Category: Top 10 Posts

While the DIY Biotechnology community has grown considerably since this post, the piece still captures something of what is still a young movement, and one that challenges assumptions about top-down technology innovation. Originally posted June 13 2008 Read Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World is Flat” or Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”, and you get a glimpse into how the hacker culture that emerged at the tail end of the twentieth century revolutionized the digital world.  Will a confluence of emerging technologies—including information tech, biotech, and nanotech—lead to a similar revolution in the biological world?

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Sitting in a meeting on informal science education recently, I was intrigued to see a respected academic working on her knitting.  And she wasn’t the only one.  Now I may have had a something of a sheltered life, but in over twenty years of attending scientific conferences and workshops, I think this was the first time I had come across public acts of wool-work. I was fascinated. This was reinforced the other week when, following Tweets from a science policy event at the British Library the Science Blogging Talkfest in London, Stephen Curry announced “I can confirm that @alicebell is indeed knitting.” As well as being a lecturer in science communication at Imperial College, Alice Bell is also something of a knitting maven.  So I asked her whether there was anything I should be reading to explore this new-found fascination with knitting in meetings. Instead, Alice threw me down the metaphorical rabbit-hole! Who knew there was such a rich intersection between science, math, and working with yarn? I was aware of the work on modeling hyperbolic geometries by Daina Taimina of Cornell University, using crochet. (can I mention crochet in a knitting blog?)  But, as I’m discovering, there’s a whole sub-culture of knitting and crocheting science out there!

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Last September regular readers of 2020 Science will recall that I was somewhat taken aback at having to fork out $100 for a Texas Instruments graphing calculator as my son started 7th grade math. One academic year on, was the purchase worth it? (Yes, despite my shock, we did reluctant acquiesce to the school’s dictate and fork out the $100 on a TI-83 graphing calculator). Did it boost my son’s IQ to dizzying new heights?  Did it make all the difference between genius and dunce in his Algebra I Honors class?  Did it actually help him learn? I asked him.

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Ten years ago at the close of the 20th century, people the world over were obsessing about the millennium bug – an unanticipated glitch arising from an earlier technology.  I wonder how clear it was then that, despite this storm in what turned out to be a rather small teacup, the following decade would see unprecedented advances in technology – the mapping of the human genome, social media, nanotechnology, space-tourism, face transplants, hybrid cars, global communications, digital storage, and more.  Looking back, it’s clear that despite a few hiccups, emerging technologies are on a roll – one that’s showing no sign of slowing down. So what can we expect as we enter the second decade of the twenty first century?  What are the emerging technology trends that are going to be hitting the headlines over the next ten years? Here’s my list of the top ten technologies I think are worth watching. I’m afraid that, as with all crystal ball gazing, it’s bound to be flawed. Yet as I work on the opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies, these do seem to be areas that are ripe for prime time.

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Sitting 3000 miles away from London in Washington DC, I’ve been following the dismissal of Professor David Nutt as the UK government’s senior scientific advisor on the misuse of drugs, with interest.  Not being steeped in British drugs politics, I was only vaguely aware of the tensions between the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which Nutt chaired until Friday, and UK policymakers.  So as the story broke, I found it tough to disentangle whether this was a case of a respected scientist demonstrating a blindingly naive understanding of policy, or a government forfeiting science in favor of ideology.  But the more I dig into the situation, the more it seems to highlight a worrying disdain for science and evidence* amongst policy makers.

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I always thought mathematics at school was all about being taught a new language – one that helps us live in a culture built on numbers, enables scientists and engineers to understand and control the world we live in, and enriches us by revealing the underlying complexity and beauty of the universe. I was wrong…

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How exactly did I get hooked on science?  It’s not something I’ve thought about too much before. But an invitation to discuss how to inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists and engineers next week has got me thinking…

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It feels good to be ahead of the curve sometimes. About this time last year, I was slaving away painting my roof white – much to the bemusement of my Northern Virginia neighbors and friends. So I couldn’t help feeling just a little smug this morning as I read that US Secretary of Energy Steve Chu is also a great fan of roof-painting to combat global warming…

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