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26 September 2013

The expressions “biological replicate” and “technical replicate” are ubiquitous in biology, but they are surprisingly recent. At first glance, the adjectives suggest that one can understand these notions in terms of a distinction between biological variation and technological variations. This however becomes problematic as soon as biological systems are used as instruments.

1 August 2013

Since the beginning of the 1990s, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) has become an important technique in cognitive neuroscience. An MRI scanner can acquire low-definition pictures of the human brain in only 2s, and this is repeatedly done for the whole duration of a certain cognitive task, e.g. recognizing the emotions expressed by human faces that are shown on a screen.

23 June 2013

There is no questioning that pharmacology has played an important part in the great advances of medical science in the last century. Dramatically effective and relatively cheap drugs, such as aspirin or antibiotics, have marked for many once very severe or even lethal diseases a conversion to treatable conditions. Such drugs are the so-called "blockbusters" and they have represented the pillars of pharmaceutical industry so far.

30 May 2013

Life extension has been a human goal for millennia, and research into ageing is providing grounds for optimism that this goal can be achieved. But are there any reasons we should be wary of extending lifespan? In general, living longer is thought to be a good thing. Indeed life expectancy is one of the criteria on which we judge whether a nation is doing well or badly.

30 April 2013

The recent popularity of systems approaches in molecular biology is perhaps best understood as a reaction to technological developments beginning in the 1990s, notably the large sequencing projects such as the Human Genome Project.