SBRC symposium: Synbio, metaphors and responsibility

On Monday this week (22 May, 2017) our Synthetic Biology Research Centre symposium on metaphors, synthetic biology and responsibility took place at the East Midlands Conference Centre at the University of Nottingham. The weather was marvellous and showed off University Park in all is spring glory. We started with a pre-conference dinner which, in a way, …

Building bridges in mind, language and society

On 2 January Mo Costandi tweeted: “’Be the neurotransmitter in your world. Diffuse ideas & human connections.’ Talking, the new world changing concept”. The quote within the tweet was taken from an article by David Rowan, Editor of Wired, in response to the 2017 question posed by Edge: What scientific term or concept ought to …

Precision metaphors in a messy biological world

The promises of nanoscience and nanotechnology have been framed by a variety of future oriented metaphors, such as the those of the fantastic voyage or the master builder. The former metaphor has been especially prominent in early reports on the promises of nanomedicine, but it is still in use today. What happens when real breakthroughs …

Gene editing, metaphors and responsible language use

Last week I was following the progress of the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, which took place in Washington between 1 and 3 December, 2015. On the last day, I was looking at my twitter timeline and saw that Megan Allyse (a former PhD student) had posted information on a special issue devoted to …

Dark matter: A mystery metaphor that turns genomic junk into gold

I have become intrigued by a new metaphor, most recently used in an interesting Aeon Magazine article. The authors state that the human genome can’t be, as was so long assumed, a blueprint for building a human being, as “science has served up the confounding paradox that the bulk of our genome appears to be …

Big bang, inflation, gravitational waves: A journey through metaphorical space

Today, on Monday 17 March, scientists announced that they had found evidence for ‘inflation’ in the shape of gravitational waves (paper). In cosmology inflation refers to an exponential expansion of the universe that occurred for a fraction of a second just after the Big Bang. The link between the theory of the Big Bang, cosmic …

More heat than light? Climate catastrophe and the Hiroshima bomb

There has been some discussion on Twitter today (14 August) about the wisdom or otherwise of measuring the heat being retained by the Earth in terms of Hiroshima bombs. The analogy is presented by John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli on their Skeptical Science blog, drawing on an academic paper by Church et al to describe the heat …

Metaphors in science and society

I recently had an interesting twitter conversation with Alex Brown (@alex_brovvn), Peter Broks (@peterbroks), Bev Gibbs (@bevgibbs), Angela Cassidy (@ange_cass) and Sophia Collins (@sophiacol) about metaphors for the spread of knowledge and for science communication. I also read two interesting blog posts related to that conversation, one by Peter Broks and one by Alex Brown. …

When the limits of our knowledge collide with the limits of our language: Mixing metaphors around the Higgs Boson

I was sitting in the garden today (in the sunshine!) (Sunday, 22 July), reading the feedback page of New Scientist which featured some amusing metaphors and analogies for the Higgs Boson, which has recently been discovered at CERN. This made me think. Science and metaphors Metaphors and analogies are used extensively in science, both in …