// Latest Posts

Lockdown, freedom and responsibility

Two years ago, we learned a new word: ‘lockdown’. This was in fact an old word which acquired a new meaning during the Covid-19 pandemic. That new meaning gradually changed over time. Now ‘lockdown’ has more or less lost its meaning and just stands for something to be avoided at all cost or something that …

Superimmunity

From the start of the pandemic in the distant spring of 2020 linguists and communication researchers have kept an eye on language. They observed the emergence of new words, such as ‘covid’ and ‘covidiots’ and the increase in use and understanding of older or jargon words, such as pandemic, coronavirus, lockdown, social distancing, bubbles, and …

Chris Toumey (1949-2022)

Chris Robinson has just told me the sad news that Chris Toumey (a cultural anthropologist who worked at the University of South Carolina) has died very suddenly. Chris was a kindred spirit and a fantastic science communicator. So, instead of writing an obituary, I’ll tell you a little personal story about engagement, energy, enthusiasm and …

Gene drives and metaphors

I have been writing about developments in the biosciences for twenty years. In that time, I have covered a wide variety of topics, such as cloning, genomics, the human genome project, the microbiome project, faecal microbial transplants, synthetic biology, epigenetics, genome editing and now gene drive. I was lucky enough to get many reflections on …

Endemic confusion

A few days ago, I saw this tweet by Bill Hanage and smiled: “For some reason there seems to be a lot of talk about endemicity again. For the avoidance of doubt, omicron is not endemic right now in much the same way that the moon is not a hamster”. I read many of the …

Pandemics, time and learning

I was reading a thought-provoking article by Katherine J. Wu, Ed Yong and Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic, entitled “Omicron is our Past Pandemic Mistakes on Fast-Forward”. As a metaphor-collector, I loved the first paragraph – which was all about speed: “With Omicron, everything is sped up. The new variant is spreading fast and far. …

Making Science Public 2021: End of year round-up of blog posts

We are coming to the end of a another pandemic year, and time seems to expand endlessness towards an uncertain horizon. That means quite a few of my blog posts this year were still devoted to covid and the pandemic, but I also wrote about genetics, climate change and some other incidental topics. As usual, …

Francis Willughby and me

You have probably all heard of Newton or Halley or Hooke or Pepys … But have you heard of Willughby? I had, vaguely, but I did not look hard enough. They were all early members of the Royal Society (founded in 1660) and involved in a little scandal to which I’ll come later. But first …