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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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

“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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off

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 | Comments Off


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 | Comments Off

Improvising As You Go

Just occasionally one sits down with a new book, starts to read and a great sense of calm, of recognition and of identification with the words in front of you descends. It’s all too rare but is wonderful when it happens. So it was with me when I read the opening pages of Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson, who incidentally (as far as Continue reading

Posted in careers, Catherine Bateson, mentor, Wow | Comments Off

Terrors transcended

On balance, I prefer laughing to crying but I am not afraid to let my tears flow. Powerful drama can do it, so can stirring music. I may cry when I recall events or times in my life when I have been sad. I can cry when I read about or watch representations of human cruelty. These things are all likely to give my tear ducts a workout. Continue reading

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In which I enjoy a Northern sojourn

I spend a lot of my time these days up at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, helping out with undergraduate teaching. It’s marked a new phase of traipsing up and down on the Northern Line to my lab on the main campus, but now that term has started I’ve settled into a routine that seems to work for everyone, myself included.

As a work Continue reading

Posted in Gardening, Silliness, Teaching | Comments Off

Unconscious gender bias? What do I picture when I think of a scientist?

Recent years have seen a lot of discussion on the blogosphere on gender bias in science. There is no question that awareness is always the first step in heading for a solution.

photo 1-1

Do I have an unconscious bias against women in science? Continue reading

Posted in arts, conscious bias, education, female, feminism, gender bias, gender equality, identity, liberal arts, male, minorities, Ph.D., PI, Research, science, scientist, scientists, Unconscious bias, Women in science | Comments Off

“Dogged Science”

Ginger at work

No, this is not posed or photoshopped. But it is apparent that Ginger is somewhat less enthusiastic about calculations in single molecule imaging than I am.

Posted in competing interests, dogs, dSTORM, Ginger, humor, Labrador Retriever, Research, science, single molecule imaging, vizsla | Comments Off