Tuesday, 25 March 2014

WEDDINGS – BIG BANG – UNREWARDED GENIUS –                                  AND A WHORE

Well, here we go again.   It’s Spring in Inverness. 

A birdie with a yellow bill,
Perched upon my windowsill,
Cocked its little head and said,
Ain’t you shamed you sleepyhead.  

So I’d better get busy.   The garden is coming alive.   We have rhubarb and sprouting broccoli, and lots of moss to clear away.   Laura had the stalks of her five-inch-high sweet-peas in her greenhouse felled by a great slug, and she tells me a mouse has eaten the sprouting shoots of Gordon’s potatoes in the garage.  Rabbits have eaten our tulips to the ground.   Well, that’s how it goes.   You win some, you lose some.

All the talk just now among family anyway is about WEDDINGS.   It’s great fun – “What colour are you wearing?”    Or it’s - “We’re on our way to buy shoes to go with the bridesmaid dresses”.   Or all the men are off to Prague for a Stag Party on Saturday.   How the world changes.   Everything has to be Mega size before we can be pleased.   Anyway it’s all systems go for Calum and Fiona on 26th April.   And for Shonagh and Stuart in July.   I can’t get out of my head:

“Another bride, another groom.  
Another sunny honeymoon.   Another season,
Another reason for makin’ Whoopee.
A lot of shoes.   A lot of rice.  
The groom is nervous.   He answers twice.
It’s really killing, how he’s so willing for makin’ whoopee.”

Especially when sung by the old-timer, Eddie Cantor.

I’m going all scientific today.  Having picked up this week’s New Statesman, still open at an article called  “Hard Results from Soft Skills by Michael Brooks”.    He is talking about the Confederation of British Industry -   complaining that in Britain we face a shortage of people with science, engineering and mathematics skills.   The pay ain’t all that good he remarks so kids don’t go in for these subjects.   He also talks about a study at Durham University where the academics are trying to analyze the writings of Bishop Robert Grosseteste who wrote a treatise called De Luce (On light).   The 12th Century thinker (what a great name “Grosseteste”! I like saying it!) suggested that light filled space and that a primordial explosion of light caused the universe to expand.   In other words he was suggesting our very modern Big Bang Theory.   This showed to the author of this article, in the New Statesman anyway, that science training is not the only source of intellectual thinking, and that we should value “soft skills” such as observation, curiosity and creative imagination.   The theory about how our universe got started - The Big Bang Theory - you could say has been around for almost eight centuries, and we have fooled ourselves into thinking  that it all began with Newton.

Also I would like to mention Professor Alf Adams.   I turned on BBC Radio 4  at 9am. this morning and as usual on Tuesday, we have The Life Scientific on which a scientist describes his work.   This man Alf Adams, a perfectly honest unassuming sounding fellow comes from a quite un-academic background.   His parents were not at all well off.   His father was born with Tuberculosis, and the parents of the boy were told not to send him to school.   He should be out in the fresh air. 

Nevertheless, Alf grew up to be a child continuously asking questions.   When he got to study science, a tutor advised that, to get himself started, he might try to replicate other experiments he had heard about.   So he did, and found that the conclusions of the original scientist had been all wrong.   So he started out making a study of the behaviour of lasers for himself.   One day while walking on the beach with his wife, he asked her to stop talking to him as he was thinking about something.   His thoughts were about the lasers that were in existence and the thin layer of crystal lattice on which all the research was focussed.

It may have been the environment of the beach, but his thought was that if stress was put on the crystals then they would perform better, and would require less energy to function.   It is known as the discovery of the “strained quantum well laser”- or the lasers that power the internet, CDs, DVDs, computer mice and supermarket check-outs, to name but a few.   

British firms did not want to take the risk of backing the idea.   So he went to Eindhoven in the Netherlands where Philips and their R&D team were immediately stunned by the difference in performance generated by Adams' approach.   CD players were suddenly viable for a mass market, much smaller and cheaper, and the larger data capacity means fast processing leading to DVD’s.   It can truly and fairly be said that the majority of all lasers being used around the world are Alf Adams’ invention.   He should be a billionaire, but his work went unrewarded financially.   He was recognised as a first-class scientist by being made a Fellow of the Royal Society which was very well deserved.   Himself, he says, he has had a brilliant career, and that’s been immensely satisfying for him.  Much of the above about Alf Adams  I have taken from an article sourced on the Internet called “Hidden Geniuses: science researchers who don’t get enough credit”.   Published by “The Guardian.”

To end with a joke -   I see I have used the word “Nevertheless” which reminded me of an old joke.

There was a dance in the Parish Hall of a Highland Village in Scotland, and the local stern-faced minister of the Church of Scotland was running it.   
He stood on the platform and announced.    

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I must announce that Kirsty May is going to sing for us.”

One of the boys called out, “She’s a Whore!”

The minister hesitated, and continued unfazed, “Nevertheless, she’s going to sing for us.”

So Long!   Keep taking the tablets!