I am an Australian scientist.
I live half the year in England and half in Australia (guess which half!). I specialize in food, biophysics, and nano-engineering, although in my time I have also been involved in mining engineering, fundamental physics, future forecasting and philosophy. While I am still involved in fundamental research, I am now primarily a writer, speaker and broadcaster, working to make science accessible by showing how scientists think about the problems of everyday life.
In recent times, I have focused on showing how scientists think about the important issues that confront us, and on how we can make the best decisions in this complex world (see, for example, my “Ockham’s Razor” programme on Australian radio about the problems of social decision-making). To date this has been mainly through articles, broadcasts, and blog posts (especially my series of Mini Stories from Science), but I am now developing two exciting new book projects (well, exciting to me, and I hope exciting to you when they come out).
I am now primarily a writer, speaker and broadcaster, working to make science accessible by showing how scientists think about the problems of everyday life
In the News
I have made many radio and television appearances worldwide, including three series for BBC Radio 4 (The Science of DIY, The Sweet Spot and Redesigning the Body), and quite a few Ockham’s Razor programmes for Radio National in Australia. I have also written numerous feature articles for U.K. newspapers, including two series for the Guardian on The Science of Cooking and a number of full-page feature articles for the Daily Mail. On the other side of the coin, I have frequently made media headlines through light-hearted projects on how scientists tackle the questions of everyday life. These projects have included the physics of biscuit dunking (which led to the award of an IgNobel Prize at Harvard University), the absorption of gravy by a roast dinner (which led to my being voted by The Times as “an enemy of the people”), whether hot or cold water freezes faster in a bird bath in winter (demonstrated live on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme), the formula for the perfect cheese sandwich, and how best to stir porridge. I have twice been a speaker at London’s Royal Institution, and I am a regular speaker at the annual Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, where I am also a member of the advisory board.
My best-selling book How to Dunk a Doughnut: The Science of Everyday Life (2002) was translated into eleven languages, and resulted in my election as “Science Writer of the Year” by the American Institute of Physics.
More recently, I have focused my attention on serious social and global issues, first with a book Weighing the Soul: The Evolution of Scientific Ideas (2004), which was concerned with showing how science actually works, and then with a trilogy about the role of science in addressing the major problems that we now face: Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life (2008) (on the problem of cooperation); The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life (2009) (on making decisions in complex situations); and Crashes, Crises and Calamities: How We Can Use Science to Read the Early-Warning Signs (2011) (on predicting and dealing with sudden and sometimes catastrophic change in economies, nature and society).
These books led to invitations to become actively involved in several new areas. I have written an invited chapter in a textbook on counseling and psychotherapy (on the role of game theory in human interactions), and have become involved in the area of crisis prediction and management, most notably with the Swiss-based International Risk Governance Council – a body particularly concerned with the development of policies for coping with slow-moving social, economic and ecological risks that may have catastrophic consequences in the long term.
Following an IRGC-sponsored meeting in Venice between scientists and senior policy makers (August, 2011), I wrote a report “Preparing for Future Catastrophes” that laid down the principles of planning for future action. I am currently involved in meetings between scientists and government ministers to help work out how to implement these principles in practice. My Ockham’s Razor programmes Coping with Life’s Surprises and “Einstein’s Socks” were aimed to bring these issues to public attention, and (as indicated in the first paragraph and in the website section “Coping with Future Catastrophes”) I am pressing on with work in this important area.
Science on the beach, Australian style
- B.Sc. (Hons) Chemistry and Pure Mathematics (University of Sydney)
- M.Sc. Radiation Chemistry (University of Sydney)
- Ph.D. Physics of Surfaces (University of New South Wales)
- B.A. Biological Sciences (Macquarie University)
- M.A. (with commendation) Philosophy (University of Bristol)
- Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry
- Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute
- Fellow of the Institute of Physics
- Fellow of the Linnean Society
- Foundation Chairman of the Biophysical Chemistry Subject Group for the Royal Society of Chemistry
- Sometime consultant for companies that include Unilever, Kodak and the Swiss perfume and flavour company Firmenich
- Member, Advisory Panel, Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery
- FISHER, L.R. (1971) A sensitive method for estimating noncondensable gases using a Toepler pump as a McLeod gauge reservoir. J Physics E: Scientific Instruments 4, 608-609.
