The Day’s Events

Just a quick post today, because I’m worn out. Today was Cardiff University’s Open Day – not the small-scale one’s we have from time to time in the School of Physics & Astronomy, but a full-blown university-wide affair. The School is in the Queen’s Buildings, which are a little way to the East from the splendid civic buildings in the Cathays Park district of the city centre that constitute the core of the University. Naturally the organizers tend to concentrate on showing off it’s finer buildings, so many activities are centred on the posher parts, and often we don’t get that many visitors in our building especially if it’s raining and visitors don’t fancy the 15 minute walk. Today, however it was gloriously sunny and even the Physics department was packed with visitors, prospective students and their parents.

I’d agreed some time ago to give a public talk as part of the School’s activities, which meant that this morning I had a tutorial, an undergraduate lecture and a public lecture all one after the other. I was very surprised when I got to the venue for my open day talk to find it was absolutely full, with standing room only. By lunchtime I was already knackered, although the public talk was a lot of fun and the audience were very attentive and friendly. Some of them even laughed at my jokes. I got lots of questions at the end, which I always enjoy, although I was flagging by then after talking more-or-less continually for three hours.

This afternoon it was someone else’s turn to do the talking. It was the occasion of the PhD examination of Rob Simpson (orbitingfrog) for which I was Chair. Cardiff is unusual in having a Chair for PhD oral exams, as well as internal and external examiners. The Chair acts as a kind of umpire, making sure the rules are followed, but doesn’t play a very active role other than that. In fact I had the chance to chip in here and there – chiefly on matters of statistics – but also managed to get the Guardian crossword done.

I won’t talk about the substance of the examination, but it suffices to say that the examiners recommended that he be awarded the PhD subject to some corrections being made to his thesis. No doubt he’s out on the town celebrating as I type. Well done, Rob!

I got away just in time to go an collect my Tuxedo from the dry cleaners on the way home. It being good weather I thought I’d wear it for Friday’s annual Chaos Ball. I don’t know how widespread this usage is, but in Britain I’ve always thought the word Tuxedo refers to the white (or cream)  alternative to a traditional dinner jacket. That’s what I meant, anyway. I bought mine years ago in an Oxfam shop in Nottingham and hardly ever wear it, but it’s nice to push the boat out every now and again. Although it was bought second-hand about 8 years ago it still looks quite posh. Apart from the bullet hole in the back you would never have guessed it had been worn before…

10 Responses to “The Day’s Events”

  1. Haha, bullet holes take me back to living on Lenton Boulevard, oh how we ran for our lives…..sigh…..

    I have bought every one of my suits from the plethora of charity shops in Cambridge, not one of them costing more than £15. Now, how do I go about getting the ‘old dead man’ smell out of them?

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Chris: dry cleaning. I got my white Deejay (US: Tux, regardless of colour IMHO) from Oxfam in Cambridge – something I’d long wanted but could not justify new.

  3. telescoper Says:

    I’m wondering what is the protocol for wearing a buttonhole with a white DJ. Since it’s St George’s Day on Friday, the day of the Ball, I thought I’d wear a red rose in my lapel. I think a carnation or a gardenia is more usual, but I wonder if I’d be committing a faux pas?

    I don’t count annoying the Welsh as a faux pas, of course.

  4. I’m glad I’ve never had to learn the difference between a tuxedo and a dinner jacket, the difference between black tie and wearing a black tie (not to mention between white tie and wearing a white tie). About 10 years ago I was at the Colston symposium. The invitation for the conference dinner (aboard the ship GREAT BRITAIN) said “dinner jacket”. No-one said anything, but one could sense that none of the participants (except maybe 1 or 2, who will remain nameless) had a dinner jacket with them—most probably didn’t own one. In a moment of desperation, I even thought of trying to find a shop in Bristol in which to buy one. Apparently the organiser, Michael Berry, got wind of the problem and towards the end of the week almost apologised, saying that it was a mistake on the part of the conference organisers: dinner jacket was just the default when “white tie” wasn’t required. I was quite relieved to see Sir Michael turn up in blue jeans and a knitted pullover sweater for the conference dinner.

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    Berry is perhaps my favourite British theoretical physicist, wonderful research, always clearly written up.

  6. I first came across him due to his “Cosmology and Gravitation” book, which I still think is one of the best introductions to the subject. I later learned that his own area of research is quite different—but maybe that’s why the book is a good introduction for the non-specialist.

  7. Anton Garrett Says:

    I once gave a technical talk in Bristol and Berry subsequently invited me back, after he had heard of my wider interests, to give a talk on the history of attempts at perpetual motion machines. It was followed by a convivial evening.

  8. Bryn Jones Says:

    I seem to remember deciding not to go to the dinner at the Colston Symposium in Bristol because I didn’t have a dinner jacket.

  9. You must have missed Berry’s apologetic announcement.

  10. Bryn Jones Says:

    Yes, clearly I missed Mike Berry’s announcement. It would have been nice to have a meal on the SS Great Britain, assuming that nobody got seasick.

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