Oxford Symposium

Virtual food

The Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery is my favourite indulgence - old friends, good wine, great food. But this year it has to be virtual, and here I will keep a running diary of events to share. Enjoy! The header picture is from last year. That's me holding the...

Casimir and me

This mini story is about me and my last (maybe really my last) scientific paper. It is also a story of how science really works - through people, rather than structures or organizations or committees. It started with Twitter, which is a major way that I keep in touch...

143. Mercury, Shakespeare and me

Very proud to have been awarded a prize in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute's competition for Stories from the Periodic Table. Here is my winning entry: Mercury, Shakespeare and me Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature, and it exerts an...

Self-interest is blocking progress on global problems

The natural environment is a web of connected systems. Change one element and you impact on other elements. The human impact on earth systems is becoming increasingly obvious. In my latest programme for Australian ABC Radio National's Science Show...

The Brexit Minister for Food Security

The Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery is my favourite annual indulgence, where I meet many old friends from the foodie world and let fly with my thoughts and opinions on the theme of the meeting. The theme for 2019 was Food and Power, which gave me the opportunity...

The World Needs Complexity Thinking

I was proud to be a finalist (14 finalists out of 2702 entrants from 122 countries; https://globalchallenges.org/en/our-work/the-new-shape-prize/finalists) in the recent Global Challenges New Shape competition , which sought suggestions for new approaches to the...

Equations in the media

I just came across a link to a segment of the BBC Radio 4 programme "More or Less", where I debated with Simon Singh the value of equations in the media. "Debated" is really not the right word, since we were on the same side when it came to the way that the media...

142. A mad magnet tale

This story of the generation of an ultra-strong magnetic field (https://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/magnetic-field-record-set-with-a-bang-1200-tesla) and the subsequent disaster reminds me of a story that I was told by a very prominent...

141. A world made of blueberries

My good friend and cooleague (cool colleague) Anders Sandberg has calculated what would happen if the world suddenly turned into blueberries. I offer it as an example of how scientists think; one that might be used to help schoolchildren, and even beginning university...

Chickens’ Guts and Chefs’ Tools

Art imitating nature: how chefs treat seeds in just the same ways that seed-eating birds have been doing for millions of years: https://youtu.be/RMuAx4XVa08       My talk at the 2018 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Start at 2'50" if you want to...

Life, REF, and the half-loaf principle

One of my favourite writers is the Russian-born Englishman S.J. "Skid" Simon. Unless you are a bridge player, you have probably never heard of him, although he wrote many murder mysteries in the period before the Second World War, the best-known being "A Bullet in the...

Let’s share the thrill and exhilaration of discovery!

A piece recorded for ABC Radio National after the death of Billy Graham, evangelist for Christianity, but before the death of Stephen Hawking, evangelist for science. What more can we scientists do to share the thrill and exhilaration of discovery?...

The science of toffee apples

In 2005 I gave a talk at the Royal Institution on the science of toffee apples. It was, of course, timed for Guy Fawkes night! Recently a few people have asked whether they might have a copy of the script. So for them, and anyone else who is dying to know more about...

Communicating science: a slightly jaundiced view

After 25 years communicating science to different audiences, I finally put it all together in a talk delivered to staff and students at the University of Bristol's physics department. It covers Stephen Hawking's role, talking to politicians, dealing with the media,...

A scientist looks at philosophy

My first (and only) genuine philosophy article published in a genuine philosophy journal. Twenty-five years on, I am still quite proud of it! All about models and what they really mean (and don't mean). A scientist looks at philosophy IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

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