Monday, 6 July 2015

Science For Fiction 2015

This week has been one with two halves.  The first part of the week spent editing, and the second half spent at the Science in Fiction conference listening to a series of talks organized by Dr. Dave Clements at Imperial College all topped off with a barbecue at my friends Kate & Malcolm's place.  Sunday we were both a little wrecked from having so much fun on the Saturday.  So I've had a very busy week

I went over to Imperial College on Wednesday and met my fellow Science in Fiction attendees, most of whom were writers, and we all boiled in the room during the hottest day in Londons this year.

The first talk was by Roberto Trotta called Heart of Darkness – Dark Matter in the Galactic Centre?  This  was a presentation on why he and his colleagues are looking for dark matter, and how they hope to do so.  The theory that underpin modern physics are founded on Einstein's theory of Special Relativity and General Relativity, which predicts that the universe must have more matter than we can account for.  These particles are called WIMPs: Weakly Interactive Massives Particles that must have a neutral charge like neutrinos.  Detecting said particles is a bit of a head scratcher for the physicists since the particles go through everything, so it requires a cunning experiment to try and find the evidence that hey do exist.

Robert made us all think up haiku during the session, my poor attempt was:

Dark Matter matters
Quantum gravity is maths
WIMPs are aether or

After all the head scratching it was time for a refreshing cup of tea to keep us going on what turned out to be the hottest day in London this year 37 degrees centigrade 98.6 Fahrenheit.

Then Andrew Jaffe came and gave his talk called The Random Universe, which was the study of space and the cosmic background radiation.  This was an excellent presentation showing how astrophysicists have been able to tease out and refine the data they've acquired from looking at the universe through radio telescopes using some very clever mathematical tools to refine the data.  By the end of this talk we were all rather wilting from the heat.

Then we went to the Student Union bar for a drink to hydrate, and a have chat before heading off to have an Indian curry at a local restaurant.  I rescued Susan from her basement workshop so she joined us, and we were also able to celebrate seventeen years together, so it was a nice end to the first day.

Thursday morning I cycled with Susan  to Imperial College, which was a first of sorts.  I've cycled there once before by myself, but could pootle along at my own speed.  Susan was nice, and didn't cycle too fast, so I was able to keep up with her, as she's much fitter than me nowadays.  This didn't use to be the case, but after being hit by a Mercedes Benz back in 2009 I had a period where cycling wasn't possible, and latter not convenient.  So I'm out of shape, and when we arrived I was glowing.

The first talk of the day was really special as we had Marina Galand presenting her talk called  Catching a Comet, which was about the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and Philae - the little lander that could.  She wasn't allowed to talk about everything she knew, because the information is embargoed until publication, but promised there was interesting news to come from the team.  Anyway, it was an awesome talk, and for me the highlight of the Science in Fiction event.

After suitable refreshments the next talk was called Climate Change and the system transition to a sustainable future by Christoph Mazur.  This looked at the evidence for climate change, and the technologies that can be used to mitigate the worst of the effects.  He discussed the various ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and the risks arising from if we release trapped methane into the Earth's atmosphere as the temperature rises.  Very level headed, and without any attempt to fear monger.

Then we had a most excellent lunch and chatted together about writing, or at least what I remember is taking the time to talk to the other people there with me all of whom were writers to talk about writing.

The next talk was by Helen Pennington who had been sitting with us as part of the conference, and she gave a talk called How do we work out what proteins do? A genetics and proteins approach.  I found this most informative talk, which I think scared the bejesus out of a couple of my fellow attendees.  The one thing I took away from this presentation was to  accept that banning something doesn't allow one to regulate and control it.  Otherwise one ends up with people in other countries with less ethical practices to set the pace in the development of GM food.

The final talk of the conference was by Faye Dowker called What is Time?   For me this didn't quite hit the spot, because she didn't have any research data to present, so it was rather a generalized open talk about what we understand time to be, and how that fits what the theories tell us.  In short biologic time stands opposite to time as understood by the theories underpinning physics.

So as you may guess my progress last week was impacted by having two days at the conference, and taking the day after to catch up with emails and shopping.  However, I manged to edit 4,509 words, adding another 825 words to Strike Dog, which means it's running at 101,472 words, so not too shabby.

Other than that we've been continuing to watch season three of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

I also re-read Isaac Asimov's The God's Themselves, which is apropos of my recent posts won the Hugo.  It's been a long time since I first read this book, and I found myself becoming bored with the description of the aliens and their ecology.  However, while Asimov may not be the worlds finest writer for deep characters, what he does do extremely well is describe the complex science behind the ideas and the plot rather succinctly.  He also nails the emotional world of the academic rather well too.  I understand that he considered this to be his best novel, but I still prefer his The End of Eternity, which I think is a more satisfying read.

So that's it for this week, catch you all on the bounce.

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