- DAVENPORT, J.B. & FISHER, L.R. (1975) Interaction of water with egg lecithin in benzene solution. Chemistry & Physics of Lipids 14, 275-290.
- FISHER, L.R. & OAKENFULL, D.G. (1977). Micelles in aqueous solution. Chem.Soc.Rev. 6(1), 25-42.
- OAKENFULL, D.G. & FISHER, L.R. (1977). The role of hydrogen bonding in the formation of bile salt micelles. J.Phys.Chem. 81, 1838-41.
- FISHER, L.R. & LARK, P.D. (1979). An experimental study of the Washburn equation for liquid flow in very fine capillaries. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 69, 486-92.
- FISHER, L.R. & ISRAELACHVILI, J.N. (1979). Direct experimental verification of the Kelvin equation for capillary-held liquids. Nature 277, 548-9.
- FISHER, L.R. (1979). Measurement of small contact angles for sessile drops. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 72, 200-5.
- FISHER, L.R. & ISRAELACHVILI, J.N. (1980). Determination of the capillary pressure in menisci of molecular dimensions. Chem. Phys. Letters 76, 325-8.
- FISHER, L.R., ISRAELACHVILI, J.N., PARKER, N.S. & SHARPLES, F. (1980). Adhesion measurement. In “Microbial Adhesion to Surfaces” (eds. P. Rutter et al), pp.515-7. Ellis Horwood Ltd., Chichester, U.K.
- FISHER, L.R., PARKER, N.S. & SHARPLES, F. (1980). Interference method for the measurement of thickness variations in thin liquid films. Optical Engineering 19, 798-800.
- FISHER, L.R. & OAKENFULL, D.G. (1980). The role of hydrogen bonding in the formation of bile salt micellles. 2. A demonstration of geometric effects on the stabilizing role of hydrogen bonding. J.Phys.Chem. 84, 936-7.
- FISHER, L.R., GAMBLE, R.A. & MIDDLEHURST, J. (1981). The Kelvin equation and the capillary condensation of water. Nature 290, 575- 6.
- FISHER, L.R. & ISRAELACHVILI, J.N. (1981). Experimental studies on the applicability of the Kelvin equation to highly curved concave menisci. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 80, 528-41.
- FISHER, L.R. & ISRAELACHVILI, J.N. (1981). Direct measurement of the effect of meniscus forces on adhesion: a study of the applicability of macroscopic thermodynamics to microscopic liquid interfaces. Colloids & Surfaces 3, 303-319.
- DILGER, J.P., FISHER, L.R. & HAYDON, D.A. (1982). A critical comparison of electrical and optical methods for bilayer thickness measurement. Chem. Phys. Lipids 30, 159-176.
- ISRAELACHVILI, J.N., FISHER, L.R., HORN, R. & CHRISTENSEN, H.K. (1982). Measurement of adhesion and short-range forces between molecularly smooth surfaces in undersaturated vapours and in organic liquids. In “Microscopic Aspects of Adhesion and Lubrication (ed. J.M. Georges), pp.55-69.
- FISHER, L.R. (1982). Forces due to capillary-condensed liquids: limits of calculations from thermodynamics. Adv. Colloid Interface Sci. 16, 117-125.
- FISHER, L.R. & PARKER, N.S. (1984). Osmotic control of bilayer fusion. Biophys.J. 46, 253-8.
- FISHER, L.R. & PARKER, N.S. (1985). How do food stabilizers work? Food Res. Quarterly 45, 33-9
- VARDY, P.H., FISHER, L.R., SMITH, E. & WILLIAMS, K.L. (1986). Traction proteins in the extracellular matrix of Dictyostelium discoideum slugs. Nature 320, 526-9.
