Soft Robots

Recently, I had the luck to see the new ‘Robots’ exhibition at the Science Museum in London, described as ‘The 500-year quest to make machines human’. I found it fascinating, and often moving. Robots derive from our desire to fulfil and satisfy human needs, whether practical or emotional, and are, perhaps, better contextualised within the […]

This Flesh We Wear – Thoughts on a weekend at Words by the Water 7-8 March 2015

One of the best reasons for going to Words by the Water is that it gives work to the mind.  Indeed, I typed – accidentally – ‘Worlds by the Water. As I have blogged before, Words by the Water is a ‘festival of words and ideas’.  The pen is mightier than the sword, or the […]

Mad Marmalade on Fire

My family is mad for marmalade. Whole potfuls can disappear in a day, the scraped-out jar left forlornly by the sink, with tell-tale spoon languishing inside. We make our own – the whole mad process, from the procurement of large bags of Seville oranges, the washing and chopping to the simmering and boiling and bottling. […]

By the Skin of an Apple

Recently,  I read that even thinking about science can make us more ‘moral’, by regulating our thinking to more rational modes.   To define  ‘moral’ and ‘rational’ needs context, but that can be as slippery as any  self-referencing, self-righteous argument we hear from ‘authorities’ on these subjects. In studying science, one gains a sense of scale of our place in […]

Barking Up the Tree of Life

Humans have long sought elevation from their earthly state, either spiritually via religion, or culturally by social elevation. Others seek superiority by the acquisition of powerful weapons, and more recently, and imaginatively, by developing super powers or becoming cybermen. Over the last half-century, the  word ‘transhumanism’ has found its way into the vocabulary. Loosely this is the technological, […]

Dead languages, useless knowledge and rocks from outer space

This little ramble is inspired by a memory: my mother once said that she couldn’t understand why Latin – a ‘dead language’- was taught in schools, and why anyone would want to learn anything so useless. Latin is embedded in English grammar along with other linguistic influences, and is our ancient language of prayer and […]

Curiosity and Oxygen Pills, Microbes and Men

Since I was a little girl I have been interested in space travel. I loved Fireball XL5, but struggled to understand how the cast (giving televisual ‘life’ to puppets) could breathe in space without spacesuits. I now understand that they took ‘oxygen pills’. (Decompression and radiation aside, even for puppets.) I have been reading the NASA posts about […]

Reading the 21st Century

Born in the mid 20th century, in a not very bookish household, my earliest  literary influences were Enid Blyton and comics. Especially comics, which I could buy for myself at pocket money prices from the corner shop, long  before I was old enough to take myself off to a library. The comic format seems an obvious […]