Friday, 12 March 2010


Magic or science? Which do you prefer?

I read science fiction, but if you read my blog you will already know this shameful secret. I also like the popular science books, you know the sort: A Brief History of Time and Why Don’t Penguins Feet Freeze, that sort of thing. I like to think that I understand technology and the science of the world around me. I don’t want to end up like some of the elderly that you see walking around the town looking totally bewildered at the modern world. I know how to use my mobile phone, actually a smartphone, and can surf the internet like a pro.

But I can’t help feeling that something is missing.

Where has the magic gone in the world? There was a time when the television was a thing of magic. Pictures that appeared in the glass fronted box in the corner of the room. Now we know that the pictures are converted into a mass of 1’s and 0’s, transmitted through the air as a stream of microwaves or radio waves to a satellite 36000km up in geostationary orbit, bounced back to the dish and reconverted to pictures again in the telly. Magic was better. In theory planes stay in the air due to Bernoullis Principle, that says that the air flowing over the top of the wing is faster and therefore at lower pressure. But I also read somewhere that scientists aren’t really sure. Why would the air flow faster over the top? Just because it is a longer distance over the top of an aerofoil doesn’t make the air go faster, it is not a race between top and bottom. Maybe it is magic, or will power. 200 people not wanting to drop out of the sky like a stone!

Would we all be happier if the electric light worked by magic? Father Christmas really existed and the Easter Bunny laid chocolate eggs in your garden? And a Pangolin was a musical instrument?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Don't take me seriously...

Don’t overdo it. Oh, and don’t take it too seriously.

As I have gotten older this is the one universal truth that I have learnt. Throughout my life have taken part in various things, sporting activities, hobbies etc. And there has come a point where I have started to take it far too seriously. And that is the time to stop and reassess what you want out of the activity, hobby, whatever.

When I was 13 or 14 I got interested in astronomy. I bought the books, a telescope and joined a society. I really enjoyed looking at the night sky with the scope or binoculars or just naked eye. It was amazing. Seeing the rings of Saturn with your own eyes rather than in a picture is just something else. But before long I had joined a national society and become a committee member of the local society. Then I started to get lost in the politics of running a society. Enjoyment gone.

Now 30+ years later I have rediscovered that passion I had at 14. I have a telescope and a pair of binoculars and looking at the sky a marvel again. From the rings of Saturn through Uranus (Oooh, matron!), to sunspots. I have joined the big national societies but have decided not to take it seriously. I will not get involved in organised events unless it really interests me. Otherwise I will read the quarterly magazines and look at the stars from my garden and just enjoy it. It is quite relaxing. I also have a digital camera which I will rig up to the telescope so that I can enjoy the stars when it is cloudy by looking at the pictures that I have taken.

I have a couple of friends who like photography. They have fancy DSLR cameras and they take photos just so. The light has to right, the exposure, the filter stuck on the lens. The subject must be arranged just so. I am sure that they look at the world through a different set of eyes than I do. That obviously suits them. They tell me to remember the rules of photography and do it like this. But I take photos for me. I take photos of things that please my eye and that I like to look at. I hope I don’t start to take it that seriously or I may as well chuck the camera in the bin.

All these pastimes I have taken up and given up when they get to serious, shame really. I enjoyed them to start with, or I must have. But I must also remember not to take life that seriously ever again.

And nor should you.