Archive for February, 2009

I want to ride my bicycle…

February 27, 2009


Once more I find myself sitting down to compose another blog – not about the latest important scientific news, such as the first human footprint recently unearthed in an excavation in Kenya and dating back 1.5 million years, or that my institute has recently had fitted a new Expresso machine in all of it’s laboratories to encourage productivity, but alas I find myself befallen to bad luck (if you believe in such a thing – I don’t, but for the sake of argument will ‘indulge’ you for the time being) such of the like I am want to christen this month ‘Black February’. I did something similar once with the year 1982 – but that is another story.

I had began this year with such optimism, indeed, turning my hand more regularly to this very column, much neglected I feel in the past, but much easier since I relocated my computer last year.

However forces started to take a turn against me only two weeks ago. I had been attending a small scientific gathering  at the Calculus Club in Soho, always an opportunity for us scientists to unwind, and for once get the chance to talk ‘off topic’, not that you can ever shut up Winston mind – if I here another “Of course when I was on television recently…”. Fortunately Hawking as ever was the first to instigate a few drinking games, he could quickly turn a night, although often uses his ‘condition’ as an advantage during his favourite – Standing, Bending, ‘Sitting Down’ game.   

So it was that I left the club, a little worse for wear, and I profess somewhere between my hailing a minicab, pulling over to be sick, and stumbling in through my front door, that I found I had lost my wallet.  My irritation at this the next morning while nursing a particularly strong hangover was only further exacerbated when, upon leaving my home to make my way into the Institute for the day – I found my bicycle had been taken from my very own front garden.

Now I have talked at length before, within this blog about the criminal mind, so won’t take up time going over it again here – refer instead  to;

Are you back? 

It must be said – it infuriates me to think of some yahoo, galavanting around on my bicycle, tearing up the streets, popping wheelies and generally giving us cyclists a bad name.  Now I will admit it was only last year that I took up cycling for the first time since my childhood – one or two sensitive comments about my weight from some of my students had seen that I do something about it. So at exam time they were failed. But that did little to reduce my waistband. A fellow colleague had been cycling to work for some years and was a great proponent of the practice, in fact so proficient he has become he has long since dispensed with the usual two wheeled form and taking to getting round London on a unicycle. Soon he hopes to be running on no wheels at all.

I was, and have always, and will always be committed for the most part to the motor vehicle. And found myself being driven most places. (I have never ‘officially’ passed the Standard Motor Driving Test – I was failed once, and upon being told by the instructor that I was unable to drive I replied if he was able to split an atom, I think you can see the stalemate we quickly reached).

And so it was last Summer I took to the bicycle for the first time in many years – and found it to be, exhilarating. The wind blowing through my hair, the sun beating down on my face, the children running out of my way. This was as man was meant to get around (and that is an evolutionary fact, human legs are really just a vestigial set of organs that serve little to no purpose), indeed now without my bicycle – the five minute walk from my front door to the institute’s, bears little thinking….


Do Make Me Angry!

February 19, 2009


Following the recent outburst from some Hollywood actor (Christian Reeve I think, played Superman or something equally absurd), my mind turns to the subject of rage. Was he right to act like this in public? Of course he was.

Anger is an utterly fascinating emotion and I confess, a favourite of mine. I’ve tracked its recorded history as a human sensation from its first instance way back in the year 34 A.D. when biblical mystic man Jesus Christ was reported to have smashed up a market trader’s stall for selling stuff on his Dad’s property, who presumably was a rival businessman. Although, I’m positive that way before this event, whichever Homo Sapien it was who discovered fire must’ve been pretty peeved when he first burnt himself.

Anger, wrath, rage, fury! The very words themselves seem to be shouting off the screen as I write them. Powerful stuff. I love to have good bellow at the bathroom mirror every morning. At least I hope it’s a mirror – if not, there’s a very angry chap next door who keeps shouting at me through his window.

The immediate venting of deeply innate anger like this is actually very healthy and I heartily recommend on it a scientific level, whatever the trigger – be it another road user cutting me up, my housekeeper not untying my shoelaces, another stupid bird flying into my study window, priests etc. etc…

Under-brewed tea, fiction, dentists, articles contradicting Darwinian theory, rejection letters from New Scientist, disability, the Welsh, badgers obviously, untrained monkeys, the number 23 for some reason and Harry Secombe (although to be fair not so much since his death).

