Friday, 28 March 2014

Quick thoughts on bacterial individuality

Are bacteria individuals? Does it matter? I'm planning to pose (and answer) these questions for my upcoming talk at PBUK2014 in Cambridge.

A biofilm is a structured, surface attached colony of millions of bacterial cells. Recent biology conferences have been full of people detailing the ways in which biofilms are analagous to multicellular organisms. They demonstrate complex systems of intercellular signalling, describe intricate and variable colony architectures and propose various adaptive hypotheses at the whole biofilm level. It is clear that the analogy has captured the biological imagination (one paper is titled 'Biofilm: City of microbes') and fuelled much research.

But what turns on it? I have found three decent arguments presented in the literature.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ten months: second week

Not that I'm counting the weeks any more but I signed up to these annoying baby-centric apps that send out weekly updates about 'what your baby is up to this week' so I know I'm in month ten, second week. I'll tell you what my baby is up to this week: smearing his dinner in his hair, chewing on power cables and smashing his face into all available surfaces. Oh and not sleeping. Did I mention the not-sleeping?

I've just given my last lecture of the term

New blog on the block

The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science has a brand new blog here.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Baby must-haves

Several pregnant couples have asked me to name my one must-have item once a baby arrives. And at first I said, ah you don't really have to have anything much, except some boobs and a couple of nappies.

But now I have a better answer. A dishwasher.

If you are expecting a baby, or thinking you might one day have kids, this is my heartfelt advice: Get a dishwasher.

Who remembers playing Myst?

Am I showing my age there?

Well I've decided that being a baby is just like playing Myst V: End of Ages, on a pc, in 2005. With my little brother.

When you start out the controls are really difficult, so you spend ages going in circles and stuff. Once you've got movement figured out you wander around in a pleasant, but basically inert background, until one time you accidentally bump into an object and it moves and this is hugely exciting, so you spend ages figuring out how you did it, and then moving it again and again.

Then you walk round the background again searching for more things you can move (I believe the philosophical term for these is 'affordances'. One day you accidentally hit upon a key combination that performs some action on an object, like picking it up and shitbag, that's a good day. So then you go back round and pick everything up.

It basically goes on like this, you discover new actions and try them out on all the things you can see, every now and again accidentally opening a door or finding a hidden portal.

I hope Orson doesn't just get bored and give up on about level three like I did.