Witness marks: On the trail of an epigenetic metaphor

This is a guest post by Aleksandra Stelmach, University of Nottingham, Institute for Science and Society In a previous post Brigitte Nerlich and I briefly discussed the emergence of a seemingly new metaphor used in popular discussion about epigenetic effects of nutrition on offspring and, potentially, future generations. In this post I try to track …

It’s an icon, it’s a symbol: It’s a polar bear!?

A while ago Saffron O’Neill asked me whether one should call polar bear images a climate change synecdoche or a climate change metonym? That was a good question and I should know the answer! Indeed she asked me because she thought I was an expert on that sort of stuff! I have written about metaphors. I …

Science and Metaphors

Today I gave a lecture on responsible innovation and responsible language use (via Skype) to biochem and synbio students at the University of Oxford. After the lecture, one student asked whether there was a good go-to book on science and metaphor. I hummed and hawed…. There is of course some stuff, but not a really …

Talking organelles: A riot of metaphors

A few days ago, somebody tweeted an article on organelles and somebody else tweeted an article on how worms regenerate their bodies. I was just in a slump of Brexit malaise when I saw this and thought, “oh, there is life outside Brexit at least in worms and cells”. So, I started to read an …

Why we should care about the language we use in science

This post first appeared in the ‘On Society’ blog at BioMed Central and is reposted here with permission. *** Brigitte Nerlich and Carmen McLeod at the Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Nottingham have given ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ a new twist, by focusing on responsible language use. As everybody knows by now, words matter in politics as …

Climate change metaphors: Crimes, detectives and fingerprints

For quite a few years I have written about metaphors in climate change, such as the metaphors of the greenhouse and the footprint. There is one metaphor I overlooked, and that is the one of the ‘fingerprint’. While the carbon footprint metaphor was used in order to get people to act on climate change, making them …

Groundhog day in the hothouse

On 6 August Will Steffen and others published a paper entitled “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”. The paper explores “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a …

Data harvesting: A metaphor ripe for scrutiny

At the end of March news of a data scandal broke – you all know which one. As Steven Poole in The Guardian wrote: “The political data firm Cambridge Analytica has been accused of unauthorised ‘data harvesting’ from millions of Facebook accounts. This handily avoids allegations of ‘theft’ or even just ‘mining’”. Data harvesting is not only …

Catching a metaphor on the fly: ‘Greenfield genome design’

A week ago, something interesting washed up in my twitter stream, something a metaphor collector like me had to pick up and inspect. Andrew Hanson, an expert in metabolic engineering working at the University Florida, tweeted: “Excellent short 2016 piece from @claudiaevickers on #synbio platforms & the future of the microbial cell factory industry. Coins …

Genome editing: Invisible mending

Last week I had a few days in Oxford to visit old haunts, such as the Ashmolean, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum. I also went to a little exhibition in the basement of the Museum of the History of Science. The exhibition by Anna Dumitriu was entitled BioArt and Bacteria. …