- FISHER, L.R., PARKER, N.S. & HAYDON, D.A.,F.R.S. (1986). Interferometric studies of lipid bilayer interactions. Royal Society of Chemistry, Faraday Disc. 81, 249-266.
- HUNTER, R.J. (1987). “Foundations of Colloid Science”. Written in collaboration with D.Y.C.CHAN, L.R.FISHER, N.S.PARKER, R.M.PASHLEY, J.RALSTON & L.R.WHITE. Oxford University Press.
- FISHER, L.R., MITCHELL, E.E. & PARKER, N.S. (1987). Isolated and interacting triglyceride-water interfaces. In “Food Emulsions and Foams” (ed. E.Dickinson), pp. 230-241. Royal Society of Chemistry, London.
- FRANCIS, G.W., FISHER, L.R., GAMBLE, R.A. & GINGELL, D. (1987). Direct measurement of cell detachment force on single cells using a new electromechanical method. J. Cell Sci. 87, 519-524.
- FISHER, L.R., MITCHELL, E.E. & PARKER, N.S. (1987). A critical role for interfacial compression and coagulation in the stabilization of emulsions by proteins. J.Colloid Interface Sci. 119, 592-4.
- KELLY, J.C., FISHER, L.R., HOWLETT, R., KEIRNAN, E.C. & EVANS, M (1987) Biological tissue adhesion to ion-implanted surfaces. Proc. Mater. Res. Soc. 93, 35-39.
- FISHER, L.R., MITCHELL, E.E. & PARKER, N.S. (1988). The effect of surfactants on interactions between emulsion droplets. In “Advances in Food Emulsions and Foams (eds. E.Dickinson & G.Stainsby). Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp.45-90.
- FISHER, L.R., MITCHELL, E.E. & PARKER, N.S.(1989). The effect of adsorbed lysozyme on interaction forces and coalescence of triglyceride droplets in aqueous salt solution. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 128, 35-41.
- FISHER, L.R. & MITCHELL, E.E. (1989). The effect of adsorbed proteins on interactions between emulsion droplets. in “Food Colloids” (eds. R.D.Bee, P. Richmond & J. Mingins), Royal Society of Chemistry 1989, pp.123-138.
- BOWERS, V.M., FISHER, L.R., FRANCIS, G.W. & WILLIAMS, K.L. (1989). A micromechanical technique for monitoring cell-substrate adhesiveness: measurements of the strength of red blood adhesion to glass and polymer test surfaces.J.Biomed.Mat.Res. 23, 1453-1473.
- FISHER, L.R., MITCHELL, E.E., HEWITT, D., RALSTON, J. & WOLFE, J. (1991). Drainage of a thin aqueous film between a solid surface and an approaching gas bubble. Colloids & Surfaces 52, 163-174.
- FISHER, L.R. (1991). Biocolloids, biosurfaces and biofouling. Chemistry and Industry, 15 April, 272-5.
- FISHER,L.R. (1992). A scientist’s view of philosophy. Cogito, Summer Issue, 96-9.
- HEWITT, D., FORNASIERO, A,D., RALSTON, J. & FISHER. L.R. (1993) Aqueous film drainage at the quartz/water/air interface. J.Chem.Soc.Faraday Trans. 89, 817-822.
- FISHER, L.R. (1993) Surface forces in biological systems. J. Chem. Soc. Faraday Trans., 89, 2567-2582.
- FISHER, L.R. (1994) Protein and Cell Interactions with Biomaterial Surfaces. In “Surface Properties of Biomaterials” (eds. R.West & G.Batts), Butterworth-Heinemann, 3-10.
- FISHER, L.R. (1996) Total Internal Reflection Spectroscopy of Biomaterials. In “Surface Analytical Techniques for Probing Biomaterial Surfaces” (ed. J. Davies), CRC Press, 43-66.
