beside Milton’s Mulberry tree at Christ’s College, Cambridge and beside Galileo’s chair and lectern at the University of Padua – and felt some affinity with the poet and the scientist. I didn’t know though that there was actually a connection between Milton …

Public trust in science: Myths and realities

The March for Science has come and gone. There was no fuss; but there was wit and fun; and solidarity and conviviality. The march did what it set out to do: it got people talking about science and politics. During the march, some tweets jumped out at me. They focused on the thorny issue of …

Epigenetics, hype and woo

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a new twitter account: @EpigeneticsBs (short for ‘epigenetics bullshit’). Its mission is to make epigenetic ‘bullshit’ public, or as it says: “There’s a lot of #epigenetics pseudoscience & quackery out there. We RT some of it for your edification and entertainment.” These (re)tweets are produced by people working …

3D printing with atoms: Laboratory life

There is a long tradition of social scientists observing and analysing laboratory life. The most seminal book that has emerged from this tradition is probably Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar’s 1979 Laboratory Life: The social construction of scientific facts (they changed the subtitle in 1986 to ‘the construction of scientific facts, as they became aware …

Something for nothing

This is a blog post about nothing in particular. It’s more a stream of thoughts and associations… But in the end I’ll be talking about Kepler and snowflakes and Pluto and its moon. Nix The other day I was talking to my sister. She asked in German whether I had an idea for my next …