Evolving to Valhalla

How I wish that cells’ ancestors were not, now, being named after Norse gods. The whole of Norse mythology is dark, superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Giving names of non-existent quasi-humans to hypothetical organisms inferred from metagenomes is an obstacle to thought, and an open invitation to anthropocentricity. The usually admirable Ed Yong in The Atlantic, 11th January… Continue reading Evolving to Valhalla

Newport – home of the Mole Wrench

  Back in the days when there was clear separation between commercial interest and public service, the postmark “Ship through Newport, home of the Mole Wrench” had to go because it contained a registered trademark. That was right – no-one then wished to defend private “investment” in a public utility and natural monopoly. No-one thought… Continue reading Newport – home of the Mole Wrench

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A week in Molecular Evolution, HHU

Great thanks for such hospitality and generosity to Bill Martin and his colleagues at the Institute of Molecular Evolution, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf. Bill is an outstanding scientist and has others in his superb institute. I particularly appreciated illuminating conversations with Sven Gould and Sriram Garg, as with fellow speakers Louis Tielens (Utrecht) and Dave Speijer (Amsterdam)… Continue reading A week in Molecular Evolution, HHU

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Academic Freedom, Academic Independence

“Established by Royal Charter; accountable to Parliament”. In a British University a Professor can be sacked for failing to obey instructions of persons with neither interest in, nor understanding of, research and teaching; who have accordingly achieved little or nothing of academic distinction themselves; and who waste one’s time. “Managers”, unelected and unaccountable, may, of… Continue reading Academic Freedom, Academic Independence

High Court Judgment of November 3, 2016

R (Miller) -V- Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union The judgment is clear and correct. Why have so many denounced it as anti-democratic? It is the exact opposite. So few, today, seem to understand the vital importance of an independent judiciary.

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Dicky Clymo | Valedictory Lecture

The life and afterlife of bog-moss: why it matters – Professor Emeritus R.S. (‘Dicky’) Clymo Wednesday 12th October 2016 This was a superb lecture; informative, stimulating, and entertaining. Dicky had put much thought into it. No-one could have gone away disappointed. Everyone in the packed audience will have learned something, and been given cause to… Continue reading Dicky Clymo | Valedictory Lecture

Enhancing photosynthesis | Royal Society Discussion Meeting

Enhancing photosynthesis in crop plants: targets for improvement October 10 and 11, 2016. Contributors presented interesting new findings, approaches and techniques, while the outlook and prospect of “enhancing photosynthesis” seems not to have changed significantly over many years. Crop plants rely totally on the same photosynthetic mechanisms as those used by all plants, and some… Continue reading Enhancing photosynthesis | Royal Society Discussion Meeting