Sunday, 8 June 2008


I am 35000 feet above the North Sea en route to Oslo. Somehow, I got booked business class, which is was an unexpected treat, not, seemingly because of legroom: the arbitrary curtain the marks the boundary between expensive and cheaper seats can apparenty be placed anywhere.

No, the good thing is DINNER. Dinner was very good and catching on quickly, I indulged myself with a glass of champagne. I am aware that champagne is often seen for its own sake as the height of decadence: us proles in years gone by would raise our glasses loftily and appreciatively to our uncultured lips and feel we were partaking temporarily in an elevated social ritual where the drinking of champagne made us momentarily equal with those rich and priveliged sophisticates who could be glimpsed on telly at expensive receptions. We felt we must certainly be improved by this action and maybe have absorbed a small but significant increment of poshness by the act.

Anyway, I digress, as so often.

A twenty year old muscle injury in my hamstring starts to trouble me with pings of sharp pain and so I self-medicate with a gin and tonic. This is not a drink which I feel entirely comfortable with as it has certai iffeminate connotations which the invoking of the idea of colonial gentlemen in pale suits cannot dispel.

Staring out of the window, I am struck by a thought I often have but which I rarely articulate: the irregularity and randomness of natural phenomena such as clouds and the shimmering of the sun on the waves that I saw earlier, actually seems to have a pattern to it.

The clouds are all different shapes and spaced irregularly below us. But if eyes are allowed to lose focus, they apear to have a regularity about their spacing. Like a shoal of synchronised seahorses, they cross the sky in a coordinated formation.

It seems to me that the universe is lumpy. This is why space has lots of, well, space, with galaxies peppered throughout, and buses always come three at a time. Probabilities seem to hold to this too, with events clustered together less randomly than might be expected. Or maybe its just me. Humans bein creatures that like to spot patterns, even when there are none.

Looking down npw, a strange optical/atmospheric effect creates a column of light that appears to link the sea with the sun.

This is physics: a way of looking at things such that phenomena are seen and appreciated and a cause wondered at. And how we discover springs from there. It doesn't have to be about equations or research, just about noticing and wondering why.

Always woner why. All the time. That way, you will never be bored and, though you may elicit odd looks when you wonder out loud, you will never be boring.

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