- CARRINGTON, S., ODELL, J., FISHER, L.R., MITCHELL, J. & HARTLEY, L. (1996) Salt Effects on Extensional Rheology of Dilute Xanthan Solutions. Polymer 37, 2871-5.
- AVEYARD, R., BINKS, B.P., CHO, W.G., FISHER, L.R., KLINKHAMMER, F. & FLETCHER, P.D.I. (1997) Investigation of the Force-Distance relationship for a small liquid drop approaching a liquid/liquid interface. Langmuir 12, 6561-6.
- FISHER, L.R. (1997) Chemists through the looking glass. Chemistry in Britain 33(7), 34-5.
- FISHER, L.R., CARRINGTON, S.P. & ODELL, J.A. (1997) Deformation Mechanics of Individual Swollen Starch Granules. In “Starch: Structure and Functionality” (eds. P.J. Frazier, P. Richmond & A.M. Donald), RSC, 105-114.
- FISHER, L.R. (1997) Weighing the soul. New Scientist No. 2113/2114, p.75.
- CARRINGTON, S.P., FISHER, L.R. & ODELL, J.A. (1998) Microrheology of swollen starch granules. In “Gums and Stabilizers in the Food Industry 9” (Eds. P.A. Williams and G.O. Phillips) Royal Society of Chemistry Special Publication No. 218, pp 371-380.
- FISHER, L.R. (1999) Physics takes the biscuit. Nature 397, 469.
- FISHER, L.R. & MALLOY, A.R. (1999) Molecular interactions of biomembranes. Annu. Rept. Phys. Chem., 95.
- FISHER, LEN (2002) “How to Dunk a Doughnut: The Science of Everyday Life” (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
- FISHER, LEN (2004) “Weighing the Soul: The Evolution of Scientific Beliefs” (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
- FISHER, LEN (2007) “The Ockham’s Razor Principle”. In Robyn Williams (ed) “Lies, Deep Fries and Statistics” (Sydney: ABC Books).
- FISHER, LEN (2008) “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life” (New York: Basic Books).
- FISHER, LEN (2009) “The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life” (New York: Basic Books).
- FISHER, LEN (2011) “Crashes, Crises & Calamities: How We Can Use Science to Read the Early-Warning Signs”.
- FISHER, LEN (2012) Shaping policy: science and politics need more empathy. Nature 481, p. 29.
- FISHER, LEN (2013) Preparing for Future Catastrophes. Report for the International Risk Governance Council (PDF)
- FISHER, LEN (2013) Scientific genius: Will continue to thrive. Nature 494, p. 430.
- FISHER, LEN (2014) Philae lander: Rename comet probe after Greek hero. Nature 515, p.492.
- FISHER, LEN (2015) More than 70 ways to show resilience. Nature 518, p.35.
- FISHER, LEN (2015) Music inspired Newton’s rainbow Nature 520, p. 436
- FISHER, LEN (2015) John Nash obituary Guardian, May 26th
- FISHER, LEN (2015) In support of basic science. Wall Street Journal (October 30th)
- FISHER, LEN & TESH, JOHN (2015) How to advise a politician. Physics World 28, pp 30-33.
- FISHER, LEN (2015) The birth of something small. Chemistry World October, pp. 66 – 69.
- FISHER, LEN (2015) Avoid major disasters by welcoming minor change. Nature 527, p.9.
- FISHER, LEN (2016) Books to read before going to University Times Education Supplement/Times Higher Education Supplement (April 14th)
- FISHER, LEN & GRIFFITHS, BLEDDYN (2016) Nepal: not all it seisms Geoscientist (July issue)
- FISHER, L., FLORIN, M.-V., & NURSIMULU, A. (2016). Governance of slow-developing risks in socio-ecological systems Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences Newsletter 24(1).
- FISHER, LEN (2016) My Top 10 Cookbooks
- FISHER, LEN (2017) Society as a complex system: how can we make the best decisions for our future? Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales 520.
- FISHER, LEN (2017) Flying blind into the future: do actuaries need a new way of thinking? The Actuary, July.