Thursday, January 14, 2016

Heroes for today

Richard Beard - novelist

I have two heroes for you today. My first is Richard Beard, author of "Acts of the Assassins" which I wrote about yesterday. On his blog he has a post which starts like this:
"Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe."
Do you see what he's doing here?
"... the Cmabrigde rscheearch meme demonstrates that in some cases a reader only needs the first and last letter of individual words ..."
The other letters are (somewhat) randomised. Beard sees this as a metaphor for his novel.



It's gotten cold. Someone should have told this rose which I photographed for Clare in the garden yesterday.

The January Rose in Wells, Somerset - note the buds

My other hero for today - Professor Joseph Conlon of Oxford University's Physics Department. I'm just completing his excellent book, "Why String Theory", which had me writing the following note-to-self at 1.45 am - in the dark - on a post-it next to my bed.

The answer by the way - it depends.

Prof. Conlon writes well and is ferociously bright (here's his CV).

Professor Joe Conlon

I'm looking forwards to reviewing his excellent book (see my review here) but he is sadly mistaken if he thinks his work will inform after-dinner conversations amongst 'lay-people' up and down the land. He may have just a few equations, and those for presentational purposes, but insofar as his treatise is a model of conceptual clarity and sophistication (which it is), to that extent it is sadly inaccessible to anyone lacking a first degree in a STEM subject.

Yes, really.

Once again the truism applies: 'popular' science books are actually read by other scientists, curious outside their own fields.

Incidentally, if anyone from the BBC is reading this, Joe Conlon looks just the guy to explain the frontiers of science to suitably-prepared grown-ups on BBC4. Give him a screen test ... right now.

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