The Biggest Lesson Music Taught me About Life in Science

Posted by Paige Brown in Guest Blog

Editor's Note: This is a guest blog post by Dr. Michael D. L. Johnson (@BlackSciBlog). In a recent interview with Michael, I was struck by his intriguing story about his move into science from music. He talked about how in music, you start by imitating others, but in science and especially science writing, you often have to skip the imitation stage to go directly to the "innovation" stage. But that doesn't mean we can't learn from each other's stories. Enjoy Michael's. I am a... Read more


One Way To Highlight Diversity in STEM Fields

The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known collectively as STEM) have a diversity problem. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that women, African Americans and Hispanics are significantly under-represented in STEM fields. For example, in 2011, 11 percent of the U.S. workforce was African American, while 6 percent of STEM workers were African American. And while Hispanics made up 15 percent of the workforce, they made up only 7 percent of STEM workers. Women made up 48... Read more


Birdbooker Report 330-1

SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read more


Faces – Young Scientist Profile: Fabiola Gerpott

‚Faces‘ returns for a second season this time highlighting the participants of the upcoming 5th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. In Faces we portray the young scientists of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and give them an open forum to talk about their research and everything else that is important to them. Everybody should feel encouraged to also share their own thoughts and stories.   On her research interests: “My research is about unleashing the potentials of age-diverse teams. Instead... Read more


A Plague on Both Your Houses – why Plague Still Scares Us

Posted by Tania Browne in Epilogue

  When Mercutio spoke of “... a plague on both your houses” in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, he was wishing pretty much the worst thing that was possible at that time. The return of the Black Death, which had killed millions across Europe in the middle of the 14th century, was a very real prospect to a jobbing playwright like Shakespeare in a busy, filthy, rat infested city. And plague still grips the public imagination today like few other diseases.... Read more


Plastic bags responsible for outrageous lack of cute pink piglets

Credit: Margaret Ackland, Plastic Bag, Oil on Linen Most of us now subscribe to the idea that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Hence, droves of people turn up at their local supermarket with a sturdy jute bag in tow. Now, there’s evidence that the items that get placed into plastic bags also have a terrible time, especially if they’re biological in origin. Take the case of pig farmers in Spain. In Spring 2010, 41 farms across Spain reported... Read more


Science Blogging that Boomerangs

“This impedes reasonable public risk communication in the long run and creates a social group of people who harbor fears and anxieties not grounded in reality, but are immune against correction.” - A Boomerang Effect of an All-Clear Message on Radiation Risk. Experts have concluded in many cases that the risks of nanotechnology, electromagnetic fields and nuclear energy are acceptable in the ways we currently use these technologies. Risks assessments of nanoparticles, for example, are typically complicated and rarely lead... Read more


Morsels For The Mind – 25/07/2014

Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy! If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”. **** Star Wars special... Read more


Marine plastic: a ticket to ride for alien invaders?

The Lego octopuses washing up on a Cornish beach this week are the latest in a series of reminders that the amount of plastic debris in the world's oceans is reaching unprecedented levels, posing a huge environmental problem. But it’s not just the debris itself that we need to be worried about, it’s what is hitching a ride on it. On a crisp spring morning in the heart of the UK’s Jurassic Coast, Steve Trewhella combs the beach for treasures. But... Read more


Françoise Barré-Sinoussi’s Fight Against AIDS

Why HIV research always has a political dimension and why a renowned researcher can also be an international political activist. To be a scientist and an activist at the same time – for Nobel laureate Barré-Sinoussi this is an inevitable combination: after decades of research on the HI virus, she has truly worked ‘for the benefit of mankind’ (see video below with panel discussion). As the current president of the International Aids Society IAS, she held the opening speech at... Read more


Science Blogging as… (fill in the blank)

In science writing, there’s always something new to learn, some new adventure to try. Keep a beginner’s mind, look for new adventures, and have fun. — Dan Ferber (, @DanFerber) Today, I decided to collect science writers’ thoughts on blogging from Ed Yong’s 2010 round-up of stories on the Origins of Science Writers. I thought it would be interesting to see how the 100+ science writers who commented on Ed’s post – many now professional science writers, journalists and editors... Read more


Moon Atlas

  I remember my father pointing skyward and saying, "There goes Sputnik." Following his gaze, I saw a small dot, winking and blinking as it crossed the darkened skies. Could I really have seen Sputnik that long-ago evening in Framingham, Massachusetts? When I viewed Jason Davis’ new documentary Desert Moon in July of 2014, I was reminded of that long-ago vigil and how Sputnik sparked a space race between the US and the then Soviet Union. Desert Moon is a film about... Read more


Innovation and human flourishing

Nobel economist Edmund Phelps is concerned that a loss of dynamism threatens our prosperity. One of the themes of the upcoming 5th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences, 19-23 August 2014, will be the importance of innovation. Writing in today’s Financial Times, Edmund Phelps (Nobel Prize 2006) worries that there has been a loss of dynamism in the western world, which is stalling innovation, reducing productivity growth and threatening our future prosperity. At Lindau next month, Phelps will develop this argument... Read more


Neurosciences: Bringing the TReND to Africa

The Lindau-alumni founded NGO TReND in Africa is dedicated to improve research conditions on the continent. Whilst studying for her PhD in neurosciences at Cambridge University, Lindau alumna, Lucia Prieto-Godino (2014, physiology/medicine), met Sadiq Yusuf and was shocked to discover “that many East African neuroscientists were still using expensive rat models for their research despite extreme funding shortages”. This prompted Lucia to promote invertebrate models, commencing with the Drosophila (fruit-fly), as a relatively inexpensive alternative for neuroscience research and teaching... Read more


The Kingdom of Rarities by Eric Dinerstein – review

Why are some species naturally rare whilst others are common? Do rare species make any difference in the larger scheme? These questions have puzzled biologists for centuries. Truth be told, even today, scientists have uncovered just a few pieces within this complex puzzle as we discover in Eric Dinerstein's The Kingdom of Rarities [Island Press, 2014; Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US]. In this engaging and informative narrative, the reader accompanies the World Wildlife Fund's chief scientist on his lifelong journey... Read more