Japan and nuclear science

A few months ago, I found my 2006 Masters dissertation among some old files. Submitted as part of my Masters degree in Science Communication at Imperial College London, it’s about Japan’s history with nuclear science, both as a source of atomic weapons and a solution to Japan’s ever-present energy problems.

Re-reading it, it’s amazing how it holds up nearly 10 years on. Many of its themes are still relevant in 2015. Post-Fukushima 2011, Japan is again in the midst of major public distrust over nuclear power. With 2015 also marking 70 years since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and the structure of Japanese science in question following the 2014 STAP scandal, I thought others might find it interesting to read, so I posted it on Medium.

Genshibakudan to Genshiryoku: Japan and nuclear science

The post is my original 2006 text so of course some things will have moved on. I’d welcome any updates, thoughts and discussions in comments.


Longreads: Traditional Chinese Medicine


As part of my work on a new long-form publication, I’ve been doing a lot of long-form reading. I’ve been scribbling notes about various articles here and there and figured I might as well start collating them centrally on this blog. So here’s note number one.

I very much enjoyed this piece by James Palmer in Aeon last week. It is pretty long and not exactly narrative based, but more of a long, very interesting essay, taking us on a journey through history, culture, ethics and pharmacology. He has a few anecdotes scattered around from interviewees but on the whole this is Palmer’s thesis (and indeed, it is a little like a dissertation) and an excellent explainer of what is and where it is today.

The difference between a traditional feature, an essay, and a ‘narrative-based’ story (the latter of which is maybe what we think of most as long-form) is an interesting question I’ve been pondering. For me, this feature succeeds because of its breadth; it is in-depth, it has been researched thoroughly and the author clearly has a structure for his thesis. Sure, it’s lacking that ‘story’ spine that might keep people from wandering after the first 1000w or so, but the subject matter and writing is interesting enough, I think, to make it worth your while.


I love bookmarking

Back when I used to work at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, our office used to look something like this:

Too much paper!

Well not really. But not far from that.

Because of its mission to ‘examine ethical issues raised by new developments in biology and medicine’, the Council is constantly scanning the latest developments in all sorts of areas, from nanotechnology to GM crops, personalised medicine and stem cells. As such, it subscribes to a huge amount of scientific journals, magazines and newspapers.

Back in the day, one of my duties was helping to keep track of all this. The Deputy Directors, Research Officers and Press Officer would scan through every publication and mark on a little sheet what was worth keeping on file for future reference. Then I would disappear into the photocopying room for hours on end, making copies of each article and filing them in hundreds of paper files hanging all over our office. It was boring, tedious and absolute madness.

Such a thing would be unthinkable today, just five years later. Why would you make copies when practically all articles are available to view anytime online? And why have hundreds of files when you can use web bookmarking tools like Delicious to tag the link to an article, with as many tags as you like, all searchable and sortable in seconds?

Today I bookmark and tag practically every interesting thing I read, which helps no end when I find I need to revisit a topic for research (though admittedly my tags need a bit of pruning). I’m thankful to my old job for this useful habit, but thank goodness I don’t have to sit around in the photocopying room by myself anymore.