Pandemic landscapes: Peaks and tunnels, waves and plateaus

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic I have collected metaphors used to talk about it. First there were metaphors for the virus and for what to do about the spread of the virus and so on. Then there were metaphors of lockdowns, confinement and imprisonment but also more hopeful ones of journeys. Now metaphors …

Pandemic poetry

In a post about songs in the times of coronavirus we said that there weren’t a lot of poems around yet. We only mentioned “Lockdown” by Simon Armitage… But things are changing – and I only and only vaguely looked at the poems written in English, here in the UK or elsewhere. For example, Gemma …

Science, sanity and sanitation

Lots of things keep happening in this pandemic… Two things, in particular, happened over the last couple of days, which made me and many others sit up and think. The membership of SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, was revealed at last, and we heard that Dominic Cummings attended meetings. At the same time, …

Our pandemic future: A metaphorical exploration

We have reached a point in the pandemic when many people are beginning to yearn for a return to normal life, beyond lockdowns, confinements or sheltering in place. Ed Yong, the renowned science writer, has written some great pieces for The Atlantic on the pandemic. The latest one is called “Our Pandemic Summer” (15 April) …

Metaphors in the time of coronavirus

On Sunday, 15th March, Kenan Malik wrote an article on metaphors for The Observer. This was inspired by Matthew Cobb’s new book on The Idea of the Brain which delves into the many metaphors of and for the brain that have been used over time. I have just started to read that book – a …

Gene drives and Trojan horses: A tale of two metaphor uses

I was reading a recent article on gene drive entitled “Engineering bugs, resurrecting species: The wild world of synthetic biology for conservation” and came across this sentence about a so-called ‘Medea drive’: “This genetic Trojan Horse could then be used to spread elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as triggering the death …

New metaphors for new understandings of genomes

This is a guest post by Sarah Perrault and Meaghan O’Keefe (University of California Davis) based on their article “New metaphors for new understanding of genomes”. The article goes beyond regular complaints about the inadequacy of old metaphors, such as the genome as a blueprint, and beyond regular calls for a new language. Instead, it …

Coronavirus: Risk, rumour and resilience 

I was just starting to write this post, when I saw a tweet from Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, quoting Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, who said, as widely reported: “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumours. This is the time for solidarity, …

Climategate: Some reflections

Ten years ago (it seems like yesterday), I was doing relatively pedestrian research on how people talked about climate change. Then, one morning I woke up to the news that emails by climate scientists had been hacked and were being used to cast doubt on the credibility of climate science and the integrity of climate …