Fear of brave new worlds, or uninspired headline writing?

capek_rurSummer 2016 marked the 85th anniversary of novelist Aldous Huxley completing his manuscript for Brave New World. The widely read novel, a dystopia of happiness-led oppression (in contrast to the fear-controlled populace in Orwell’s 1984), anticipates global adoption of advances in science and technology such as subliminal learning and reproductive medicine. Published in 1932, the book is still a popular read, ranking fifth in Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.  Unsurprisingly its title, along with Orwell’s, has also become a stock phrase in headlines, used to signal a new direction for advances in science and technology.

“Test-Tube Babies: The ‘Brave New World’ of Human Pregnancy Is Coming!” The Evening Independent, July 22, 1978 Designer babies, grow a baby in a bottle and more.

“Brave New World: Will gene editing rewrite the future of medicine?” Genome, n.d. Engineering disease (and other things) out of humans with CRISPR.

“The Brave New World of Three-Parent I.V.F.” The New

Boo! Zombies are real!

512px-placid_deathWith Halloween just around the corner, how about a little creepy science for the season?

Zombies are real.

Yes, you read that one right. The undead do exist, and not just in fiction…but maybe I should clarify before you dive right back behind the sofa. Relax; it’s not a whole-body reanimated dead-to-alive apocalypse, just a finding from a group of researchers who saw that in death, a whole series of genes come to life.


Researchers Peter Noble, Alex Pozhitkov and colleagues at the University of Washington found that for a short period after death, certain cell activities seemed to rev up—a

Enchantment and wonderland: 4D LABS

4D Labs. Image: E. Rickert

Scientists aren’t as uptight or as mad as the stereotypical personalities shown in popular media. No, they buy burgers for the BBQ, drop off dry cleaning and use public transit—just like everybody else. I know for a fact that some even go “squee!”…but not so much over kittens (okay, maybe about kittens too).

So, how do I know about the “squee!” bit?

Well, a couple of weeks ago I was guilty of a squee! and so were two other Talk Science to Me team members, mastermind Eve Rickert and associate editor Roma Ilnyckyj, as we toured SFU’s impressive 4D LABS facility on the Simon Fraser University Burnaby campus. Each turn of the corridor seemed to bring new laboratory delights in the shape of adorable compact electron microscopes, bright and shiny clean lab facilities, and a laser lab that belongs in a Marvel superhero film set.

Squee! indeed.

Around town: The 6th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Conferences are great places to hang out if you’re a scientist. The buzz of knowledge fills the air, and it’s often the only chance you get to brainstorm with like-minded enthusiasts in your field. By the end of the conference, you are high on knowledge transfer and giddy with sharing the science…and exhausted. But then you take it all back to your lab and the sharing process begins again.

This week, Vancouver hosts the 6th Annual Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Hosted by Interprofessional Continuing Education of the University of British Columbia, the conference brings together delegates with expertise in research, teaching, counselling, justice and other related fields to highlight recent research progress. It is truly a multidisciplinary event, because FASD affects people in so many different ways and touches every level of society. Read on to learn a little more about what’s happening in your neighbourhood and beyond.

What is FASD?

FASD” is what’s known as an umbrella term, covering a wide range of neurological, behavioural and developmental disabilities, each grouped

Client showcase: UBC Chemistry grant proposals

Lots of beautiful science happens in the chemistry building at UBC. Photo by Tr1plefilter, 2008 (public domain).The University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Department of Chemistry is housed in one of the most beautiful buildings on campus (which you may have seen in one or two X-Files episodes). But even more beautiful is what goes on inside the building: it’s home to world-class researchers whose work has contributed to groundbreaking discoveries and scientific developments.

And since these scientists are in the same city as Talk Science to Me, we were excited to have an opportunity to work with some of them last month. Talk Science was hired to copy-edit seven grant proposals for funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The proposals we worked on outlined innovative ways to address issues ranging from climate change to cancer treatment.