Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Has the Olympic torch gone out?

The Olympic torch came through my village this afternoon. The disruption to traffic was huge - as were the crowds. We have never seen so many people here before. Or so many police. I lost count of how many police motorcyclists came through. Not to mention other vehicles. It's not really for people who care about carbon footprints.

This is the best photograph I was able to get.

It looks like the flame has gone out though. Which brings to mind a conversation I overheard in the crowd earlier about the reserve flames that were being kept in Davy Lamp like devices. Somebody said that they were all the same flame - but are they? Four - I think it is - separate flames that are all the same! This prompts a number of thoughts. So ...

I shall return to this sometime in the future.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Some Quotes

Here are some quotes that I've had lying around for quite some time. They are of interest in and of themselves even if their veracity may be, at some times, questionable.


'Were I to hold the truth in my hand, I would let it go for the positive joy of seeking.'
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)


'In our century, specialisation has become the counterfeit of brilliance.'
Richard Gordon
(I'm not sure which Richard Gordon said this but I would not be surprised if it were the author of the 'Doctor' series of books.)


'With computer technology, we now have the capacity, as Lewis Thomas (1989) put it, "to leap across mountains of information and land lightly on the wrong side".'
Collins (1999)
(I'm not sure who Collins is but the  Lewis Thomas in question was surely the famous biologist and writer.)


The following may or may not be a quote. It was one among a page of notes relating to the work of William Harvey (1578-1657). (Exactly how it is related, I'm not sure - it was a loose note after all! If it was not Harvey that said it, it may well have been me philosophizing and scribbling down my thoughts.)
'A finding – a piece of work etc. – may have limited value in its own right or its own time but be of disproportionate merit in the incentive it gives to the work that follows as a result of it.'

Friday, 18 May 2012

RIP Donna Summer

With the death of Donna Summer (1948-2012), like many, I am reminded of her music. For much of the morning, I have been listening to different versions of 'This Time I Know It's For Real' - my favourite of her songs. I particularly like the way at times her vocals come in before she has finished the previous line ("I'm going crazy just to let you know ...").

I am also reminded of what I blogged on 1st February 2011 (After we are gone). After we are gone, will it be said of us that we left more than we found - or left things better than we found them. Opinions may vary but somebody who got the world dancing - instead of fighting - leaves us better off.

Rest In Peace? I wonder. If to DIE is to Dance Into Eternity, bring it on.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

No Apology

I said in the blog immediately below that I would apologise if my 'sneaking feeling' that an error had crept into a colleague's notes proved to be unfounded. I asked him to clarify what was puzzling me. It transpires that he had made an error - of sorts. A reference to a now defunct idea had stayed in his notes. By way of an oversight, he had not deleted it.

Before I consulted him, I had asked a group of some 70 or so students if they knew anything about this. They did not - despite having reference to it in their lecture notes. Had they not read these notes or had they just memorised them taking what they said at face value without actually studying the topic?

All-in-all the whole affair has proved informative and seems to vindicate my approach: that lecture notes are what students take down in lectures - not what lecturers give in addition to (or, in the case of some students, instead of) lectures.

One cannot learn from notes, when they are the primary source of information. Notes are a distillation and an aide-mémoire to something much fuller; something about which one wants to be reminded in order to give a fuller picture. An edifice cannot be built using only a few straws of information.

Monday, 7 May 2012

University Teaching

A Facebook friend posted this some weeks ago. There is more than an element of truth in it - although my spouse is, of course, much more enlightened about the realities of modern university life.
I must say that, although I have entitled this entry 'University Teaching', I do not like the phrase. However, rather than change it, I will use this opportunity to write about something that is of perpetual concern to me.
I believe that one goes to university to learn, NOT to be taught. A lot of people have forgotten this - both staff and students. I cannot believe how nowadays, when students go to lectures, they also want the lecturer to supply notes by way of a synopsis of that same lecture! They sat there for an hour doing ... what? (Some, in fact, do just sit there ... for an hour.)
I recently asked some students about something I had seen in some lecture notes provided by a colleague. I was genuinely puzzled by what he had put because I had never heard of it before. Furthermore, I was genuinely interested in finding out more. The one student that knew what I was asking about - because she was, in fact, the only one to have actually looked at those notes - had only learned them off rote. When I asked her to tell me more (because I assumed that she had studied the topic), she could not. She had not, in fact, studied the topic, she had just memorised the notes accompanying a certain lecture.
As yet, I have found no reference to the thing that was puzzling me, anywhere. If it is real, then it should not be hard to find. Yet, I just cannot find anything about it anywhere. This leaves me wondering. However, I will keep searching. If I do solve this dilemma, perhaps I ought to devote a future entry to it by way of an apology for what I am about to say: at this moment in time, I have a sneaking feeling that an error may have crept into my colleague's notes unbeknown to him! (If so, then, so much for the value of lecture notes.)