Mar. 31st, 2011

katsmeat: (Default)
On Tuesday, I was in Cambridge for the first time in about eight months - Mathworks were running a Matlab symposium at the Cavendish Laboratory, the Department of Physics. It was free to attend and there literally was free lunch, who could possibly say no? I attended two boring and pointless talks (one of which was from Mathwork's UK Head), one sort-of OK talk, and two fascinating and usefull ones. Both of these were given by this woman, which implies I really, really ought to start reading her blog.

In these things, the lecturers tend to have a small stockpile of branded merchendise, to hand out as a pat on the head to any audience member who asks a good question, answers a lecturer's question or points out a mistake. And I got one! A Mathworks USB stick!

My thought process when this happened went something along the lines of... "OMG! Did I really just answer that? I'm so clever! I'm utterly briliant! And here's the bloke walking over to hand me the USB stick. Now politely say thank-you, smile modestly on the outside, grin like a maniac on the inside...

And it's a 1Gb. Oh, wow. Thanks. Jeez, have you had a box of these sitting forgotten at the bottom of a cupboard since 2005?"

So yes, my gratitude seems to last like snow under a flamethrower.

The Cavendish is interesting - incandescently prestigous (29 Nobels according to Wikipedia) yet the buildings look remarkably shabby (they're big on damp-stained ceiling tiles and peeling paint). One gets the impression of buildings built cheaply in 1960-something, that have been since continually chopped, altered and added-to as requirements change. Each time done as quickly and cheaply as possible. There's an vague air of "we don't care about appearances, because we don't have to care about apearances."

There are, however, lots of interesting glass cases, filled with aparatus used by varous exceptionally_famous phycists. I assume these were the things the Science Museum didn't want when they were clearing out the person in question's office or lab after death or retirement. They have the nice tradition of having a rows of annual, group photos of the department's research students. Impressively, I was familiar with about 1 in 20 of the names - Cockcroft, Walton, Blackett, Thompson, Watson, Crick, Bragg, Rutherford. If I didn't know the person, I was at least aware of the name in connection with some rule, law or equation.

After it was over, I took a quick wander through the town, mainly popping through those bookshops that are still open, but not buying anything. Then home.


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