Last week, in the hottest July on record I trudged to London to take part in ‘Science for Fiction Writers’ at Imperial College, a series of guest lectures given by the top scientists in their field on cutting edge science for us writerly types. Organising is all was Dr David Clements, fiction writer, astro-physicist, college prof and all-round good chap with a brain the size of a planet. Dave is one of the writers who comes to Milford SF Writers’ Conference regularly, so it wasn’t surprising that I knew a fair number of the other course members from both Milford and SF conventions. Dave has a new book on Infrared astronomy called Seeing the Heat.
I warned Dave in advance that I don’t have a brain the size of a planet – at least as far as physics and maths goes – but he did say I would be able to cope. Uhh… well… I was doing OK until Dr Fay Dowker said that time didn’t exist, whereupon what little brain I had left melted and dribbled out of my ears. However , what the lectures did for me was to send me off Youtubing. Fay Dowker has a number of public lectures on there and, second time around, the non-existence of time didn’t quite send me screaming for the nearest exit. If you would like your brain turned inside out and served up with a slice of lemon check out Dr Fay Dowker on Youtube. It’s fascinating stuff.
So we had lectures on theoretical physics, quantum mechanics, dark matter, quantum gravity and space-time, which were so far above my head that they lost me, but there were also excellent lectures on climate change, genetic modification (of plants) and a wonderful session on Catching a Comet, which outlined the practical side of putting a module the size of a washing machine on comet 67P, i.e. the story of the Rosetta Spacecraft and the Philae Lander. And to follow that up I see that the Guardian is (today) running an article on ‘Comet could be Home to Alien Life’ (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jul/06/philae-comet-could-be-home-to-alien-life-say-top-scientists) which is not to say that ET has come knocking on Philae’s door, but that there are indications that the building blocks of organic life might be present. Which is pretty damn exciting!
The whole couple of days would have been perfect of the temperature in Central London hadn’t climbed to almost 38 degrees C (almost 100F). Unfortunately Imperial doesn’t seem to have aircon. (I guess their ‘business’ year doesn’t usually include high summer.)
I travelled down by train (and tube) with friends and we stayed in Imperial’s own student accommodation, a brilliant location for the university campus and the South Kensington museums (which we took advantage of), and cheap for Central London. Pity that the beds were as hard as badly sprung bricks, but everything else was fine.
Yes I will be very interested in attending again in the future, but for now, a little lie down in a darkened room is in order.