Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I turned 55 today. So I'm closer to 60 than 50. Bugger. There is so much I want to do.
That said, the "so much I want to do" is more suited to who I am now than who (if ever) I was.
I want to finish my novel. I want to work out the vibrational force fields of metal dinitrogen species. I want to see a lot more of the world.
I now have a fedora.
I can do stuff in a fedora.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Defence from Air Attack

The recent events in Iceland have me thinking. I regularly feel sorry for the poor sods huddled out in the rain having a fag (in the British sense). Society hates them. I'm sure they hate each other. And themselves. Now, we can put all that hatred into defending our airports from the dreaded (and largely mythical) Al Qaeda. I noted - with mounting excitement - that the RAF was suspending its flights around the UK with its much-vaunted Typhoon fighter until the volcanic ash has settled. Ash. Ash? Ash! The penny dropped.
At each airport in the country I would build strategically located smoking areas atop huge fans. The ashtrays would never be emptied in these areas, allowing for a good build-up of ash and butts (in the British sense) within days. At the merest whiff of Nasty Al attacking we would turn the fans on. Ash et al as far as the ionosphere! Admittedly my "Strategic Ash Initiative" would paralyse air transport across the globe but - hey - the smokers would feel good about themselves and everyone would smell like they do.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

General Elections

Are you enjoying it so far? I am. I just love watching people lie through their teeth in the name of democracy. Watching Brown smile, watching Cameron try to appear cool, watching Clegg trying to make himself visible; it is all great fun.
My greatest joy will be election night. I will lie in bed with some uber-strong coffee on tap and watch the results come in. The anguish, the triumph, the predictions, the explanations for why the predictions were so bad; I love it. I love it all!
My darling wife, who has far more sense than me will be asleep.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Prof S J Bell Burnell

I watched a very interesting programme last night about Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. In 1967 she discovered pulsars. When I first "met her" I was an undergraduate (she is 12 years older than me) and she was NOT receiving a Nobel Prize. Neither was I, so we had that in common. She, however, should have been crowned Nobel Laureate. Instead, her PhD supervisor, Tony Hewish and the group head, Martin Ryle took all the plaudits. Cheeky buggers! Tony Hewish had the neck, last night, to point out that there are "captains and crew" in these things. Even after all these years, I still think the lass were robbed.
How different my own experience. When I used to come up with "stuff" as a graduate student, my supervisor (Prof Jim Turner FRS) and the other academics in the group (Prof Martyn Poliakoff and the late Prof Jeremy Burdett) used to argue black was white to find the cracks in what I was doing. When they were convinced it was OK we wrote papers and got them published. Jim and I are the senior authors on my first publication. I published my second paper with me as the sole author. Thank God I didn't work for Ryle and Hewish! Thank God I had the enormous honour and joy of working with Turner and Poliakoff.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hunters and Gatherers

I was amused to read that "man flu" might have some basis in fact. Presumably a load of blokes were asked how they felt when they had a cold and the median value was "really shite". For women the mid-point was "shite" so - QED - men suffer from a different "intensity" of flu-like symptoms.
I am always intrigued by studies like this. They all have a unique way of stating the totally bloody obvious. Men and women are different. When it comes to behaviour, most of it - I feel - can be traced back to our hunter-gatherer roots. Men hunt, women gather. Boys play with guns, girls play with dolls. Not always, not exclusively; obviously. But on average, true. Nearly every difference in behaviour that I have ever discerned between men and women can, I think, be traced back to one of us being a hunter and the other being a gatherer. It explains virtually all of our physical differences and - I think - our sociological differences too.
So the next time some ethno-socio-bio-psycho-anthropologist comes out with some utterly banal bilge that yet again proves that women have bumpy jumpers and men don't like asking for directions just remember: Hunters and Gatherers.


I like Spring. I like the name. I like the idea. I like that Robert Hooke has a Law about it. I like the fact that supposedly unthinking organisms have a pretty good idea of when it starts (viz. snowdrops) and ends (viz. tulips). I love the fact that on the Equinox the Sun is directly over the Equator. I know this happens in late September too, but the Sun is heading south then and it merely signals the coming of Winter. That said, I like Autumn too. I'm always a bit surprised that we have only four seasons. I believe the late-mediaeval Dutch used to have six. They were probably smoking something.