Latest posts

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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

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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

Let’s just call it “ideology”

The recent murderous terror attacks in Paris at the weekly “Charlie Hebdo” magazine office and the Kosher supermarket — as well as the policewoman who was killed in the street — probably elicited the same emotions in me that they did for many people around the globe. Horror, sadness, and varying forms of anger. While the hor Continue reading

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Open access and the humanities

At the end of 2013 and 2014 I wrote blog posts on Occam’s Corner (over at the Guardian) to list and briefly review the books I read in each of those years. I am trying to develop this practice into a good habit because it spurs me to read; and I hope it might also serve to flag up titles of interest to others. I am planning to do the same thing aga Continue reading

Posted in book review, martin paul eve, Open Access | Comments Off

Science Policy and Impact: Lessons from History

REF, the Science and Innovation Strategy document (S+I) and the Nurse Review of the Research Councils  collectively mean that the UK HE world of science is stuffed full of current policy issues that matter to us all – never mind the concentration of minds arising from an upcoming election followed by a Comprehensive Spending Review of unknown Continue reading

Posted in Eight great technologies, History of Science, Royal Society, Science and Innovation strategy, Science Funding, Science policy | Comments Off

“To generalize is to be an idiot” (William Blake)

In the 1990s, there was a serial bomber in the USA named Eric Rudolph. Rudolph bombed abortion clinics, gay bars and even the 1996 summer Olympics. To escape the law, Rudolph took to the woods of North Carolina where he escaped capture for years, allegedly aided by his nearby family. He was even, rather depressingly, somewhat of a local hero in Continue reading

Posted in Charlie Hebdo, freedom of speech | Comments Off