So next time someone annoys the faecal matter out of you, pause, take a deep breath, look them straight in the eyes and do your utmost to shout them into next week! Go on, try it. I just have, at my postman – more junk-mail!

What’s in a (stolen) name?

February 16, 2009


Regular readers of my blog may have noticed a slight change in the last few days. If however you haven’t been here before, and indeed these are the very first time you have read any of my words (in whatever order you choose) then you would be as well to ignore this blog entry entirely.

Up until recent the title for this blog was BEING HUMAN. One I felt perfectly struck at the heart of everything I do. Indeed I had intended to structure a six part scientific series for the BBC, presented by myself, going out on Tuesday nights, at 9pm, on BBC 2 (and then available for download for a week on the BBC iplayer) entitled Being Human.

Imagine my surprise then to now find that this title has been stolen by the BBC – and to make matters worse it has been used to title some poppycock about a vampire, werewolf and ghost all living together in a house in Bristol! As you can imagine I was beside myself. A stern letter was sent asking that the BBC cease and desist from using such a title (I even, in a show of grace offered them some alternative titles of my own invention, including The Ghost, The Werewolf & The Vampire who live in a house in Bristol, Supernatural Scary Somerset and simply Being Stupid) but alas I have heard nothing. However undeterred I took this as an opportunity to look at my work and reflect on how best to communicate to you my dear reader (not you new ones) my work and philosophy.

As most of you are aware, I am a professor of science. And occasionally a professor of love. I was also once a professor of biscuits but really that’s for another time. Now of course science can be quite an all encompassing monikor – what is it that I’m REALLY about? Well it would be imodest of me to claim expertise in all areas of science, in fairness I detest the periodic table.

But I suppose if you had to pinpont one particular ventricle of science that I am preeminent in, it would be the Human body itself. You. Me. Him over there looking at you. Them. Us. And everyone else. Indeed many have said it was fate, finding myself studying the Human body, fascinated by the Human condition, entranced by the Human mind – they would point to my name, but really I saw it had little to do with being called Charles.

And so I have set out to make it my life’s work, to chart and study Human beings, to write a new chapter in the big book of Science. The first chapter. A chapter I simply call HUMANOLOGY. Won’t you enter?

A dire (but ultimately pointless) warning from the present (i.e the future!)

February 12, 2009

the_time_machine_large_01Good evening. My name is Professor Charles Human. Now this may seem like a rather obvious statement to any of the regular readers of this blog. But that is why I should explain. I am not the Professor Charles Human that you know. How is this possible I hear you ask? Well the answer is both simple and inordinately complicated. I am Professor Charles Human from the future! Or the present, that is my present, and I have travelled here to the past (your present) from your future (my present). I hope that has made things clear.

 I hail from the distant year 2011. Indeed my being here now at this time is not merely fortuitous, for I will invent a working theory for time travel only next week. Upon this discovery I will immediately forge down a path towards the construction of the first fully functional time machine! And it is this terrible course of events, that only now can I see for their folly that I have decided to come back and warn my former self of.

My eagerness to exploit and use my invention has come at too greater a cost already, many events irrevocably altered along the space time continuum already by my fantastic travels that all I can hope of now is to stop myself from ever having invented it.

It is at this point that I should explain, and perhaps in a manner of sorts apologise, for some of my tampering of history, events that you now take for granted, that were never as such before I allowed myself to get involved. I shouldn’t wish to go into too much detail – such things can hardly be undone now (in fact I tried that – believe me it really doesn’t work, if anything all I did was make an even bigger mess!)

 Still know that I hold myself partly responsible, or in some cases entirely, for the following – The Great Fire of London, The British – Zulu War in Africa, The Profumo Scandal and the pop career of Robson and Jerome.

There may also be some remote tribes in the jungles of South America who now revere me as some type of God.  

Were I to know now, what I knew then.

 Still this has what bought me back to this moment in time to warn myself off ever creating such a device – unfortunately I am only too acutely aware of the irony here.

For it was only two years ago, sitting in my study and contemplating my latest paper on the migratory habits of igneous rocks, that I was suddenly astonished to find myself face to face with myself from the future! And carrying a warning not too dissimilar to the one I now carry. Indeed it was only when my future self excused himself to use the bathroom that I was able to sneak a closer inspection of his time machine and deduce the various components I would require to build such a machine for myself!

I suspect my future self was suspicious of me on his return, as I am now of my past self – I would try to remain, but I fear even now as I write this, and my past self sits across from me, studying me, as I once did me…now…then. That I can hold my bladder no longer and I must go and use the bathroom! I fear there is nothing I can do (what I wouldn’t give for a good paradox!) but such is the nature of the time continuum, I even went to visit my future self, but he knew I was coming and had set a trap.

