|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
On Saturday I saw 'Walking with Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular' at the SEC. This event - pretty much sold out, remarkable considering the competing family attraction of an Orange Walk in the city centre - was expensive but worth it on a when-are-you-ever-going-to-see-something-like-this-again? basis, thoroughly enjoyable, scientifically sound and educational at a sort of visceral level: it takes life-size animatronics to convince the reptile lobes of my brain just how big dinosaurs could get. They could get very big. I now know that in my bones.
Thursday evening's 'Mutant Scum' event turned out all right on the night, with over fifty people in attendance and a high standard of story and delivery. The best, and certainly the one that came closest to the brief, was Stefan Pearson's vernacular take on the problems (and solutions) of genetic testing having become a component of the social security interview process: 'Gattaca for neds', as he put it.
Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday I and Pippa joined a dozen or so SF and fantasy writers in the Blackett Lab of Imperial College for 'Physics for Fiction', an ambitious outreach event organised by Dave Clements. It was fascinating to listen to actual research scientists talking about their work, and quite a relief to me to find that New Scientist and the pop sci books haven't been misleading me all these years. Yes, Virginia, there is dark matter. Simon Bradshaw took photos.
Quotes of the day, from my notes:
'We don't have an inflaton.'
'Cosmologists do not like coincidences.'
'"Splotch" is a technical term.'
'You can divorce topology from geometry.'
- Prof Andrew Jaffe.
'Telescopes are cheaper than starships.'
'Imagine making a planet out of cigarette smoke.'
- Dr Mark Thompson
'You measure your career in three missions.'
- Dr David Clements