Monday, 29 September 2008

un-wild blackberries

I get my fruit and veg delivered in a returnable cardboard box by Abel&Cole. They are great (no plastic bags, ever) BUT today, as a substitute for apples (which I never eat), I received a tiny box of blackberries. Plastic, of course, and lined with bubble wrap. Perhaps fair enough if they were raspberries, but who buys blackberries anyway?? They grow everywhere and you can have loads for free. Plus, it is rather fun picking them.

So I shall give the blackberries away (and have added 'berries' to my dislikes list so they won't send me them again!)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


I'm away (again!) but this time they will collect the (plastic) conference badges when we leave, to re-use! I am really sick of cooked breakfast (cereal in little boxes, again).

Anyway, today I went looking for plastic-free wine to take to a friend's house. Suddenly I can't remember its name, but it is some chain of wine shops. And this was the one on Little Clarendon Street in Oxford.

The assistant was lovely, and not too phased by my request for European wine, in a clear bottle* with a real cork and foil, not plastic round the top. We think we found one... though cannot be completely sure until it is opened. (And apparently it will taste good too.)

* The UK is a net importer of products in green glass, and so while it can be recycled, it is not usually used in this country and often shipped overseas (probably to China...). So clear glass is better, I believe.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

There is no zero

You've probably heard about the LHC at CERN by now. You may have seen the LHC rap. Unfortunately, you've probably also heard about the 'end of the world via black hole'. While it is great that such an important physics experiment is now (almost?) a household name, it is a shame talk is of such nonsense, rather than the science.

There is no chance that the LHC will cause the end of the world (except via its presumably huge carbon footprint).

I believe a main reason for so many people seriously worrying about this is due to scientists communicating with 'the public' assuming that they think like scientists. And assuming that the public have some knowledge of quantum mechanics.

In physics, there is no zero. Nothing is ever just nothing. You can't be completely still (zero momentum), you can never reach a temperature of 'absolute zero', and nothing can ever have no energy. In fact you can't even have nothing. The theory behind this is quantum mechanics - I shall save the full explanation for another day - but it basically says that particles (and hence everything) behaves in a probabalistic manner. Instead of definites, you have probabilities. And nothing is ever impossible.

So when you pour your milk onto your cereal, in physics language it is possible that you will create a black hole and destroy the world. In non-science talk, you would say this is an absolutely ridiculous suggestion.

The same applies to the LHC. In physics terms, nothing is impossible; but in normal language, CERN will not destroy the earth*.

For a very entertaining introduction to the LHC, watch the LHC rap!

*And I don't mean there is a tiny chance. It is the same kind of chance as creating a black hole from a (glass) milk bottle.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

2079 cups of coffee

I've spent two weeks in CMS (pictured above) in Cambridge, and am currently in a 3 day meeting in Manchester. Here, we have real cups and teaspoons, but milk is only available in tiny plastic containers. In Cambridge there were jugs of milk, but disposable cups. A lot of disposable cups - perhaps a hundred people, and drinks twice a day for 10.5 days. That is 2100 cups. Minus 21 (I brought a mug) = 2079.

Even if you don't plan to go stealing sheets and chewing twigs, taking a mug to meetings and conferences would seem a particularly easy thing for everyone to do. Apparently even starbucks are in on the act and will give you a 25p discount.

sleeping. Not so simple.

I shall blame the lack of blog entries on the fact that this is my 5th week away from Lancaster...

Last week was spent walking between youth hostels in the peak district (Edale, Eyam(x2) and Hathersage if anyone is interested). Youth hostels have always used sheet sleeping bags - a clever laundry-saving all-in-one sheet + pillow case. However, they now have a "new bedding policy", in order to become a more attractive place to stay. All well and good. Real sheets and duvets are rather nice (even when you have to make your own bed). But, WHY MUST THEY BE WRAPPED IN CLING FILM??!

[yes, you read correctly. On your bunk you now find a duvet, sheet and 2 pillow cases wrapped in a HUGE piece of cling film.]

So I rescued some linen from the launrdy basket and used it inside out.