I don’t know when it is again, that I will stop to post a blog dear reader, although you will get a rather marvellous one from my past self next week about the nature of anger.


February 4, 2009



Brace yourself people, for what I am about to tell you. This morning, for the first time in my life, whilst walking on the road in which I live, I was forced to step over a squirrel. It wasn’t dead. It wasn’t asleep. 

It just refused to move. 

Now to you lot, this might seem like a freak occurrence. A case of “Ahhhhh, how sweet, look at him” and “Isn’t he tame!”

Well, listen to me now. This abnormal happening is the first sign of an impending, clear and present danger to our existence on this planet. For centuries, decades even, mankind has proven itself to be the dominant kind on Earth. We have remained utterly “in-charge”. But the idea of me, a fully-grown professor, being forced to adjust my walking plans because of a stubborn, obstinate, nut-gathering rodent simultaneously fills me with wrath and dread.

Today it’s a bolshie squirrel who thinks he has right of way on a pavement. Tomorrow it might be a fully-armed squadron of birds, rats, mice and even, dare I say, my old foe the badgers – previously living in apparent harmony alongside humans, but forever waiting for the right time to attack!

It will happen. Come to think of it, last night my dog Darwin gave me a conspiratory look when I was washing him. All we can do is be ready. Maybe if we are the ones who start hoarding nuts, then this will not only deprive an encroaching army of essential nutrition but also send out clear signals to these terrorists that we know what they’re up to! If I were you (thankfully I’m not, I’m me, you’re you), I would think twice before throwing out those stale crusts into your garden. You may well be fuelling the soldier that will soon help bring your destruction i.e. kill you.

Snow good for anyone…

February 3, 2009

_45441481_darwin_220Now ordinarily of course it would be here that I give you my weekly opinion on a science related subject, further illuminating the small dark cracks of your mind – with ever greater discoveries. But much like the rest of the country it would seem I was prohibited from sitting down at my desk yesterday to begin my latest blog – by the inclement weather conditions we now find besets the country. Now I do confess that even I was caught out by this freak snow storm. I long ago stopped paying attention to the weather – or certainly at least the MET office – and their ‘predictions’. No I myself rely on a series of key scientific apparatus I have constructed on the roof of my modest homestead. Long concerned as I have been by the planets all too apparent warming – and the freak weather conditions that have started to wrack  every corner of the globe – I thought it best – in-between my academic commitments and lectures to the general public to keep an eye on things myself – in effort to discover and cure our planets woes. And so it was that I was confidently predicting a freak heat wave this month, unseasonal true, but my recordings are rarely ever off track. Imagine my surprise then on my drive home only Sunday night from a very pleasant weekend in Cheddar Gorge, to find my car suddenly caught in the kind of snow storm that may fell a lesser being. Fortunately my hand to eye co-ordination is second to none (I do confess my glasses are merely cosmetic – and a popular hit with the ladies I might add) and whilst other drivers may have skidded and slid to avoid collision I was able to maintain a relatively constant 60mph, through the snowy landscape before me, to further speed my journey home, and check my weather measuring apparatus and see how I, Charles Human, could have made such a grievous miscalculation.

The cold and snow made it hazardous to attempt a night time reading of the weather forecaster myself – but I was anxious to see what had gone wrong. Fortunately my house keeper was stranded without means to get home, so I suggested she make herself useful and clamber onto the roof to see if she might be able to call down to me any malfunction apparent. After much resistance she finally conceded – and I sat comfortably back in the warmth of my study – to await her findings. However, little did I stop to consider that my housekeeper’s limited comprehension of Basic English would be largely matched, if not surpassed by her limited knowledge of the inner workings of meteorological mechanics. In fact if her fall hadn’t taken out a power line, thus distracting me with more pressing matters, I may well have had to make the climb up to the roof myself. At least the bed of snow she fell in proved an excellent balm to her electrical burns. I was however without power or someone to fix my bed. Only a full 48 hours post, can I finally relate to you, the full extent of the details which prohibited me posting a blog earlier (one which I had hoped to concern itself with dimensional gates and the probability of evil doppelgangers).

Still I am now in the market for a new housekeeper – and should you wish to enquire about the post I can be reached through the usual channels. (Meteorological engineering experience and head for heights not essential but preferable).