Snapshots of 2010

I wasn’t going to do a review of the year’s blogposts but, on the off-chance that the recent move to the shiny new site at Occam’s Typewriter has attracted some new readers, I thought I would provide a brief guide to my personal favorites of 2010.

Platonic Solids

To amuse those who have had quite enough words from me this past twelvemonth thankyouverymuch, I have interspersed the text with photographs taken in 2010 — the ones that distracted my eye in an abstract sort of way.

Buckets (of blood?) on HMS Victory

The year kicked off with the gift of a telescope, which gave me my first magnified and magnificent views of the heavens. I delighted in getting to know the moon and other planets and later, under dark Cumbrian skies, was excited to be able to see even further afield.


But protein molecules of course are my first love and this year I wrote about two of my favourites. I recounted the story of Max Perutz’s study of haemoglobin, which had inspired me to take up crystallography, and then described the disarmingly named La protein, a subject of my own research.

Venice windows

Though pleased to have maintained a fairly steady level of output on my blog through the year, the day job in science remains my number one concern. Back in May I reflected on the trials of judgement that scientists must endure, from both sides of the bench. One who is ever ready to rush to judgement of science and scientists is the Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins. With Bill Hanage I wrote in February to seriously contest Jenkins’ faulty assessment of the scientific enterprise. Jenkins popped up again with more nonsense in June and this time was taken to task much less seriously, as part of the delightful #SpoofJenks campaign (sparked by Jon Butterworth and Jenny Rohn).

Sky Angel

Those weren’t my only brushes with judgement since I had been closely following the libel case brought by the hapless British Chiropractic Association against the science writer Simon Singh. Singh had had the temerity to question (rightly, as it turned out) the BCA’s claims to be able to treat childhood ailments such as asthma by manipulation of the spine. In following the case I made my first, fascinating visit to the High Court, and managed to snag tickets for the Big Libel Gig, organised to raise funds for the ongoing campaign for libel reform. Happily, justice was eventually served and I was glad to have the opportunity to examine the judgement as a guest post for Jack of Kent.

DNA Buillding

Elsewhere in the public domain, the arrival of the coalition government heralded much nervous speculation about the direction of the new government’s science policy. At the Royal Institution in July I thought David WIlletts gave some rather mixed messages, whereas Vince Cable, speaking later in the summer at QMC, was disappointingly confused.


Cable’s speech sparked the Science is Vital campaign that absorbed a huge effort from several of us round here in September and October. It gave rise to my first two experiments with audio, one a disquisition on Patrick Blackett and the other a rather breathless report about the campaign’s lobby of Parliament. In two other posts I tried to work out for myself the case for science funding, one for The Scientist (hat-tip to Richard for commissioning and editing) and the other composed as a letter to my MP. The whole campaign was energising and draining; once I’d had a chance to recover, I was able to reflect on its success and look forward to what it might bring in 2011.

Party People

The Science is Vital campaign wasn’t the only episode of exhausting excitement that I experienced in 2010. How could I forget the thrill that was the “I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!” competition, which had me working every spare minute to satisfy the curiously of hordes of schoolchildren from around the country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and this isn’t just because I won!) — it’s a fantastic experience and I urge any scientist (PhD students and older) to get involved next year.


Transparently Opaque

Science is only a part of my life but it is a source of great enrichment, especially at the intersection of other facets of human culture. I started running in 2010, which brought me — perhaps a tad circuitously — to an appreciation of the artistic and analytical works of Eadward Muybridge and Anish Kapoor (a guest post thanks to GrrlScientist). 2010 was also the year in which I finally made the intimate acquaintance of Jacob Bronowski’s magnificent BBC documentary, The Ascent of Man.

Wing and Wonder

Bronowski’s program was the best television I saw all year. The best science book I read was Rebecca Skloot’s wonderful tracking of the human source of HeLa cells in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.


And finally, because I couldn’t place it anywhere else, I seem to remember writing a post  on the eternally bemusing topic of homeopathy.

I wonder what 2011 will bring? Happy New Year to all!

This entry was posted in AltMed, Astronomy, Blogging, History of Science, Libel Reform, Protein Crystallography, Science, Science & Politics, TV review. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Snapshots of 2010

  1. Bob O'H says:

    Have a good 2011, and I hope to see you in the flesh again. And preferably in a pub again too.

  2. Stephen says:

    Cheers Bob – and the very same to you and GrrlScientist. Hope you’ll be in London before too long.

  3. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Wow, Stephen – you’ve had an incredibly, impressively busy and productive year! I don’t know how you find the time and energy for it all!

    Happy New Year! I hope 2011 is a fabulous year for you and your family.

  4. cromercrox says:

    Platonic solids. Oooh. Shiny.

  5. Stephen says:

    Thanks Cath – it was productive in some ways, I guess.

    Is that as far as you got, Henry, the first photo? Bloody hell. 😉

    Happy new year to you both and to your families!

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