News

Once an academic…

I’ve been in and around academia one way or another all my life, but only had an actual university position for a decade or so (more than a decade ago now, too). Still, I’m allowed to have a page on academia.edu. and recently uploaded a bunch of stuff I’ve written – it’s easier (for me) to do that there than on a wordpress site like this. That means you can download them, if you’re interested – over here, if anyone wants to take a look.

And here are the individual pieces up so far – an eclectic mix, including a few feature articles, some reports and book chapters, and a few actual journal papers.

Lindau is rather lovely

65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Great to spend a week in Lindau as part of the meeting held there where Nobel Laureates (60 of them!) spend time with ten times that number of scarily bright young scientists from round the world. I moderated three panels, on human genetic engineering and the moratorium on using CRISPR in human embryos, on the future of science in Africa and on the future of life sciences. (We were planning to have a go at the future of physics, too, but for various reasons that one didn’t come off).

They were crammed into the amazingly crowded Lindau schedule, and more or less worked, I think though the third simply turned into a free-for-all Q&A – which I didn’t resist too hard.

I’m never sure if this kind of thing is my forte, but if anyone else want to invite me to organise panels at a meeting where you can swim in Lake Constance before breakfast, then go to work, do get in touch…

More to the point, not enough people know that all the Nobel winners talks at Lindau are recorded and posted online. The archive is a pretty impressive resource for anyone interested in high achievers in science and how they see their work. Start here.

The pic shows the discussion on future questions for life science in progress – pretty good fun. Venki Ramakrishnan speaks while Jack Szostak, Arieh Warshel and John Schell listen and I just try and look intelligent. Thanks for the invitation!

 

 

 

A nice review

I, Superorganism has its first review in print, and I’m delighted to say it is a pretty good one. Also online here if you want to see it in all its glory. I particularly liked: “What Turney does convey brilliantly is the excitement in these laboratories and what their work might mean for us”.

A remark at the end prompted my editor to raise the matter of updating the text for a trade paperback, not due out for some while yet. Still thinking about that…

Readers comments on I, Superorganism

There are a couple of comments I liked about my new book. Brian Clegg concludes a slightly equivocal review (on Amazon) with this overall verdict: “a really important milestone in our understanding of the complexity and variability of our inner landscape, and as such is a must-have addition to the popular science bookshelf”. He awards it 4 stars.

And my friend Brigitte Nerlich wrote a blogpost about the book which says, among other things: “I have read quite a few popular science books. Some are interesting, some enlightening, some enjoyable. This book has all of these qualities and it does something that good popular science books should do: it makes us think about the world, and in this case ourselves, in new ways; it makes us see ourselves as something else”. Which was what I was trying to do!

Incidentally, you can now read a lightly modified version of the introductory chapter here on Medium.

I, Superorganism is out!

My new book is published this week (Feb 5). It took rather longer to write than I intended (no surprise there), but the extra time meant I caught a real explosion of results and papers. The idea, apart from feeding my own fascination with the subject, was to write a popular science book on a well-defined topic after the megalomaniac scope of the Rough Guide to the Future. It turned out not to be so simple, as the field is a moving target that moves rather rapidly!

Happily, it is still the first overview of the new picture of the human microbiome from someone not actually working in the field. It’s a rather handsome trade paperback, suitable for airport bookstores, with a regular paperback to follow later in the year, I think. The cover is in the collection on the left, and the publisher’s web page is here. Amazon link, if you prefer, is here. (If you want an e-book, Icon’s price is lower.

Robots!

 

our-work-here-is-done-cover

A bit behindhand with this, but I had fun writing a chapter in a new collection from NESTA on robots and the future of labour. The other contributions were essays from proper experts on robotics, economics, and innovation. Mine was on images of robots in science fiction and how they might help us imagine the future of work, or the lack of it. You can download the whole thing from their website here.

I, Superorganism

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This is the first popular book to synthesise all the new research on the human microbiome. It is published by Icon in Feb 2015. The subtitle, Learning to Love your Inner Ecosystem, indicates that I am hedging my bets on metaphors. I do really think we are superorganisms, though. On the other hand, so is every other complex species…  Amazon page is here. And you can read a shortened version of the introduction here!

Early comments include: “a really important milestone in our understanding of the complexity and variability of our inner landscape, and as such is a must-have addition to the popular science bookshelf” (Brian Clegg);

and “I have read quite a few popular science books. Some are interesting, some enlightening, some enjoyable. This book has all of these qualities and it does something that good popular science books should do: it makes us think about the world, and in this case ourselves, in new ways; it makes us see ourselves as something else.” (Brigitte Nerlich).

And some other reviews:

“a terrific romp through our non-human inhabitants” (Helen Bynum, Times Higher)

“if you’ve heard the term ‘microbiome’ and wondered what all the fuss is about, I, superorganismis a good place to start” (Hayley Simon, Chemistry World)

Meeting Mary Shelley

Looking forward to this event next Tuesday (Nov 5), which is a kind of TED for the dead. Paired speakers, one living, one “exhumed”, address various aspects of technology and identity. I’m on with Mary Shelley, in recognition of the Frankenstein book I wrote some years back, and will be reflecting on the potential of digital technologies to be adapted for somewhat Frankensteinian ends.

It’s at the rather wonderful new Birmingham library, which will be good to explore, and there are two shows, one afternoon, one evening, if you’re interested.

http://xhumed.co.uk/