More #onsci please

Kristin: The feedback from last night’s #onsci chat was very positive, including asking Heather Bray and I whether we’d hold another one. So yes, we will!

Next #onsci: Thursday 12th May 9pm AEST

Topic? Up to you. Post your ideas for themes, topics and questions as comments to this blog and we’ll set things up from there. And if you’re interested in becoming more involved by developing questions or hosting the chat session, also let us know below.


  1. Ok, so here’s a sample of my favourite published stories. That have science in them:

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)
    This amazing tale tells the the personal, social and science story behind ‘hela’, a cervical cancer cell line and the first human cells to be immortalised in culture. An incredibly emotional story, riveting.

    Rosalind Franklin, the Dark Lady of DNA (Brenda Maddox)
    A story about the first photographs ever taken of the crystalline structure of DNA; whilst Rosalind did the work leading to and took the photos, she was never credited properly for her images. Watson-Crick went on to secure the Nobel prize due to their description of the DNA double helix (the discovery of which was prompted by Rosalind’s photos). A tale of a brilliant mind and of the frustration of being a woman in science in the 1940s-1950s.

    Love and the Platypus (Nicholas Drayson Scribe)
    A fictional account of William Caldwell, a Scottish embryologist who travelled to Australia in the 1880s and famously described the mysterious reproductive system of the platypus, summarised in his famous telegram: ‘Monotremes oviparous, ovum meroblastic’. The story took my fancy with the descriptions of Caldwell carting and setting up his scientific equipment in the Aussie bush.

    Best American Science Writing/Best American Science and Nature Writing (edited by Natalie Angier & Jesse Cohen amongst others)
    I’ve been reading these series since discovering them in a book shop in the USA in about 2000. Not all selections appeal, but there’s quality stuff in there on the whole. Most are essays from magazines like Scientific American, National Geographic and other more broadly appealing publications.

  2. An engineering story rather than a science one, but this is brilliant. Before I read it I’d never have believed it was possible to write a compelling feature about office elevators.

  3. Here’s a list of what I thought were good sciencey books. I’ve read so many of this sort over the years I can’t remember the names of most of them.

    1. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks
    2. Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World (Popular Science) by Nick Lane
    3. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition by Oliver Sacks
    4. Roche Versus Adams by Stanley Adams
    5. The Map that changed the world by Simon Winchester
    6. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh
    7. Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield
    8. Tuva or Bust!: Richard Feynman’s Last Journey by Ralph Leighton (well- it’s about a scientist!)
    I really loved Uncle Tungsten as my paternal grandfather was involved in some early work on developing some form of evacuated glass gas lighting (like neon)and my maternal grandfather invented the first moving light displays in Sydney, plus the dot lights with metal templates that used to show the stations on Sydney train platforms.

  4. I can see my reading list is going to get longer!
    And on reading this, the other book that popped into my mind was Kate Morton’s novel, “The Forgotten Garden”. Wouldn’t call it a sciecny book at all (more a historical family saga), but the mystery is solved by reference to the first use of the x-rays. This has the dual effect of being far more satisfying if you are familiar with the discovery of x-rays and how they work, and slightly irritating because you want to know more about the details!

    • Like Kristin, I will definitely be expanding my reading list too! Last night I also remembered books by Peter Goldsworthy – he is an Adelaide GP, now mainly a writer. Ethics, psychiatry and other science/medical issues creep into his novels. I’ve read:
      – Honk If You’re Jesus
      – Wish
      – Three Dog Night
      – Everything I Knew

  5. And don’t let our reflections on telling science stories put you off new ideas! If you have suggestions for next month’s topics, please add them to the comments, via #onsci or email

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