The history of biology and the joys of blogging

For the first time in my life and after the end of my official academic career, I’ll be co-presenting a paper at the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology conference, which is taking place this year in Oslo, from July 7-12. I’ll only be co-presenting and I won’t be there …

Metaphors, machines and the meaning of life

Machine metaphors are ubiquitous in biology, nowhere more so than in synthetic biology, a type of biology that is inspired by engineering and design. This has attracted the attention of metaphor analysts, but also of philosophers and ethicists. Various scholars, both from the humanities/social sciences and the life sciences have grappled with some of the …

Threads, worms and science communication

I thought I had written my last post about epigenetics. But then came along some ‘worms’ and I had to write another one. I have written about worms once before on the Making Science Public blog, in the context of science communication. And this blog post too will reflect on worms in the context of …

Epigenetics: A blogging retrospective

Looking back over my blog posts, I realised that I have written 15 posts on epigenetics between 2013 and now (some with Aleksandra Stelmach). It’s time to take stock. Epigenetics is the latest in a long line of developments in genetics and genomics that I have studied through the lens of metaphor analysis, from cloning …

Witness marks: On the trail of an epigenetic metaphor

This is a guest post by Aleksandra Stelmach, University of Nottingham, Institute for Science and Society In a previous post Brigitte Nerlich and I briefly discussed the emergence of a seemingly new metaphor used in popular discussion about epigenetic effects of nutrition on offspring and, potentially, future generations. In this post I try to track …

Epigenetics: Between fundamental science and fantastic expectations

One of my heroines in the field of epigenetics is Edith Heard. In this post I will tell you what I learned from her over the years with regard to epigenetic facts and fantasies. (For a good overview of facts and fantasies, watch this video at ‘Cracked Science’). Before I do that, you might want …

From epigenetic landscapes to epigenetic pancakes

As somebody interested in metaphor, art and science, I was just starting to read Susan Merrill Squier’s book Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawings as metaphor (2017) (I am grateful to Cath Ennis for sending me this book), when Aleksandra Stelmach alerted me to a blog post entitled “Epigenetic Pancakes”. It was therefore inevitable that I should write …

The exposome – the what?

I recently came across the term ‘exposome’ (roughly, the sum total of everything we are exposed to) and started to read up on it. But I just don’t know what to make of it… is it merely humbug or is there more to it? In this post I want to summarise a few milestones in …

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 …