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Robert H OlleyRSS Feed of this column.

Until recently, I worked in the Polymer Physics Group of the Physics Department at the University of Reading.

I would describe myself as a Polymer Morphologist. I am not an astronaut,

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A few days ago, I was watching an episode of the Antiques Roadshow.  People were bringing their treasured objects for expert examination to the grounds of a stately house in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.  The items included an early pocket calculator by Sinclair (made locally), and a traction engine arrived in full steam.  But my ears really pricked up when a valuable jug bought for a fiver (in today’s money, perhaps $50) was identified as a Bellarmine Jug

In the 19th century, following the Enlightenment, the process of secularization seemed to be on a slow but unstoppable roll.  One consequence of this was the development of a view of history, whereby religion in general, Christianity in particular, and above all the Roman Catholic church, assumed the rôle of the enemy of all progress, and progress was by definition good.  Clerics were pictured as Asuras (in Hindu epic titanic beings perpetually at war with the Devas or gods) always opposing the scientists with their own Clerisy.

Sir Archibald Henry Bodkin, KCB (1862–1957) was our British Director of Public Prosecutions from 1920 to 1930.  He particularly took a stand against the publication of what he saw as ‘obscene’ literature.

What with all the current talk of GMOs, I would remind folks here that some 20th century methods also raised fears.  A more “traditional” method has been to double the chromosome content of plants — one well known example is Triticale is the hybrid of wheat (Triticum turgidum) and rye (Secale cereale).  This, of course, should be familiar to those who remember the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”.  When crossing wheat and rye, wheat is used as the female parent and rye as the male parent (pollen