When you become a time traveller it is important to remember that living in the past is not the same as reading about it. For one thing, you have to live every second of every day. How easy it is in a novel or a history to skip a whole year simply by starting a fresh paragraph or turning the page. Even when you read every word in the book you are merely tiptoeing across the Heraclitan flood on selected stepping stones But life in the past is living every heart beat in every minute, waiting patiently for the next … Continue reading Living in the past: advice to a time traveller
I was in the library when I had my vision. Fine threads of light reached out from where I stood, spreading out to every part of the building, picking out pages from books and journals; each thread highlighting a specific piece of text. About three months earlier I had started research towards a PhD and this, I thought, this is my thesis – a quote here, a piece of information there, someone’s idea at the end of this thread and a counter-argument at the end of that one. Somewhere in this library is my thesis, each piece waiting to be … Continue reading The Ignorant Library
Landing on a comet is a remarkable achievement. Even though the Rosetta mission had its problems we will still learn a great deal about comets, the solar system, maybe even about life on Earth. We can also use the Rosetta mission to comet 67P as a way to examine science itself. To do that, I want to look at Philae (ie the piece of equipment that landed on the comet) and a garish shirt. To start with the shirt. Project scientist Matt Taylor gave an interview to the world’s media wearing a shirt with pictures of hypersexualised semi-naked women on … Continue reading The Autonomous Science Machine
How do you like your science? Rare, medium, well-done? And your public engagement? Would you like that with a little more public or a little less? Press release for starters and impact survey to finish off with? We all have our preferences when it comes to food and the same is true for our individual preferences when we come to science communication. Indeed, one preference would be whether you use the term “science communication” or something else to characterise the interface between science and public. (Note: my use of the term here is simply because “Scicomm” is a recognised hashtag … Continue reading How do you like your science? Rare, medium or well-done?
It’s a load of balls really. The impact of this; the effect of that. Nothing but billiard balls slamming into each other. Bang – the impact of science on society. Bang – the effect of ideology on science. Society bouncing round the angles after the science cue ball slams into it. Science rolling on its true course until ideology (the red) knocks it to one side. And science communication? Aim your science so that you can hit the public into the top pocket. It is all a very mechanistic and atomistic way of thinking about people and what they do. … Continue reading Science, Public and The Beast Below
As it is Christmas how about a little bit of Morecambe and Wise…..as a response to those who might want to decontextualise scientific knowledge. Among the comedy duo’s many catch-phrases and recurring visual gags was the one where Eric would swing a Karate chop and press his open hand under Ernie’s chin saying “Get out of that without moving”, often followed by “you can’t, can you.” It is both simply absurd and absurdly simple. As a “martial art” it is ridiculous; as an example of the impossible it is sublime. Try to get away without moving. Aha, you can’t, can … Continue reading No context: no science
Focussing on scientific heroes in history is like climate sceptics cherry-picking temperatures. Each piece of information may be accurate but the bigger picture gets distorted. To understand the consequences of that imagine a documentary on global warming made and presented by climate sceptics. Each little piece of information may be factually correct, but the way the programme gets framed would probably have most climate scientists wanting to add their own voice-over saying “yes, but…” Now imagine a documentary on 17th century science made and presented by a scientist. Each little piece of information may be factually correct, but the response … Continue reading History as PR and the need to see science in context