Wonk out of water

So I’m in Paris at a mega academic conference, the first one like it I’ve really been to. It’s called 4S/EASST and is being held at the Ecole des Mines which is an incredibly beautiful rambling old building overlooking the Jardins du Luxembourg in the Latin quarter.

It’s all about the social study of science. The scale of the event is huge. Twelve hundred delegates, 187 sessions, over 700 papers being given. In fact, it’s all a bit too much; I’m not quite sure what to go to. And then there’s the question of language. Not the fact that this is a foreign country with its own language, but that this is academia with its own language. Take a look at these for titles of talks that people are giving:

“Social organization of access to knowledge and boundary objects: the case of repair technicians of copy machines”

“Expert generation. Franz Maria Feldhaus and the emergence of professionalized historiography of technology.”

“Deployment of intentionality: the test of subjectification of body in dialysis practice.”

You see the problem.

The president of the conference is the revered, renowned Bruno Latour. I’ve spoken with him twice so far. Once about the university’s newly installed wifi network (or weefee as he calls it) and once about whether I’ve got my apple widget for connecting my iBook to a LCD projector (I don’t). Weighty stuff.

Wednesday night was fun as it was the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Paris. Loads of dancing and music and fireworks in the parks. An American I was with muttered under their breath, ‘anybody would think they liberated themselves”. Ouch.

I’m here with colleagues to talk about the work we’re doing on public engagement in nanotechnology. We’re not on until Saturday so I’m dipping in and out of the sessions that sound, erm, interesting.

BedZed Blog — part 2

So I’ve been living here at BedZED for a month and have now gotten round to taking a photo. When I say it looks a bit funny, this is what I mean…

On sunny days like today all the windows are and doors are open and kids are running around. There are also a few people in suits peering round corners. They’ve come from companies and government departments around the world to look at us labrats living in this place.

I’ve started using the car share scheme this week and it all seems to be hunky dory. Very handy for popping down to the shops. I haven’t quite got used to having a card rather than a key to open the car yet and I did get sort of told off for not leaving the car in quite the right place when I’d finished with it yesterday but I’m sure I’ll soon learn.

The Way

I’m back in London today after a week of walking the West Highland Way in Scotland.

If you haven’t heard of it, the WHW is Scotland’s first long distance path officially opened in 1980 although farmers, missionaries and soldiers have been using sections of it for far longer than that. It runs from a station in an unassuming suburb of Glasgow to a roundabout just on the edge of Fort William 95 miles later. But it’s the bits in between that make it special.

As well as the scenery there are some great places for eating and drinking. The Drovers Inn must be in the running for ‘best pub in the UK when it’s raining’. A perfect place to sit sipping a single malt with your clothes steaming and toes toasting by open fires. The bizarre stuffed wildlife in the lobby and some of the locals (who look like they’ve been there since the place opened in 1705) add to the ambience.

On a more painful note, I now know where Michael Chrichton got the inspiration for the swarms of self-organising nanobots in Prey. He must have visited Scotland in the summer and witnessed the midgies. My arms look like somebody has been practicing voodoo on them.

While it took me seven days, and that’s what most people reckon to do it in, the record is a bewildering 16 hours 26 mins. It doesn’t bear thinking about.