Living in the past: advice to a time traveller

When you become a time traveller it is important to remember that living in the past is not the same as reading about it. For one thing, you have to live every second of every day. How easy it is in a novel or a history to skip a whole year simply by starting a fresh paragraph or turning the page. Even when you read every word in the book you are merely tiptoeing across the Heraclitan flood on selected stepping stones But life in the past is living every heart beat in every minute, waiting patiently for the next … Continue reading Living in the past: advice to a time traveller

The Ignorant Library

I was in the library when I had my vision. Fine threads of light reached out from where I stood, spreading out to every part of the building, picking out pages from books and journals; each thread highlighting a specific piece of text. About three months earlier I had started research towards a PhD and this, I thought, this is my thesis – a quote here, a piece of information there, someone’s idea at the end of this thread and a counter-argument at the end of that one. Somewhere in this library is my thesis, each piece waiting to be … Continue reading The Ignorant Library

The Autonomous Science Machine

Landing on a comet is a remarkable achievement. Even though the Rosetta mission had its problems we will still learn a great deal about comets, the solar system, maybe even about life on Earth. We can also use the Rosetta mission to comet 67P as a way to examine science itself. To do that, I want to look at Philae (ie the piece of equipment that landed on the comet) and a garish shirt. To start with the shirt. Project scientist Matt Taylor gave an interview to the world’s media wearing a shirt with pictures of hypersexualised semi-naked women on … Continue reading The Autonomous Science Machine

No context: no science

As it is Christmas how about a little bit of Morecambe and Wise… a response to those who might want to decontextualise scientific knowledge. Among the comedy duo’s many catch-phrases and recurring visual gags was the one where Eric would swing a Karate chop and press his open hand under Ernie’s chin saying “Get out of that without moving”, often followed by “you can’t, can you.” It is both simply absurd and absurdly simple. As a “martial art” it is ridiculous; as an example of the impossible it is sublime. Try to get away without moving. Aha, you can’t, can … Continue reading No context: no science