Five more good books

December 31, 2008

Science gone right, science gone wrong, science gone social, science gone political—it’s all here in five off-beat book recommendations to kick off 2009.  Ranging from Darwin’s Origin of Species to Sir Terry Pratchett’s Nation, the one thing I think I can guarantee is that you will struggle to find an odder bunch of literary bed-fellows!  Hope you enjoy them, and have a happy new year!

A new year, a new leaf—time for five more eclectic (some might say eccentric) book recommendations to see you through the hangover and into a brighter future.

As in the previous five good books blog, I’ve eschewed the conventional to provide as unusual a potpourri of literary delights as you will find anywhere.  And as before, I’ve tried to inject a little method into the madness—spot it if you can!

I should first apologize because this was supposed to be a quick blog, rushed off before the New Years festivities began in earnest.  But it turned into a veritable “slow blog!”

So for those of you impatient to read the recommendations and move on, here they are:

  • On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
  • The Two Cultures, by C. P. Snow
  • Trouble with Lichen, by John Wyndham
  • Cider with Rosie, by Laurie Lee
  • Nation, by Sir Terry Pratchett

But please do read on, and discover the why behind the what… Read the rest of this entry »


Science under an Obama Administration

November 11, 2008

Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse on his hopes for the future

Amidst intensifying discussions over what the incoming Obama administration will mean for science and technology, an opinion piece in today’s Telegraph caught my eye this morning.  Written by Sir Paul Nurse—Nobel Laureate and president of the Rockefeller University in New York—it provides a clear articulation of Obama’s campaign pledges, the challenges he faces in realizing them, and impact they could have on the US and beyond if he succeeds.

I usually eschew reproducing other people’s stuff here without adding my own perspective, but in this case, Nurse’s words speak for themselves… Read the rest of this entry »


Why clever people believe stupid things

November 9, 2008

Making sense of scientific information

Amazon.comWhile I was in the UK recently, I picked up a copy of Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science on a tip from a friend.  Ben is a medical doctor and writer for The Guardian newspaper—and a vociferous crusader of what he sees as the misuse and misrepresentation of science.  And when he comes to communicating why science matters in a highly accessible way, he has few peers.

If you read my recent “Five Good Books” blog, you will already have seen a micro-review of Bad Science, which can be summed up pretty succinctly in three words: “buy this book.”

Bad Science is a great read… Read the rest of this entry »


Five good books

November 5, 2008

Obama and science – Essential bed-time reading for the next Administration

Finally, the campaigning is over, everyone knows more about fruit flies than they ever wanted to (thank you Sarah Palin), and on an historic day America has “voted for change.”  As the country looks forward to a radical change in leadership, the coming weeks are going to be wall-to-wall analysis of what an Obama administration will mean for everything from the economy to energy.  And 2020science.org will be there in the thick of things.  But after a heavy night of vote-watching, I thought something a little lighter was in order.

So here as an antidote to election fatigue are five good books every “convalescing campaigner” should have by their bedside as they work on regaining their strength.  And as you might expect, I’ve thrown in a subtle but nevertheless significant emphasis on good science policy. Read the rest of this entry »


Five slightly harder pieces—underpinning sound science policy

October 26, 2008

With just over a week to go before the 2008 US presidential election, there’s no shortage of opinions floating around on the key science and technology-related challenges facing an incoming Obama or McCain administration.  But while advice swirls around issues like nanotechnology, synthetic biology, the environment, and establishing a top-level presidential science adviser as fast as possible, there is less talk about overarching goals that will underpin the science and technology policy agenda for the next four years… Read the rest of this entry »


Presidential Choice: It’s the science, stupid!

September 24, 2008

Forget the economy, healthcare, the war in Iraq.  For some, the next President of the United States will need to rise to a far higher bar:  Is he an e-mail junkie, or still stuck on snail mail?

John McCain’s lack of e-mail-savvy was the butt of recent Obama/Biden campaign ads.  “Things have changed in the last 26 years.  But McCain hasn’t” goes the refrain.  The subtext: if voted in as leader of the free world, could he actually lead in a technology-dependent society?  In contrast, Barack Obama’s online social networking campaign-orchestrated by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes-promises a truly plugged-in president.

Yet strip away the superficiality and there is something missing in both campaigns-where is the science that will support the technology needed to keep America great in the 21st century? Read the rest of this entry »