Latest posts

Why do I Always come away from Meetings Feeling a Fool?

That was the plaintive question I saw recently on Twitter (actually not from anyone I knew). There is of course the possibility the person is a fool, but my guess is that they were simply feeling that they weren’t doing as well as they imagined everyone else was in achieving their aims/contributing/being heard. Here are ten possible scenarios Continue reading

Posted in committee meetings, experience, preparation, Science Culture, speaking | Leave a comment

Copyright Infringement

This morning I received an email from a publisher inviting me to write a chapter for an ‘upcoming hardcover edited collection’ on a topic of research to which I have made a number of contributions over the years.

I politely declined because of the terms of the copyright transfer agreement that the publisher was good enough to provide up front. I ha Continue reading

Posted in Open Access, Scientific Life | Leave a comment

In which we despair: show and tell is alive and well

I have a theory about best-selling authors. Once they have finally made their breakthroughs, they tend to get lazy.

I have noticed that subsequent novels often become longer – just eyeball your collection of Harry Potters on the bookshelf and observe the chronological increase in spine widths, like a literary Fibonacci sequence. They also te Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Writing | Leave a comment

Cuban heat in downtown Toronto

On a day before a major snowfall on our neighbours just over the border in Buffalo, and an infuriating mix of snow and wind in Toronto:  some photos of Cuban-Canadian singer Adonis Puentes, and legendary Cuban Tres maestro Pancho Amat. With a sizzling band, a lunchtime slice of Latin music is just what the doctor ordered. Now Buffalo’s diggin Continue reading

Posted in Adonis Puentes, First Canadian Place, Hobbies, Music, Pancho Amat, Photography, Toronto | Leave a comment

Over on the sister blog

Belle Jar

Your one-stop feminist magazine

Over on the sister blog, I have written about why images of women in science are important, in reference to #thatothershirt.

About the sister blog:

Belle Jar is a collaborative feminist project, committed to smashing patriarchal norms, one day at a time. Continue reading

Posted in belle jar, thatothershirt, thatshirt, Women in science | Leave a comment

Where Can You Speak Out Safely?

The media is full of stories around men behaving inappropriately – or worse – currently. These range from #shirtstorm in the wake of Matt Taylor’s press conference regarding the successful landing of Philae (a sad distraction from the amazingly successful landing on the comet) to the video of a woman walking through New York subje Continue reading

Posted in Equality, harassment, philosophy, SASSY, Science Culture, sexism | Leave a comment

Advanced photo technology

I do love the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, but when it comes to stories about science and technology or popular culture the presenters can be exasperating. This morning John Humphrey kept calling Philae the “Mars explorer” and seemingly no-one noticed or dared to correct him.

Then he introduced an item allegedly about some new photog Continue reading

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On remembrance

Thirty years ago—plus or minus a week—I visited Berlin for the first time.

It was a school trip, organized by our physics teacher. We rode a train from Braunschweig to Helmstedt, where we picked up an East German engine and crew. The doors were chained so they couldn’t be opened by anyone trying to get in. Continue reading

Posted in Berlin Wall, Friday afternoon, personal | Leave a comment

What Makes a Breakthrough?

Until a few days ago, I’d never really thought very much about the Breakthrough Prize, a huge collection of prizes created by Mark Zuckerberg and friends. Or, more precisely a smallish collection of huge prizes, the big ones each being worth $3M. However, there is nothing like a phone call from the BBC to concentrate the mind and to encourage Continue reading

Posted in BBC, Breakthrough Prize, Communicating Science, Longitude Prize, Saul Perlmutter, Science Funding, YourLIfe | Leave a comment

“The Whipping Man”–don’t miss it!

Over two years ago, I blogged in this space about “A Secular Passover” and discussed, among other issues, American Jews of the confederate south around the time of the civil war.
Caleb (Andy Prescott), John (Luther Simon) and Simon (Carl Brooks) in the Omaha Community Playhouse Production of “The Whipping Man”

I addressed t Continue reading

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The Breakthrough Prize Doesn’t

Yesterday the recipients of next year’s Breakthrough Prize were announced. We’re told that these are meant to “elevate scientists to rock-star status” and to “inspire the next generation of scientists”. If that’s the aim, then they are going to be a dismal failure.

One reason for this failure is that the p Continue reading

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Ghost un-authorships

I’m currently reading Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma, in which he documents all the naughty things done by the Pharma industry. One of the many infelicities he mentions is their habit of ghostwriting academic papers, and then asking an academic to put their name on the paper (whilst hiding the involvement of the company). This is obviously a Continue reading

Posted in Friday Fun, science publishing | Leave a comment

When the Magic Falters

This autumn in Cambridge the weather has been rather kind. The trees around the College have been spectacular, reminding me of fall in New England, and until recently cycling has been possible without any sort of jacket as opposed to the layers of waterproofs normally requisite for this time of year. All this makes me recall my very first year in C Continue reading

Posted in challenges, depression, education, exhilaration, Science Culture | Leave a comment

DEDPXL recap

[Warning - this post contains, at the bottom, one image with mature content. Potential triggers: suicide, depression, addiction.]

Back in March of this year, I posted about how I’d jumped in to a new online photographic community named DEDPXL, run by Atlanta-based commercial photographer and educator Zack Arias. Zack et al. Continue reading

Posted in DEDPXL, Hobbies, Photography, Zack Arias | Leave a comment


One of the advantages of being “Beyond the PhD” is having enough time to do all of those things I used to want to do when all of my time was taken up by writing up. After handing in my corrections, and spending a few months mostly resting, I felt the urge to learn something new. In the time since I was awarded my degree, I have learned, variously, Continue reading

Posted in book reviews, Bookslam, Fun, Life, London | Leave a comment