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Wonders of Life coming – we hope Ken Perrott Dec 24

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Readers of the New Zealand Listener will probably have read the recent interview with Professor Brian Cox (see Interview: Brian Cox). It’s good to see such interviews down in this part of the world – just hope we get to see some of the science TV programmes Brian Cox is currently fronting. (He was a regular on TV7 which we have unfortunately lost this year)

Anyway – here’s hoping we will get to see his new programme Wonders of Life. Eric Idle has rewritten one of his best known songs for the programme – an evolutionary version of the “Galaxy Song” from the Monty Python film The Meaning of Life.

Here’s a promo for the programme which includes the song.

Wonders of Life Trailer – BBC Two

Thanks to Why Evolution is True: Wonders of Life by Brian Cox – with added Eric Idle.

Coming up:

An article by Brian Cox and his collaborator Robin Ince* seems to have provoked some controversy in the UK. In particular, some science historians and sociologists have got on their high horses. I will discuss the issues in an upcoming post Historians and sociologists lecture scientists -  about science.

(Cox and Ince current produce a science comedy podcast for the BBC – The Infinite Monkey Cage. Have a listen if you enjoy both science and comedy).

Creative science writing Ken Perrott Nov 20

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This weekend the Royal Society announced the winners of the New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing.

There are two categories, fiction and non-fiction, and this year entrants were asked to write about chemistry and our world. This is to commemorate the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Marie Curie in 1911 and to celebrate a hundred years of the contribution of chemistry to the well-being of humanity.

Radium — A Love Story

Both winning writers are chemists and have PhDs. Dr Bridget Stocker, who works at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington, wrote the winning fiction piece, Radium — A Love Story. (pdf link) It’s about Marie Curie and told from her point of view.

Stocker says:

’I felt compelled to write this story given that I’d taken part in the Marie Curie lecture series by the Royal Society of New Zealand, and then been featured on the cover of a chemistry magazine celebrating the life of Marie Curie. That said, I almost didn’t enter because I was running out of time, but I’m glad that I did!’

Historical fiction about scientists from the past is quite popular these days. I think it can serve a useful purpose in providing information about these great scientists in an easily accessible and interesting way.

100% Chemical Free

Dr Joanna Wojnar, from the University of Auckland, won the non-fiction category with 100% Chemical Free. (pdf link) This is about misuse of the term ‘chemical free’. In it he asks: ‘When exactly did chemistry become synonymous with poison, and chemical with toxic?’

Wojnar says

’My writing so far has been solely scientific publications in my field. The competition entry therefore was a change in pace for me, but it was quite fun to write as it’s one of my pet peeves. The other one is the misuse of the word ‘organic’, but that’s the topic of another article!’

As a chemist I sympathise completely with Wojnar’s viewpoint. Consumers should react cynically to this form of advertising which just plays on scientific ignorance.

The two winning entries will be published in the New Zealand Listener. But they both can be accessed and downloaded together with all 21 shortlisted entries, from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s website.

Past winning entries

The Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing has been operating in the same format (fiction and non-fiction prizes) since 2007. If you want to read the past winning entries you can download the ebook Shift 2011.

SHIFT PDF (1.4 MB)

SHIFT epub (2MB)

SHIFT .mobi (2MB)

See also: Wellington woman wins Manhire Prize for creative science fiction writing

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