Sunday, February 03, 2008

Canary Wharf to Dubai

My assignment amid the windwept rain- and sleet-lashed towers of Canary Wharf completed on Friday and I retured to our little Penton Corner home to recover from the heavy cold which plagued my final week. As the heating still doesn't work for reasons too tedious to outline here, this continues to involve a number of creative measures to keep individual rooms warm, as well as dressing like a polar bear.

Tuesday, however, I am off to Dubai, where it is a sunny 25 degrees - it's a communications systems design assignment for a new facility out there.

Roy Simpson wrote to me that he had discovered a "Simpsons Paradox" - no relation to himself, unfortunately. It reminded me of when I was working for Cable & Wireless in the states. I got selected to go to a meeting of an organisation called Vanguard, which allowed telecoms execs to meet with Internet luminaries and marvel at their intellects, while paying them substantial sums of money.

In the course of one such debate, Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet and a towering ego, got into an argument with Andrew Odlyzko, a mild-manned and very smart mathematician (one of his key articles here). Metcalfe was never going to lose this argument, irrespective of the facts of the matter, and closed by stating: "I've had a law named after me - what about you?"

Aparently when the allegedly-almost-autistic Paul Dirac met the young Richard Feynman for the first time, there was a painful silence until the great physicist said exactly the same thing: "I've had a law named after me - have you?"

I didn't hear what Feynman would have replied. Maybe "not yet"!