All in a day’s work

I got back from yesterday’s trip to a very muggy London with a raging sore throat and a brain as sluggish as an England defender on an action replay. Come to think of it, I must be as sick as a parrot. I’m sweating like a pig too, although I don’t know whether that’s a symptom of anything nasty or just because it’s still so warm and humid. Anyway, in view of my likely incoherence I thought I’d keep it brief (again) and just mention a few salient points from the last day or two.

I went to London as part of my duties as External Examiner for the MSc Course in Astrophysics at Queen Mary, University of London. Of course all the proceedings are confidential so I’m not going to comment on anything in detail, except that I spent a bit of time going through the exam scripts before the Examiners’ Meeting in a room that did a very passable impersonation of a heat bath. When I was later joined by the rest of the Exam Board the temperature soared still further. Fortunately the business went relatively smoothly so nobody got too hot under the collar and after concluding the formal business, a few of us cooled off with a beer or two in the Senior Common Room.The students spend the next couple of months writing their dissertations now that the written exams are over, so we have to reconvene in October to determine the final results. I hope it’s a bit cooler by then.

I couldn’t stay long at Queen Mary, however, as I had a working dinner to get to. Regular readers of this blog (both of them) may remember that I’m involved in project called Beyond Entropy which is organized by the Architectural Association School of Architecture. I’ve been working on this occasionally over the months that have passed since I first blogged about it, but deadlines are now looming and we need to accelerate our activity. Last night I met with the ever-enthusiastic Stefano Rabolli Pansera at the house of Eyal Weizman by Victoria Park in the East End, handily close to Queen Mary’s Mile End campus. Assisted by food and wine we managed to crystallise our ideas into something much more tangible than we had managed to do before on our theme of Gravitational Energy. The School has offered us expert practical assistance in making prototypes and  I’m now much more optimistic about our exhibit coming together, not to mention excited at the prospect of seeing it on display at the Venice Architecture Biennale. I won’t say what we’re planning just yet, though. I’d rather wait until it’s done before unveiling it.

Incidentally, here’s a link to a  lecture by Eyal Weizman where he gives some interesting perspectives on architectural history.

Finally, and nothing to do with my trip to the Big Smoke, I noticed today on the Research Fortnight Blog that the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) is planning to reduce the number of universities in Wales “significantly” from its current level of 12. This is an interesting development and one that I’ve actually argued for here. Quoting Leighton Andrews, Welsh Assembly Minister responsible for higher education, the piece says

“This target does not mean fewer students,” he said in a statement. “But it is likely to mean fewer vice chancellors. We will have significantly fewer HE institutions in Wales but they will be larger and stronger.”

How these reductions will be achieved remains to be seen, but it seems obvious that quite a few  feathers will be ruffled among the management’s plumage in some institutions and it looks like some vice chancellors will be totally plucked!

3 Responses to “All in a day’s work”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    It’s warm in Shropshire but it doesn’t feel sticky. When I started research in Cambridge in 1979, *really* hot and sticky days were so rare that I took them off. If I’d done that by the time my second stint in the city ended in 2004, I’d not have got much work done in the summer months. Yet the met people assured me that the temperature, although higher, was not that much higher.

    Of course it could be a subjective effect, but I learned to work in Sydney between my two stints in Cambridge, and Sydney is nearer the equator than anywhere in Europe so I don’t think so. I now wonder if humidity levels have increased during my adult life, as I think that humidity has a greater effect on comfort than temperature.

    Anybody know?


  2. telescoper Says:

    I have two completely anecdotal contributions. In the early 90s I went on holiday to Egypt and spent a couple of days in the south, in Aswan. The temperature was 48 degrees in the shade, but humidity was zero. It was hot, but showers and/or dip in the pool were enought to keep you sane. Drinking lots of water was a must too. But I enjoyed it there.

    Later on, while on a trip to the USA, I went to New Orleans in the middle of summer. The temperature was around 28 degrees but the humidity was a killer. Couldn’t sleep. It was so bad I had to stay in jazz clubs all night. I’d been looking forward to seeing New Orleans for ages but unfortunately my memory of the trip is dominated by the sense of discomfort!

    London yesterday wasn’t anything like either of these, but it’s still no place to be in hot weather.

  3. If you’ve come away from the Underground with nothing more than a cold you’ve done very well indeed!

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