The God of Small Things

Nanostar, scienceimage.csiro.au, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Nanostar, scienceimage.csiro.au, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Physicists working at the atomic or molecular scale are revolutionising industry with their ultra-small chips and mini-machines, but in a sense nanotechnology is nothing new. Nature got there first, and we are only just beginning to catch up Continue reading

Guest Post: Wonders of the Cell

Leaf cross-section © K Szkurlatowski, freeimages.com
Leaf cross-section © K Szkurlatowski, freeimages.com

Most scientists get excited when talking about science in general.  But they get really animated when talking about their own area of research. I spent my PhD years studying microtubules, which are microscopic filaments inside living cells, and even now I get a little misty-eyed when thinking about them.  To some people, microtubules might not be beautiful – in some images they look rather like a writhing hairball or bowl of spaghetti – but Continue reading

The Intelligence of Plants

Kale © Caltiva Creatividad, freeimages.com
Kale © Caltiva Creatividad, freeimages.com

Networks of plants can achieve surprising things. For example, one study has shown that the trees in a forest are interconnected through the fungi that grow around their roots. A radioactive chemical injected into one tree soon appears Continue reading

The Eager Gene, and the Symphony

© Daniela Corno, freeimages.com
© Daniela Corno, freeimages.com

I recently heard a new metaphor for the gene. Although this phrase was coined by a physicist*, I think it’s an interesting one. The concept of ‘The Eager Gene’ comes from Andrew Steane, Professor of Physics at Oxford University, in his book Faithful to Science (see previous blog).

Steane writes that “Genes are, of course, inanimate molecules, having no eagerness or moral capacity, but Continue reading

Chance or Necessity in the Origin of Life?

Stephen Freeland
Stephen Freeland

Was the living world destined to look the way we find it? Or to ask a question that’s closer to home, were our bodies meant to be the way they are? These are the sorts of questions that astrobiologist Stephen Freeland asks as part of his research into the genetic code. Continue reading

Charles Raven: Theologian, Naturalist, and a bit of a Rebel

© RM Bancewicz
© RM Bancewicz

Earlier this year I was introduced to a Cambridge professor who appreciated both the wonders of the living world and questions about its wider significance. Charles Raven, Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University from 1932-1950, was a keen naturalist and lover of science. In a recent seminar at the Faraday Institute, Ian Randall outlined this unique individual’s contribution to science and religion. Continue reading

Guest Post: The Cooperation of Living Things

© J Bryant
© J Bryant

I have been thinking a lot recently about an aspect of evolution that is rarely talked about, namely that it has involved and continues to involve cooperation or collaboration between Continue reading