Total change of topic for the day: sporks, AC/DC and Richard Feynman


They say that along with bereavement and getting married, moving house is one of the most stressful things you ever have to do.

I’m not only moving house but country, to start a research post in Barcelona (cue chorus of “bastard”s). So I’ve been a bit slack on the blog writing front, while I try to sort through a massive pile of largely pointless but maybe-useful-someday items.

Unfortunately every item, no matter how large or small,┬átakes the same amount of thought and emotional input. The problem is that 99.9 percent of them are tiny. So each one makes very little difference if I pack it, but I only have 20 kg of hold luggage. So do I pack a spork, in case I go camping, or leave it behind and buy another one if I need it? Shame to throw it away… and so it goes on. Do I bin my 1996 AC/DC t-shirt just because it has seen better days?

So, while I carry on with this nonsense, here’s a clip of the brilliant Richard Feynman from 1983. Reading his books and his biography (Genius by James Gleick) influenced me hugely in my teens, and were probably as responsible as anything else for me ending up studying physics.

Also, check out these blogs, just 3 of my current favourites.

And if you haven’t seen it yet…

And finally, to round off this hastily cobbled together filler blog post, here is an excerpt from the start of my writing career (circa 1986). Obviously there was some potential there, I got a gold star. I’ll be back next week with some cool stuff, hopefully by Wednesday!

Squirrels can't make tea, but monkeys can.

Can you swim? Yes. Can a Squirrel make tea? No. Do fish like ice cream? No

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5 Comments on “Total change of topic for the day: sporks, AC/DC and Richard Feynman”

  1. Bernardamus Says:

    Brilliant statement from your post:
    “every item takes the same amount of thought, not matter how large or small”! (shards of poetry!)

    So here it comes my advice on what you should pack & what you should leave at home:

    “And love is not the easy thing
    The only baggage that you can bring…
    And love is not the easy thing…
    The only baggage you can bring
    Is all that you can’t leave behind


    Leave it behind
    You got to leave it behind
    All that you fashion
    All that you make
    All that you build
    All that you break
    All that you measure
    All that you feel
    All this you can leave behind
    All that you reason
    All that you sense
    All that you speak
    All you dress-up
    All that you scheme…”

    (Walk On, U2)

  2. Paul Herbert Says:

    Good luck in Spain James.

    I read James Gleick’s book years ago it’s brilliant. Feynman had one of those minds that was always interested in the unusual. There’s a clip somewhere on Youtube of him explaining how he figured out why the Space shuttle crashed, but I think this is my favourite Feynman clip.

  3. Hi, James.

    The great clip of Feynman you include in your post is from a BBC programme from the early eighties called “Fun to Imagine” of which I have very fond memories and which played a key role in getting me interested in physics as a teenager. There’s also a wonderful Horizon programme available (in a set of ten minute clips) from YouTube which is an interview with Feynman from 1983.

    It’s remarkable how that interview from nearly thirty years ago – just like the clip from “Fun to Imagine” – is so much more captivating and engaging than the “bleeding edge” of science programming in 2010. No bombastic “Ride of the Valkyries”-esque backing track. No graphics designed with the attention span of a five year old in mind. No four horsemen of the apocalypse riding over the horizon. No artificially designed “situations” where those featured in the documentary have to surmount some urgent problem or other before the end of the programme (because what’s science without the “human element” or a “narrative”?).

    And, of course, no dumbing down of the material to the point where it entirely misrepresents the science and misleads the audience .

    All the best,


    • James Hayton Says:

      I watched a Horizon programme about dark matter last week, which left me totally baffled. I hate the “talking heads” + visual aid style of science documentary- you end up with no continuity in the explanation and being distracted by the visual fluff. Though a David Byrne science doc would be cool…

      I’ve seen those Feynman clips, and they’re superb; hard standard for anyone else to live up to!

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