O'Really?

December 22, 2016

2016: Annus mirabilis, annus horribilis or annus stupidus?

27751194385_4890747f8eThe year 2016 will go down as an interesting one, but was it magnificent, horrible or stupid? Or perhaps all three

Annus mirabilis? 🇬🇧

For some people, 2016 was a good year, an annus mirabilis. If you voted for Trump or are brexiteer who voted to leave the European Union, 2016 was a good year.

If you are a climate change denier, you probably enjoyed 2016 too. If you are a member of a far right or populist political party, you are sitting pretty. Marine Le Pen looks happy, as do Vladimir Putin and Nigel Farage.

Annus horribilis? 🇪🇺

If none of the above applies to you then 2016 was a horrible year, an annus horribilis. Liberal metropolitan elite? Welcome to the post-truth politics (previously known by the catchy name “lies”). Who needs experts anymore?

Annus stupidus? 🇺🇸

Whatever camp you are in, it is hard not to agree with Dan Jones analysis that 2016 was an annus stupidus [1] – silly season that was twelve whole months long. Where else would seeing a cartoon of Boris Johnson getting “diplomatic” with Donald Trump been unremarkable – (see picture top right)? Here’s hoping for some sanity to return in 2017. Have a happy and sane holiday, and a prosperous new year.

References

  1. Jones, Dan (2016) Trumpageddon is awful but America has seen far worse, London Evening Standard, November 11th.

May 10, 2012

The Lovelock Laboratory: A fantasy workplace in the West Country

έροτας : love, as described by an implicit heart curve (x²  + y²  − 1)³ − x² y³ = 0

An equation of love (x² + y² − 1)³ − x² y³ = 0

Former Mancunian James Lovelock runs the kind of a laboratory most scientists can only fantasise about working in as they grind through the humdrum bureaucracy of peer-review and never-ending grant applications. Lovelock is fortunate enough to run a completely independent, self-funded lab located in the beautiful West Country. There’s a fascinating interview with him on The Life Scientific with Jim Al-Khalili where he says lots of interesting things about elocution lessons, nuclear power, climate change and his grand theory of planet earth, Gaia [1,2,3]. When asked, he also made this interesting comment about being an indepedendent scientist [4]:

“It’s the most wonderful thing to do [being independent]. I keep on saying that scientists are just like artists if they are creative. If you were an artist, would you want to spend your life in an institute for fine art, quibbling with other academics about the different styles of painting? You’d rather be in your garage doing your masterpiece and selling a lot of art to some tourists to pay the way. That’s been my life as a scientist. ”

The audio file of the broadcast is available for download or just click on the play icon below:

So to become a truly independent scientist, you either need to win the lottery, nobel prize or possibly invent the modern equivalent of electron capture detection to bankroll running a lab from the bottom of your garden.

Well if nothing else, it’s an entertaining fantasy to while away dull moments in the real world…

References

  1. James Lovelock (2009). The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning ISBN:1846141850, Penguin
  2. Andrew Watson (2009). Final warning from a sceptical prophet: James Lovelock fears that humanity faces widespread death and mass migration as Earth’s systems become further unbalanced by climate change Nature, 458 (7241), 970-971 DOI: 10.1038/458970a
  3. John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin (2009) He Knew He Was Right: The Irrepressible Life of James Lovelock and Gaia, ISBN:1846140161, Allen Lane
  4. Matthew Reisz (2012) Free-range thinkers: Independent scholars can confound, complement and challenge the work of their campus counterparts. Times Higher Education

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