June 12th, 2009 by Jacob
If you’re in London you couldn’t have failed to notice the tube strike this week. I certainly did, because it involved quite a departure from my normal journey in to Imperial.
Going in on Wednesday was fine. Instead of my usual Picadilly line, I got the 134 bus to Warren Street then changed to the 10 all the way to South Ken. Sure, it took two hours rather than the usual one, but I had allowed for that.
Getting home was another matter. Waiting patiently, I watched as bus after bus crammed full of people went by, refusing to allow any more passengers on board. When it go to the fourth or fifth bus, I realised that there were probably 100 people waiting at the bus stop with me.
I decided it was time to walk. Thankfully I had just loaded Google Maps on to my phone that morning, and it was amazingly helpful. Directing me through Hyde Park and then down various little back streets, I managed to walk to Warren Street in just over an hour. I knew from past experience that working home from Warren Street would take at least another two hours, and prepared to find somewhere to have dinner before attempting the journey.
Just as I was giving up hope however, two 134s appeared. The first wouldn’t let anyone one, but I managed to squeeze in to the second. Sure, I had to sit on the stairs for a bit, but I eventually managed to make it home.
The moral of the story: although the Tube can be rubbish at times, don’t grumble - it could be a lot worse!
June 7th, 2009 by Jacob
I’ve been getting quite a lot done since I last posted. First, I was on the radio again for another episode of Mission Impossible. If you missed it, you can listen again here. This week I was co-presenting. I was a little nervous as it was my first time, but I think it went ok. In the episode we have:
- Run-down of the latest science news
- Discussion with our studio guest of the week, Dr Tara La Force
- Interview with Professor Mike Hulme about his latest book, Why We Disagree About Climate Change
- Everyone’s favourite Call My Scientific Bluff
- Interview with some of Imperial’s engineering students about their entry in to the Isle of Man motorbike race
- A roundup of the latest Web2.0 news
- And an interview with astrobiologst Dr Lewis Dartnell
As well as making some radio I’ve also been writing articles for the Print module of the course. This involves finding a story and interviewing relevant people, which can be a bit tricky when you’ve got tight deadlines and scientists won’t return your calls or emails! Thankfully it’s going ok so far, but each assignment requires more interviewees. For the final piece, due in a couple of weeks, I have to talk to three people. Just getting one can be difficult enough, so that should be interesting…
I also had the opportunity to go along to a discussion between Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, and Sir Roy Anderson, the Imperial College Rector. The pair talked for a bit about their thoughts on science and the media, and then I got to ask the first question - how well is the media handling swine flu? - which was nice if mildly intimidating.
The talk was over too soon unfortunately, as both men are obviously very busy with limited time, but was followed by a wine reception in the Senior Common Room. Myself and the other sci-comm students descended on the free wine like, well, students nabbing free wine, and I got to talk to some interesting people.
Coming up in the next few weeks is…the end of term. Somehow it’s less than a month away, which seems crazy as it feels like I only just started my new modules. And the less said about fast approaching deadlines, the better…
May 19th, 2009 by Jacob
Today marked my first appearance on Imperial College radio, on Mission Impossible, the official sci-comm radio show. If you’d like to have a listen, you can stream the show here - it actually begins about 4 minutes in, after some music. The show consists of:
- A run-down of the latest science news.
- Discussion with our studio guest of the week, PhD student Christina.
- Report from the British Association of Planetaria conference
- Scientific version of Call My Bluff.
- Interview with Professor Wendy Barclay about her recent bird flu research.
- Preview of Emergency in the Womb, a documentary on Channel 4 later this week.
- Interview with P.D. Smith, author of the book Doomsday Men.
- And finally, a roundup of the latest Web2.0 news.
Mission Impossible is broadcast every week, although I’m only on fortnightly. If you want to check out the first show from last week, you can stream it here.
May 7th, 2009 by Jacob
Although the summer term officially started last week, it didn’t really count because of exams. This week though lectures started up again, and I got to check out my new modules.
