Images in the time of coronavirus

This post has been inspired by conversations with friends and colleagues on the SCIREPS list, particularly David and Dolores Steinman, Martin Kemp, Pascale Pollier and Roberta Buiani. How words become images When did I first hear the word ‘coronavirus’? That must have been during the outbreak of SARS in 2003, but I had surely forgotten. …

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 …

Mathematical models, political decision making and public perceptions

On Tuesday, 3 March, Boris Johnson revealed the government’s action plan on how to deal with the novel coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19. Despite doubts about the usefulness of experts expressed some years ago by some of his colleagues, he was flanked by experts, namely Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, and …

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 …

Gene drive and grey squirrels: Science and media

At the beginning of January 2019 an article, entitled “Accelerating Evolution” appeared in The Biologist, a journal published by the Royal Society of Biology (The Biologist 66(6) p18-21). The authors, Bruce Whitelaw and Gus McFarlane, work at the Roslin Institute in Scotland which was involved with the creation of Dolly the cloned sheep in 1996, coincidentally the occasion of …

“It’s just like epigenetics” – scientific metaphors for non-scientific concepts

This is a guest post by Cath Ennis. Cath is a Knowledge Translation Specialist with the University of British Columbia’s Human Early Learning Partnership and the Kobor Lab at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. *** In our new paper, Brigitte Nerlich, Aleksandra Stelmach and I examined the metaphors used by academic social scientists and alternative …

How to do things with epigenetics

We have just published in article on epigenetics in Social Science Information! It’s part of a special issue coordinated by the sociologist Michel Dubois (CNRS, Paris) that is coming out in print at the beginning of the new year. The special issue deals with epigenetics and interdisciplinarity. Our article examines some obstacles that might hinder …

Metaphors and society (and Brexit)

I have been interested in metaphors and society for a long time. My thinking has been influenced mainly by people who wrote about metaphor (and society) at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s; for example, Susan Sontag, Donald Schön, Andrew Ortony, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson and others, who examined ‘conceptual’ or ‘generative’ …