Mutant words

I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on this sunny morning of the 19th of December when I heard the phrase ‘mutant strain’, used in reference to a new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is apparently spreading in the South East. My ears twitched of course, as they did with ‘mutant …

The Power of Plasticity: Epigenetics in Science Fiction

This is another guest post by Cath Ennis in our series of posts on epigenetics and popular culture. *** One of the fascinating things about epigenetics is how quickly some of the public perceptions of the field have raced far beyond the actual state of the science. I’ve seen and heard countless online and real …

Communicating gene drive: The dangers of misleading headlines

As some of you know, I am interested in how people communicate about ‘gene drive’, a new biotechnology that can potentially be used to eradicate disease transmitting animals. Wiping out the daughters Some days ago, I saw a tweet that mentioned an article published in The Guardian entitled “Wiping out the daughters: Burkina Faso’s controversial …

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 …

Epigenetics and sociology: A critical note

I recently read an interesting article by Michel Dubois, Catherine Guaspare and Séverine Louvel entitled “De la génétique à l’épigénétique: une révolution ‘post-génomique’ à l’usage des sociologies”, which appeared in the Revue française de sociologie, 59(1), 71-98 (2018). Dubois et al.’s ‘critical note’ is intended to introduce French readers to English works that explore the boundaries between …

Antimicrobial resistance and climate change: Communication, governance and responsibility

Last week I was reading some tweets from an international science communication conference held at Dunedin, New Zealand. As I have blogged and written about hype, I was particularly interested in tweets about a fascinating Roundtable convened by Tara Roberson entitled: “Can hype be a force for good? – Debating the benefits and drawbacks of science …

Fermenting hope; fermenting hype?

When I first became involved with the Synthetic Biology Research Centre here at the University of Nottingham in 2014, I wrote a blog post in which I pointed to fermentation as one of its historical and intellectual roots. I called it ‘Fermenting thought’. Now, four years later, I have come across an article in The …

Microbiomics: Heading the bandwagon off at the pass

Epigenetics once was a new and emerging field. Although there is no scientific consensus about the correct meaning of ‘epigenetics’ and scientists are increasingly sceptical of some claims being made, one can say, following Kat Arney, that epigenetics tries to “explain how the things that happen to us during a lifetime somehow imprint on our …