Radio will see me taking part in a fortnightly show on IC Radio, as well as producing my own radio “package” of 5 minutes or so. I have almost no experience of making radio, so it’s feeling a little like being thrown in at the deep end - but in a good way I guess!
I’m certainly more comfortable doing the Print module, but there is quite a lot of work involved. Four assignments over eight weeks, that get progressively longer in word count/number of interviews required. I haven’t really done interviews in the past either, so it’s going to be a case of learning by doing.
Finally, I have to choose where to do my work placement this summer. We have been presented with a long list of options that I’m in the process of whittling down, but I’m hoping to nab a place on one of the national newspapers. We shall see…
April 29th, 2009 by Jacob
I must apologise for my recent absence, but I have a good excuse: the scourge of students everywhere, exams.
After completing my group project, I allowed myself a much needed week off. The respite was short-lived however, because revision soon loomed.
When I was a maths student, revision was easy. Count up all the questions on the various problem sheets we got given during the year, divide by the number of days until the exam, and you’ve got yourself a revision timetable. With science communication (and Arts degrees in general, I imagine) things are a little different.
I tried adopting my tried-and-true method by setting myself a certain number of papers from the course to re-read each day, but it didn’t really feel like much was going in. A trip to the library rectified this, and I managed to get through a decent number of useful books. Some of them were even interesting.
All this wasn’t helped by catching a cold half way through the Easter holidays, leaving me generally slow-witted for a week and a bit. Thankfully my sinuses cleared up last week, and I had a go at some past papers. This was kind of difficult because the course content has changed quite a bit over the years.
Was it all worth it then? The exams were this Monday and Tuesday just gone, a three-hour paper on each day. The questions weren’t exactly what I had been hoping for, but I think it went all right. To celebrate our freedom the sci-commers headed to Imperial’s staff and post-grad only Holland Club for a good night of drinking. I got quite a few beers in, but I was knackered so passed up on the offer of continuing to a club. The exams were such a major effort that having completed them seemed to have robbed me of all my energy!
I’ve now got what seems like an increasingly rare occurrence - some time off! This term’s practical modules (Radio and Print in my case) don’t start until next week, so I’m looking forward to having a bit of quiet relaxation. Of course, this also means that I’ll have more time for blogging, so expect more regular updates from now on!
April 2nd, 2009 by Jacob
Last week was the end of term at Imperial, and we had to present the results of our group project work. The brief for the project was basically an incredibly vague “make something”, with the added proviso that it should make use of ideas discussed in the previous term.
After some discussion my group decided to explore common language and symbolism between religion and science, in particular the use of the word “epiphany” to describe the moment of scientific insight. This idea eventually took shape as an altarpiece, featuring yours truly as both a scientist and a priest.
We wanted to depict the various stages in a scientist’s career and compare them to the life of a priest. I’ve uploaded full size photos of each section, so click on them for a larger view.
A young man decides to become a scientist, and must learn the rules and customs.
The man undergoes a right of passage by getting his PhD and becoming a scientist.
Working in the lab, the scientist has a flash of inspiration.
He must resist the lure of big business and continue with his work.
Having died, he lives on through his theories.
Not being remotely artistic I left the actual crafting to others, so most of my work was done in Photoshop. I had to combine the various photos we took, add objects and sometimes change scenes entirely. I also applied various filters to make the images look more like paintings. I’ve also uploaded my original Photoshop work to give a clearer idea of the images - we intentionally made them look worn for the actual altarpiece. Once again, watch out for large files!
So, that’s what I’ve been spending much of my time on in the past few weeks. I’m not completely satisfied with the final result as some of my Photoshop work could have been a bit better - particularly the rather dodgy beards - but I think it’s pretty good, and I enjoyed working on it. Now I just have to wait and see what mark it gets…
March 22nd, 2009 by Jacob
I’ve been pretty lucky so far with the assignments I’ve been set. For the most part, I’ve had a good idea about what to write, done a decent amount of research, and achieved a good mark in the end. My final assignment of the term however is really giving me some difficulty, as I mentioned in my last post.
