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No More Red Meat?

The terrifying and deadly fires in Australia are a grim reminder of climate change. Greta Thunberg should be a prick (indeed more than a prick) to everyone’s conscience, reminding us that each and every one of us has a part to play in reducing global emissions through our individual carbon footprints. Thinking hard about what our personal contribution can be should be a backdrop to our l Continue reading

Posted in catering, Churchill College, sustainability, vegan | Leave a comment

Thinking about Your Workload

The first time I was asked to serve on a research council (standing) committee, when a young(ish) researcher, I did not seek my head of department’s position. I informed him, since it happened we worked closely together, but it did not occur to me to ask permission, to check whether he thought it was compatible with my departmental job. I just assumed it was part of the job. The only quibble I had Continue reading

Posted in Alice Roberts, Athena Swan, Communicating Science, mental health, Science Culture | Leave a comment

Shenanigans with the Railways

Rules about railway tickets have clearly always been mysterious, as this Punch cartoon of 1869 makes clear.

Punch 1869b

 “‘Station Master say, Mum, as cats is ‘dogs,’ and rabbits is ‘dogs,’ and so’s parrots; but this ere ‘tortis’ is an insect, so there ain’t no charge for it!”

In that case a station master (do such people even exist now? Continue reading

Posted in Great Northern, refund, trains, travel | Leave a comment

2019 Top Ten (plus one, again)

This year’s question: is it pathetic that Adventures in Wonderland has turned into an annual top-ten-photo blog? Perhaps I’ll do better in 2020. Recent history suggests not, however.

Anyway, on to my favourite ten (plus one, as usual) photographs of 2019, in no particular order.

Continue reading
Posted in Hobbies, motorsports, Photography, racing | Leave a comment

How Long does it take to Gain Expertise?

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s right-hand man, currently is said to be set on shaking up the Civil Service. The three elements that are rumoured to be on the agenda are:

  • Better training in data science, systems thinking and ‘super-forecasting;
  • Staff will spend longer in a given post than the current expectation of 18 months; and
  • Civil servants will be ‘reoriented to the public’;

I am quoting Continue reading

Posted in Civil Service, Dominic Cummings, Interdisciplinary Science, Science Funding, UKRI | Leave a comment

2019 in 31 photographs

My computer tells me I took over 3,700 photographs in 2019. Yikes!

Photos of 2019

However, I have winnowed them down to just 31, should you care to take a look. I have been fortunate this year to travel far and wide – or should I say reckless? Continue reading

Posted in Scientific Life, travel | Leave a comment

Books read in 2019

In a kinder, happier age, when I used to write regularly for the Guardian’s science blog network, I would post summaries of the books I had read at the end of each year. Since the network closed in 2018 I have rather lost the habit. Looking back a the list of titles I got though in 2019, I realise how much I share with Robin Ince the problem of retention. I can only marvel at those who seem to be Continue reading

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My carbon bootprint

What was your carbon footprint for 2019? Mine was more of a bootprint, almost entirely because of flying.

Airplane - B&W

International travel has long been considered one of the perks of academic life, something that lifted the job out of the ordinary and cemented our membership of a trans-national community of scientists and scholars. Over the years I have travelled to Grenoble and Hamburg for experiments, to Continue reading

Posted in science, Scientific Life, travel | Leave a comment

In which my mother stands behind me, and I mother in turn

The winter always belonged to my mother and me.

We both loved the late autumn, when the last of the leaves plastered the pavements in a smear of color, and our breath fogged the morning air. November also usually brought the first snows, in that faraway land of four proper seasons – a land that seems so dreamlike now in this drizzly country of muddy ivy green.

Continue reading
Posted in Domestic bliss, Joshua, Nostalgia, The ageing process, work-life balance | Leave a comment

Leaning In or Leaning Out: Who does What (and Why)?

Girly swot Brenda Hale, otherwise known as the outgoing President of the Supreme Court with an impressive taste in brooches (see figure),
was quoted recently as saying:

“I encountered many young men from public school backgrounds who felt entitled to good jobs. And I realised that actually, quite a few of them were no better than me and, in some cases, not as good as me. And that made me feel: OK Continue reading

Posted in Baroness Brenda Hale, bias, Equality, publication, Women in science | Leave a comment

Post-Election Christmas Reading List

The general election is now done and dusted. The UK’s future is determined, for good or ill. Scientists (along with everyone else) now must work out how to interact with the new policies, new ideas and – if some of the Tories statements are to be taken at face value – substantial new money going into fresh initiatives. One of those touted in the run-up to the election, courtesy of Dominic Cummings Continue reading

Posted in ARPA, Brookings Institute, David Willetts, Further Education, Science Funding, Science policy | Comments Off on Post-Election Christmas Reading List

Time for reflection

I think of Sunday as the last day of the week, not the first. Today, at the end of a hard week on political and personal fronts (though why the political and personal should be seen as separate I am not sure), I flew to Ireland to visit my parents.

Flying to Ireland

The election has come and gone and delivered a result that leaves the country in a deeply worrisome state. The Conservative victory was built on simpl Continue reading

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The changing face of science

This past week, I attended the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) & European Molecular Biology Organization’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. This is a meeting that I have been attending since 1997, almost every year since then—for 22 years.


When I first attended in 1997, it was at the end of my PhD at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and it was my first big international conferenc Continue reading

Posted in annual meeting, ASCB, ASCB 2019, DC, EMBO, meetings, post-doc, poster, Research, science, student, talk, Washington, Washington DC | Comments Off on The changing face of science

If music be the food of love, rock on

One of the problems of having so many websites is knowing which particular wibble goes to which one.

And generating enough content to keep them fed, of course.

Confessions has been neglected of late—not because I want to, or am uninspired, but because it’s difficult to find subjects that are ‘safe’, considering the day job. Especially seeing as the HR person at work stalks me o Continue reading

Posted in cider, magirism, Me, Meta, Science-less Sunday | Comments Off on If music be the food of love, rock on

Travelling Hopefully to 2.4% GDP

David Willetts, for a number of years the Minister of State for Universities and Science, now an FRS, President of the Advisory Board for a think-tank (Resolution Foundation) and writer (most recently, A University Education), has just published a pamphlet about The Road to 2.4%.  All the three main parties (in England) are supportive of an uplift, a substantial uplift, in the amount of funding fo Continue reading

Posted in David Willetts, Dominic Cummings, Fraunhofer Institutes, Richard Jones, Science Funding | Comments Off on Travelling Hopefully to 2.4% GDP