Cassini: Space probes, history and women

I have just read a lovely article by Rebekah Higgitt on the various Cassinis that worked in France as astronomers. One of them was Giovanni Domenico (or Jean Dominique) Cassini (8 June 1625 – 14 September 1712), the first director of the observatory founded by Louis XIV, and discoverer, amongst other things, of four satellites of the planet …

Hybrids and chimeras: Mythology, history and science

Last week two papers were published about human and other chimeras, one in Cell on ‘Interspecies chimerism with mammalian pluripotent stem cells’ and one in Nature entitled ‘Interspecies organogenesis generates autologous functional islets’. The first one caused a bit of a stir in the newspapers. About 70 newspaper articles covered this potential scientific breakthrough in All …

The mystery of the missing Martians

When the present is depressing and the future uncertain, it is sometimes nice to retreat to the past, especially to past futures. I recently tried to distract myself from the present by staring at Venus, Moon and Mars illuminating the evening sky. I then led my eyes wander around the internet and I inadvertently came …

Camille Flammarion: Making science popular

Life on this planet is currently crazy, chaotic and confusing. In this context, I was thinking – wouldn’t it be nice to be able to poke one’s head out of the earthly firmament and look at the heavens beyond. This thought popped into my head because I had once seen an image depicting something like …

Jules Verne: Making science visual

On Christmas Eve I had a chance encounter on twitter and the result is this blog post, or rather: essay. Richard Ashcroft had retweeted a tweet about a book by Adam Roberts. The tweet by Adam Roberts said: “Finished copies came by this morning’s post. Very lovely piece of book making!” The book retells Jules …

Wonder, Wunder, Wissenschaft

Television series like Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of Life have triggered online debates about the relationship between science and wonder, wonder and religion, science and science communication. I began to wonder: should I not write a blog post about ‘wonder’? So I started to search, as I always do, trying to find some …

Metaphor, image and now visualisation: Darwin’s tree of life

Yesterday I came across this tweet: “Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins Zooming into the Tree of Life. Magnificent piece of software, brilliantly intuitive visualisation of the tree of life http://bit.ly/PJyox3 Retweeted by Eric Sawyer” This led me to a fascinating interactive and fractal representation of the tree of life (or phylogenetic tree or evolutionary tree) created by …