Curry Lab

Biophysics Section
Division of Cell and Molecular Biology
Department of Life Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences

“All art is useless” ...but Science Matters!

Though we sometimes get absorbed in the detailed business of day-to-day research, it is important to remember the bigger picture. As scientists, we have a responsibility to help make science accessible to the general public - hopefully in an engaging way!

There are many people and web-sites devoted to discussing science in an intelligent manner. Here you will find links to various sites that I think do a good job of keeping people informed, as well as mention of books, articles and other content that I hope others will find interesting.

Disclaimer: Imperial College is not responsible for the content of external links from this page

THE SCIENTIFIC LIFE

How to succeed

There are no sure-fire recipes; in this game you have to be careful what you wish for! If fame and riches are what you're after then please continue the search elsewhere. For those looking to make a career in science, Jonathan Yewdell has some great advice.

He also has some wise words on choosing PhD projects and how to make the most out of your time in the lab. For advice on writing-up and presenting your work, see my Tips & Tricks page.

And here is a fascinating transcript of a talk on doing research by Richard Hamming (which I have also discussed on my blog).

 

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

Sense about Science

Sense About Science is an independent charitable trust that respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society. They work with scientists and civic groups to promote evidence and scientific reasoning in public discussion.

Libel Reform Campaign

In conjunction with the Index on Censorship and English PEN, Sense About Science has launched a campaign for reform of the libel laws of England and Wales. This is a widely supported campaign for a much needed update to the libel laws in this country. The current laws are seen as a major inhibitor of free critical discourse, which is of course the life-blood of scientific enquiry. Details on the campaign can be found here. Please inform yourself and, if you can, sign the petition.

Why is Science Important?

Alom Shaha, with the help of a grant from the Wellcome Trust, talked to lots of people about what science means to them. Some (including myself) even wrote about it on his web-site. From all this activity he has distilled a great deal of wisdom and experience and encapsulated it in a very fine film.

BadScience

Dr Ben Goldacre (a qualified medic) writes a regular column in the Guardian and maintains the Bad Science web site. He writes eloquently and entertainingly to de-bunk the plague of pseudo-science that seems to be spreading inexorably across the media.

Guardian Science Weekly Podcast

An informed and informative discussion of the world of science, led by Guardian science correspondent (and Imperial Physics graduate), Alok Jah. They might fawn a little too much over Craig Venter at times, but otherwise the podcast provides a healthy mix of content and opinion, all available for free. You can subscribe via iTunes.

BBC Radio 4 - In our Time

Melvyn Bragg tackles all subjects and is impressively unafraid of scientific discourse. The quality may be slightly uneven at times, but there have been some wonderful programs in this series. The program website lets you listen again to the full archive of programs. You can also subscribe to the podcast.

iTunesU

A free service that gives access to audio and video of lectures (as podcasts) from Universities around the world. Much of the material is from the USA but there are even resources from Imperial College. To access, fire up iTunes and go to the 'iTunesU' link, or click here.

BOOK CLUB

LabLit.com

LabLit.com is a web-site dedicated to the realistic portrayal of science and scientists in all forms of popular culture - both factual and fictional. It offers lively reviews and essays on science culture and science in culture. For those looking for entertaining diversions that contain accurate representations of science and its practitioners there is a curated list of books, plays, film and TV programs for you to peruse. You can also find there a tautly argued defence of the science in Patrick O'Brian's wonderful Aubrey/Maturin novels, written by yours truly...

If you're looking to join in a discussion, the site offers a forum where you can pick up the thread on a range of science/culture matters.

The Eighth Day of Creation

Horace Freedland Judson's book is a magisterial account of the history of molecular biology in the 20th Century. It covers all the major developments: the discovery that DNA carries genetic information, the revelation of the structure of DNA, the cracking of the genetic code and elucidation of feedback control mechanisms and the development of crystallographic methods for determining protein structures at atomic resolution. The book was written following extensive research and, in particular, in-depth interviews with almost all of the main participants: Pauling, Delbruck, Watson, Crick, Monod, Jacob, Perutz, Kendrew and many others.

What I particularly admire is the meticulous way the author has sought to re-trace all the steps (and mis-steps!) that were taken in the development of the field of molecular biology. It is by far the most lucid and exciting account of how science is done that I have ever read!

Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist who debates gene regulatory mechanisms with Jacques Monod in The Eighth Day of Creation makes his entrance on the very first page of The Making of the Atomic Bomb. This book, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Richard Rhodes tells the fascinating story of the Manhattan Project. But more than that, like the Eighth Day, it gives a brilliant account of a hugely important area of 20th century science: the birth of modern physics. The narrative style is more traditional since it relies less on interviews with individuals (most of whom were no longer alive) but is none the less riveting for that.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

OK, this one is a bit of a stretch since it's not about science. Robert Pirsig's book starts out with something of a meditation on our relationship with technology but don't be mislead by that introduction, or the title. I've read this book twice—about 20 years apart—and found it equally enthralling on both occasions but still don't quite know how to describe it. The key message is the idea of quality being a vital experience in life. I wouldn't describe the book as an easy read, but I think it's definitely worth the effort.

Quotation from Oscar Wilde - I am not a philistine..!

22 Sept 2009
http://www.bio.ph.ic.ac.uk/~scurry/