The social and metaphorical life of viruses

Metaphors are an essential part of science, from doing basic science to engaging in popular science communication. They can be used sporadically; they can be used more systematically to conceptualise a topic, for example the structure and function of DNA; or they can be used in a veritable firework sprinkled across one article. I once …

Firebreak

About a month ago, when I thought the government was about to announce a ‘circuit breaker’, I wrote a blog post about that metaphor. Now the Welsh government has announced a circuit breaker but has called it a ‘fire break’. That means that I now have to write a quick post about the ‘fire break’ …

Dimmer switches and circuit breakers

Since the beginning of this pandemic I have been writing blog posts charting the metaphors used to think and talk about it. Most of these metaphors are based on well-known experiences of floods, storms, wars and journeys – or air, water, earth and fire. However, I have recently noticed some other metaphors which are a …

Metaphors and realities: Coronavirus and climate change

We have been surrounded by global disasters this year, inflicted on us by ‘invisible enemies’. These invisible enemies have been made visible in two ways. In the case of the pandemic, disaster metaphors related to floods, fire and storms have made the coronavirus visible. In case of climate change, real floods, fires, storms and droughts …

Gene drives and societal narratives

Some days ago, I came across an interesting virtual conference (HT @Sarah_A_Hartley) about gene editing which includes a session on ‘societal narratives’. I have written quite a bit about societal narratives of gene editing, but more recently I became involved in the issue of ‘gene drive’, that is, “a system of biased inheritance in which …

The meaning of lockdown

The other day, my father in Germany, who is quite old, phoned me and asked what lockdown meant. ‘Lockdown’ is now used in Germany instead of more native words like ‘Ausgangssperre’ (exit barrier, if you like). He especially wondered about the ‘down’ bit, as he understood the ‘lock’ bit and also had heard about ‘locking …

‘A fire raging’: Why fire metaphors work well for Covid-19

This is a post by Elena Semino, University of Lancaster. It was first published on the website of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) on 1 July, 2020. It provides a thorough and fascinating analysis of fire metaphors used during the pandemic. *** Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, metaphors have been …

Gene writing: Between art and nature

In the past, I have written a bit about genomics, synthetic biology and gene editing, from the perspective of language and culture. So, when Matthew Cobb alerted me to a new thing called ‘gene writing’ at the beginning of July, I pricked up my ears. I told myself that I should write a blog post …

Bubbles: A short history

Last week we heard a lot about bubbles, especially school bubbles and travel bubbles. This metaphor has been bubbling up for a while during the pandemic and I became curious about how and where it emerged. Then I saw a tweet from Gareth Enticott which contained an article about New Zealand researchers who had come …