I’m not normally one to procrastinate; if I’ve got something that needs doing then I’ll get it done. When it comes to this last essay though it seems I’ll take every opportunity to put it off - because I simply don’t know what to write! It’s for a module on International Science Policy, and the question we’ve been posed isn’t your normal essay fodder. I’ve actually spent most of my word count ranting about politics, not science!
It’s a painful process. Over the past week or so, I’ve been teasing out 100 words at a time, adding a bit here, editing a bit there. I reckon I need around another 200 words to whip into into shape before the due date tomorrow, but I can’t quite bring myself to even open the word document at the moment!
It’s funny how small tasks become pressingly urgent when you’re trying to avoid something - my room has been incredibly tidy during the last few days! It’s not like I haven’t been working though. I’m still writing on my other blog, and the group project is shaping up nicely as we prepare for the final presentation on Tuesday (of which photos will be forthcoming) and commentary deadline on Friday. Having said that, I did find the time to complete Fable 2 this morning…
Oh well. Guess I should just get on with it!
March 13th, 2009 by Jacob
I seem to have been neglecting my blogging duties, but I do have an excuse - last week was pretty crazy! I had two essays due this Tuesday, and due to various circumstances I was only able to start work on them last Wednesday. Two essays in six days - tight, but possible.
Unfortunately, I developed a cold on Thursday (and it still hasn’t fully gone away) which held me up somewhat. I felt the worst on Saturday, when I somehow managed to write a delirious 600 words, and on Sunday, when I couldn’t face doing anything and spent the whole day playing Fable 2.
Thankfully the essays got done, and I’m actually pretty pleased with them. All that is left for me to do this term is the group project I’ve mentioned before, and another essay. I’m concentrating on the project at the moment, meaning I’m spending most of my time Photoshopping pictures of myself. This is partly because I have no idea how to start the last essay, however much I tell myself otherwise!
I’m also posting today to tell anyone eligible to vote in the Sabbatical elections. Most people don’t bother, but it only takes 15 minutes or so to read the manifestos, make your mind, and vote. If there’s something you want changed at Imperial, this is the best way to make your voice heard!
February 23rd, 2009 by Jacob
Today something happened to me that has only occurred once before in my life. I’m afraid it’s nothing as dramatic as that sentence makes it sound though!
I was travelling into South Ken this morning, listening to music and reading Darwin like a good Sci Comm student, when a badge was thrust between my face and the book. Ticket inspection!
Of course these days everyone uses an Oyster card, but I was instantly reminded of the last time I was asked for my ticket - on a bus, probably around 2002. I had to scrabble around in my pocket for the little paper stub.
Today, the ticket inspector had what must be a handheld Oyster reader, about the size of a small pocket calculator - I just touched my card to it and they were satisfied. It made me think about how convenient Oyster is, but also how resistant I was to getting one initially.
You see, I’m quite the civil liberties supporter, and the trouble with Oyster is that it can technically be used to track your movements around London. For the first few years I was resistant, and continued to pay cash. Eventually however, the fare discrepancy between cash and card become so large that it was just crazy not to get an Oyster - which was exactly the point of the case fare increases, of course!
Still, it made me think again today at how easily I had crumbled. At the end of the day I reasoned that I could always leave my Oyster at home if I didn’t want my movements tracked for whatever reason - not that I’m a criminal mastermind or anything - but I’ve never actually done so. I guess TfL won that one!
February 21st, 2009 by Jacob
Just a quick post today - the Londonist have a pretty cool list of Alternative London Maps. There’s anything from books set in London to areas with free WiFi and locations hit by V2 rockets during the war - in some cases complete with crater marks!
Anyone know of other interesting maps of London that aren’t on the list?