Climate change, metaphors and me

We were sitting round the kitchen table chatting after Christmas, reminiscing about last Christmas. I nostalgically said that last year such conversations had sparked my interest in AI in the form of ChatGPT and given me ideas for blogging. I wondered what I should blog about now. We all agreed that there was always climate …

Making science public 2023: End-of-year round up of blog posts

The year 2023 began with a bang. Suddenly there was a new form of ‘artificial intelligence’, and by ‘new’ I mean a form of AI that even I could use and vaguely understand. There was, it seems, some monstrous machine (called LLM) gobbling up everything we have ever produced in science, literature and art and …

ChatGPT and its magical metaphors

Last week, a new issue of Technoscienza, an Italian journal of Science and Technology Studies, landed in my inbox. It had a very intriguing cover, co-created between Sergio Minniti and ChatGPT — a portrait drawn by ChatGPT using ASCII. But that was the least of it. After Sergio had prompted ChatGPT to create this stunning …

What are metaphors (for)?

I have been thinking about metaphor for a long time. But I have never brought my core thoughts together in one place. Here we go… and of, of course, they are not just my thoughts…they are inspired by a myriad of thinkers from the 19th century onwards, including, of course, George Lakoff and all those …

Evelyn Fox Keller (1936-2023)

On 22 September 2023 Evelyn Fox Keller sadly passed away at the age of 87. She had been a theoretical physicist, a mathematical biologist, a feminist philosopher, a historian of science, and an inspiration to many across these fields. She integrated insights from all these fields creatively and critically, and, most importantly, she added some …

Crumbling buildings: Metaphors we live in

Metaphors are ways to make something abstract concrete…. You know where this is going….. Metaphors make us see something as something else, for example life as a journey or institutions as buildings and failing institutions as crumbling buildings. In September 2023 this latter metaphor spread like wildfire. RAAC (and ruin) Our Department for Education here …

Metaphors in science communication: Hits and misses

At the beginning of August, various scientific announcements whizzed past me on Twitter. First, a new room-temperature super-conductor (LK-99 for short), which I just dismissed in my head as hype*, then a new pill that cured cancer, which sounded a bit more plausible. In news coverage of both announcements, the phrase ‘holy grail’ came up, …

Gravitational waves, music and metaphors

On Thursday, June 29, 2023, the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves or NANOGrav announced evidence for gravitational waves emitted by pairs of supermassive black holes across the universe or, in the words of the astrophysicist Katie Mack: “We’re using RADIATION JETS from DEAD STARS to detect RIPPLES IN SPACE from the COLLISIONS OF …

Gene editing, gene shears and other titbits from the history of genetic engineering

I was wondering what to write about. In past blogs, I have done quite a bit of ‘conceptual history’ about metaphors or phrases like ‘imaginaries’, ‘tipping points’, ‘deficit model’, ‘trickle down economics’ and even ‘gene surgery‘ and ‘gene drive’. I have also written a few posts about gene editing or genome editing. But, come to …

Chatting with a chatbot about metaphor

A week ago my son sent me a link to a tweet in which Ethan Mollick did a little experiment with one of the currently fashionable AI chatbots, a common pastime nowadays. He asked “Bing to look up Tamarian, a made-up Star Trek language that works entirely by metaphors to Tamarian history and myth. Then …