Latest posts

On immortality

From the “Making dreams come true” department, we recently had a sauna installed at the new gaff.

Warming up
Warming up

It’s very nice, and you should know that South Eastern trains have a special, hidden, weekend fare that lets you use the High Speed service for the same price as the slow train, and that I can pick you up from the station.

Continue reading
Posted in immortality, Me, Nonsense, sauna | Leave a comment

Contemplating Education Matters

This past week it was announced that I would be assuming the Presidency of the British Science Association (the BSA, formerly simply the British Association or the BA). It is a great honour to be asked to follow in the footsteps of so many of the most illustrious scientists of the last 170 odd years. The list of previous incumbents is truly humblin Continue reading

Posted in British Science Association, DCMS, education, Vision for STEM education | Leave a comment

Music and Disease

When one is the parent of a small child it is well-known one catches every bug going, as their own uninitiated immune systems succumb to one cold after another which they can transmit, often with more serious diseases mixed in. In my case it was chickenpox that got me unexpectedly in my 30’s during a Cambridge epidemic, having escaped it thro Continue reading

Posted in academia, Camden School for Girls, LSSO, Micaela Comberti, viola | Leave a comment

In which I invite them in

Although engaging with the public about science is famously not about – heaven forbid – ‘teaching’ it, the two endeavors do share some common strategies. I’ve been organizing and executing a lot of undergraduate educational sessions these past few terms, and I can report that the humble analogy is equally effective in Continue reading

Posted in Science talking, Scientific thinking, Silliness, students, Teaching | Leave a comment

Did someone say “cold”?

With whatever the current digital version of “mercury” is dipping to an overnight low of 25 below*, and an expected daytime high tomorrow of only two degrees higher, I for one am not planning on venturing outside unless I absolutely have to. Even though tomorrow is Family Day, a holiday of dubious provenance that I’ve lightly comp Continue reading

Posted in backyard, bird, hawk, nature, Photography, wildlife, winter | Leave a comment

The biologist who left me out in the cold

Two weeks, two books.

In Unweaving the Rainbow Richard Dawkins takes issue with the poets and argues that the poetry revealed deep within Nature by scientific investigation is more wondrous than the musings of those who make do with superficial appearances. I picked it up because I am in the midst of writing a review of recent developments in struc Continue reading

Posted in book review, Dawkins, le Carré | Leave a comment

I Wish I’d Known Then What I Know Now

There are many questions which are easily posed, to which I don’t find answers come easily. One of these is ‘who inspired you?’ (answer: no one very obviously); or ‘why did you decide you wanted to study physics?‘ to which the feeble answer that I liked it doesn’t seem nearly meaty enough. But there are other que Continue reading

Posted in Science Culture, self-confidence, skills | Leave a comment

Cheating in science — and life

Not too long ago, one of my teenagers brought up an age-old ethical issue that recurs and festers, and at least theoretically, provides an opportunity for open discussion on “what do we want out of life?”

The issue at stake, is of course, cheating at school, university and life. And how do honest kids and adults deal with it, knowing th Continue reading

Posted in A grade, cheating, Chronicle of Higher Education, education, exams, getting ahead, medical schoolmath, Research, science, undergraduate education | Leave a comment

This week – reading, thinking and linking

This past week I have been doing so much reading and writing for work that there has been no time to prepare anything substantial enough for a proper blog post, even if I have been stirred by the excessive protests of Mark Walport or the over-selling of what is actually a nice piece of virology.

But I have squeezed in a little additional reading on Continue reading

Posted in communication, History of Science, Science & Media, Science & Politics | Leave a comment

Style Matters

I was reading a reference recently and I noticed a sentence containing the word ‘responsible’ twice in the same sentence. I stopped reading and reached for the metaphorical red pen. It mattered not a whit in this context, but it certainly jarred on me and brought me up short. Using the same word twice (or more) in quick succession lacks Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, education, Research, style, Thesis, Writing | Leave a comment

All That Is, by James Salter

In 2013 I was captured, captivated by the spare prose of James Salter’s The Hunters, a story of the tense competition between US airmen in the Korean War. All That Is is similarly spare, and like The Hunters quite a masculine book, but it is a different beast.

All That Is

Initially I was concerned that Salter’s economical style might be ill suited to the time Continue reading

Posted in book review, James Salter | Leave a comment

Stand Up and Be Counted

There are times in one’s life when it is important to stand up and be counted. This is a view expressed neatly in a recent blogpost by Hilda Bastian about 7 Tips for Women at Science Conferences  with her sub-heading ‘Holding back for yourself is fine – but solidarity for others is non-negotiable.‘ In other words, if you don’ Continue reading

Posted in criticism, Hilda Bastian, Science Culture, support, Thesis Whisperer | Leave a comment

Moved to poetry by….OMICS

Yes, the unfunny joke of a company called OMICS has moved me. Debating between tears and poetry, I opted for the latter, writing my “Epic Omics Limmerick,” provoked by the email pasted below.

Here is my verse:

There once was a dodgy company named Omics

Continue reading
Posted in BS, fraud, humor, limmerick, OMICS, Open Access, poetry, Research, science, science journals, Science research, sucker born every minute | Comments Off

Am I a Lady?

I am of a generation that was brought up with (though most certainly not to laugh at) the joke ‘That’s no lady, that’s my wife’. Classist overtones? Undoubtedly, as well as inherent sexism: the word ‘lady’ to me is not one with which I want to be associated. Let us leave aside the question of whether a knightR Continue reading

Comments Off

Conspiracy deathmatch

I realized recently that, in the best tradition of fighting fire with fire, it’s possible to counter some conspiracy theories by invoking other conspiracy theories. The best two examples I’ve come up with so far are as follows:

  • The anti-vaccination movement is just an Illuminati plot to thin the ranks of the masses via the resurgence o Continue reading
Posted in Medicine, Pseudoscience, quacks, science, Silliness, technology | Comments Off