November 19, 2009
We got some bad news a few days back – Tim Hawarden died, rather suddenly. This is a real loss to UK astronomy, as well as to ROE and to UKIRT. There is an obituary on the ROE web page, very nicely put together by Ian Robson. The family requested flowers from family only, but suggested an appropriate charity instead. If any other readers remember Tim, you could also consider this charity :
Pegasus Children’s Trust of South Africa,
c/o Mrs Judy Westwater, 118A Bruce Gardens,
Dalmeigh, Inverness IV3 5BE
Ian Robson has suggested we add anecdotes to the website. This is what I will shortly be sending in :
Some years back, outside a tourist shop in Kyoto, I took a swig from a can of coke, only to be stung by a bee that had just landed inside the can. I spat out the bee, but it still hurt like hell. Tim whipped out his pocket knife, looked me in the eye, and said firmly “Open your mouth wide and keep very still”. He exuded such a bold confidence I did exactly what he said. Tim gently dug into the soft flesh in the roof of my mouth, then proudly showed me the sting on the blade of his knife. “Wow” I said, “where did you learn to do that ?” There then followed a big jolly Tim-type laugh. “Well…” he said, “I have never done that before. But it seemed better not to mention this until after I’d finished !”
October 26, 2009
Over the weekend I stumbled across a bijou factette. This morning I was about to make this the subject of a Monday Morning Quiz : who was King for twenty minutes ? But then I thought, whats the point of that ? Its just a test of who can fire up Google the fastest. Some days it feels like we have outsourced all our personal knowledge to the internet. I don’t even use bookmarks any more. I just re-Google. A while back I was hunting for a figure that I was sure I had seen somewhere… when I spotted it on Google Images I realised it was from a paper I had written myself several years ago. Jeez. Google knows more about me than I do.
Somewhere back in my youth I dimly remember reading a story by Roger Zelazny in which he said “Man is the sexual organ of the machine”. Curiously, Google has failed me here. I can’t find this quote. If Roger Zelazny didn’t say it, and I just dreamed it, then I hereby take credit. Anyhoo. The idea is that man is one machine’s way of making another machine. Sometimes I feel this is my relation to Google. Within the space of a few hours, I am reading web pages A and B, and writing new web page C. Ideas and knowledge I have picked up from A and B get processed through me and change what I deposit in C. I am just one of many millions of bees flitting around the vast meadow of the Web, picking up pollen as I go.