Pippa Plugging (and a bit of Chas)

April 25, 2013

Had a rather jolly evening last night. I went to a book launch. I’d never been to one before and didn’t quite know what to expect – lots of air kissing and long fingernails I guess. In fact it was full of nice normal looking peoples, who divided into three tribes – aspiring writers, civil servants, and astronomers. The common link you see is that they were all friends of Pippa Goldschmidt, who just published her first novel, The Falling Sky. Some of you will know that Pippa used to be an astronomer in Edinburgh and Imperial, then moved into government, and has now re-invented herself again as a writer. You can buy the book from Amazon, or, if you prefer to support the UK tax system, from Freight Books. The novel is about a young female astronomer who makes an unexpected discovery which at first is very exciting but which throws her career into confusion and hostility, at the same time as her personal life is unravelling. Thats enough given away. I just finished reading it, and its really v.good indeed. I hope a lot of astronomers will read it, and half of them will think they know who the characters are. Here is a picture of a happy Pippa at the launch, with her PhD supervisor Lance Miller. Who is DEFINITELY not The Deathstar.

The Internut is a wondrous thing, as we daily re-discover. I found myself thinking how intriguing it is to finally see someone portray the real life of a scientist so accurately. There are books and movies and plays about famous scientists like Galileo and so forth, and of course squilliards of entertainments featuring nutty or mad scientists, but how often do you see real ordinary scientists? So I Googled “Scientists in Fiction” and found that there is an entire web magazine devoted to this subject – the rather marvelous LabLit.com. It has a long list of books I now want to read. Thats me sorted for about thirty more birthdays. (He said optimistically).

Its been a good month for astronomically related authors. Old RGO chum Chas Parker has just published his fourth – no hang on – his fifth – book about motor racing. His Amazon page is here. Somewhere in deepest Sussex, Chas still has my beard in a tin, but I can’t explain why without breaching the Official Secrets Act.


Korean controversy posturing

April 15, 2013

Emerging from a spot of lurgi so maybe just a  postette.

I just watched the controversial Korean undercover documentary. Given the fuss, I was surprised to see there was no mention of students whatsoever. They just said they were on a tour. If the LSE hadn’t made a fuss, no-one would have had any idea that students were involved. Now … it may or not be that the film makers dealt fairly or safely with the students. Thats between the BBC and the students concerned. How has it got anything to do with the LSE? As far as I have been able to tell, it wasn’t an official LSE trip, an LSE-organised trip, or an LSE-branded trip. They just happened to be students from an LSE student society. The LSE do not own these students. They are adults. As said very nicely in this piece by Robin Lustig it just sounds like “nobody told us” harrumphing.

But depressingly, Universities UK and even the Royal Society are  taking a line supporting the LSE, saying that it threatens the ability of UK universities to be trusted abroad. Pardon my French, but absolute bollocks. Pompous posturing. And also quite shocking to be blustering about such a thing when the people of Korea are starving and its leaders may launch an international war.

Again, let me stress that I cannot tell whether the BBC was sensible in their dealings with students – I think they probably were, but the public evidence so far is contradictory. But it has nothing to do with UK Universities in a corporate sense or the Royal Society.

How depressing.