Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Darwin's Microscope

Christ's College and the Science and Literature Reading Group present:

"Darwin's Microscope"

Monday 9th March, 7.30pm
Lloyd Room, Christ's College

2009 marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. The Cambridge Science and Literature Reading Group has organised an evening of history, science, and poetry to commemorate these events.

Boris Jardine, PhD student at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, will speak on Darwin's microscopic practices: the rocks, plants and creatures that resolved into his view, from Beagle to barnacles.

Poet Kelley Swain will then read from her new work entitled Darwin's Microscope (Flambard Press, 2009), an exploration of Darwin's life and influence, and of the poetics of looking closely into the natural world.

Please RSVP to Melanie Keene (mjk32@hermes.cam.ac.uk).

Kelley's poem 'Fossil Memories' is reproduced below:

Fossil Memories

. . . or, what is left of Darwin

What is left of a man
when two hundred years have passed,
his cousins distantly pleased
with their thin-running blood,
his face on a banknote,

his home a museum
where ten children played, where he fell ill
and roused himself to walks and work countless times,
where he loved his family but lost his faith,
where he hesitated and wondered and was spooked
into writing a book which changed our future
as well as our past.

See him wrapped in cold towels
shaking with fever, or turning from his daughter’s
death-bed, knowing his wife’s God
would be her only solace,
or turning from his son’s death-bed,
never saying aloud how nature had selected against
this loved but deficient boy.

See him hunched at a wooden table,
one hundred barnacles systematically aligned,
his touchy stomach the worse for the alcohol-preservative smell,
his eyes squinted towards the creatures he came to hate.

Weathering of time,
rust of human memory,
snowflakes of a glacier,
pebbles of a mountain,
fist-sized rock of a whale’s baleen,
little but a fossil of a man.

2nd March

At our last meeting of term we shall be reading C. P. Snow's The Search (1934). All are welcome to join us from 7.30-9pm in Darwin College.

BSHS OEC Song Competition

The British Society for the History of Science Outreach and Education Committee announces its SONG COMPETITION for 2009

Ever wondered whether 'Cholera!' would have been a more entertaining Andrew Lloyd Webber musical than 'Oliver!'? Always wanted precise zoological information from Flanders and Swann's 'Hippopotamus', or felt that 'Fly MeTo The Moon' should really have provided more details about the Apollo landings? Now's your chance to put those thoughts into practice.

By entering our competition you'll be following in a fine tradition of scientific music-making to well-known melodies, from the Cambridge Cavendish Laboratory's 'Ions Mine' to the tune of 'Clementine', to a satirical celebration of the Atlantic Telegraph Cable that rewrote 'Yankee Doodle Dandy', and Tom Lehrer's tongue-twisting version of Gilbert and Sullivan in 'The Elements'.

Entries will be judged on their historical content and choice of topic, on their wit and imaginative use of language and rhyme schemes, and on their fit to the original tune.

One £100 first prize will be won, alongside two £50 runners-up prizes.We'll also be awarding two £50 prizes for the best amateur performance of a song - so why not send in an audio or video recording of you singing your entry? You can submit more than one entry, but a maximum of one prize per person in each category can be won.

How do I enter?

Pick one of the five traditional copyright-free tunes detailed below,several of which have actually been used for scientific songs, and set yourown words that introduce a particular theme in the history of science. Think creatively!

  • 'Clementine'

  • 'Yankee Doodle Dandy'

  • 'What Shall we Do with the Drunken Sailor?'

  • 'O God Our Help in Ages Past'

  • 'English Country Garden'
* If you're having trouble getting started, then have a look at theinspirational historical examples posted online here.

*Please provide a minimum of two verses, and a maximum of eight. Don't forget the chorus!

* It's fine to enter with the lyrics alone but if you would like to then please do include performance directions, suggestions for instrumentation and voices, tempi and dynamics, musical genre, etc. However, please format your entry as a text file or pdf file, not one that uses specialist music-making software.

* Also, why not record a version of yourself or your friends, your band, or your choir singing the song and submit it to our supplementary competition as an audio or video file, preferably as an mp3 or mp4 file?

* Send your song lyrics and performances to historyofsciencesongs@googlemail.com by FRIDAY 17 APRIL 2009. You shouldreceive a message in reply confirming the validity of your entry within 48hours.

* Prize-winners will be announced at our Annual Conference in Leicester onSaturday 4th July 2009, and immediately thereafter on the BSHS website and BSHS-OEC-NEWS mailing list.

* Enquiries about this competition should be sent to historyofsciencesongs@googlemail.com

* Please note that by entering this competition you guarantee that your lyrics are your own original work. The BSHS will use the winning entries in our activities to bring topics in the history of science, technology and medicine to new audiences.

* These details are available on the BSHS webpages here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Naturalist's Valentine. By a Palaeontologist

BORNE upon Pterodactyle’s wing,
This heart, which once you deemed of stone,
Model of maids, to thee I bring,
And offer it to thee alone!
Not Owen pondering o’er bone
Of great Dinorius, fonder grew
Of mighty wingless birds unknown,
Than I, sweet maid, of you.

The Glyptodon, which Darwin found
Beside the South Atlantic main,
Was in no harder armour bound
Than that my spirit did enchain;
Till, bade by thee, love rent in twain
The fetters which my fancy tied
To boulder, glacier, and moraine,
And bore me to thy side!

Like some fantastic trilobite,
That perished in the Silurian sea,
And long lay hid from mortal sight,
So was the heart I yield to thee.
Now from its stony matrix free,
The palaeontologic skill
Once more hath called it forth to be
The servant of thy will.

Geological Society, Feb. 14

From: Daubeny, (1869) Fugitive Poems Connected with Natural History and Physical Science, 175-176.

Monday, February 09, 2009

16th February

Our next meeting will be held on Monday 16th February in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College, from 7.30-9pm. We'll be discussing our third work of historical fiction, Russell McCormmach's Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist. I hope to see you then!

Friday, February 06, 2009

CFP - The mad scientist in 19th to 21st century fiction

Brest, 1-2 Oct 2009

The mad scientist is a complex figure which dates back to Antiquity, a time when genius and madness were perceived as complementary facets. This complementarity persists, fuelled by successive epistemological crises which question the perception human beings have of themselves and of the world around them. The figure of the mad scientist crystallizes many diffuse fears which can be political, social, religious, economic or ideological and which are related to the possibility of defining oneself as a human being (Hawthorne, Collins, Doyle, Stevenson, Stoker, Machen, Wells).

This symposium will focus on contemporary metamorphoses of the mad scientist in narratives and visual arts of the late 20th century and early 21st centuries, in the English-speaking world (A. Carter, J. Coe, P. Mc Grath, M. Amis, W. Self) but not exclusively so. Visual arts will enable us to reach beyond geographical or temporal frontiers as the mad scientist’s popularity is highly indebted to the cinema. Proposals may deal with various socio-cultural contexts and emphasize ontological, epistemological, psychological, economic or political aspects which have contributed to the persistence and aura of the figure of the mad scientist.

Abstracts should be sent before the 15th of March 2009 to: helene.machinal@univ-brest.fr or camille.manfredi@univ-brest.fr

The symposium is organized by CEIMA, HCTI, EA 4249, Université de Bretagne Occidentale

Emma Darwin's blog

'Emma Darwin' will be blogging here until 23rd February...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Rescheduled meeting - Mon 9th

The next meeting of the Reading Group has been rescheduled for next Monday, 9th February, in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm. We'll be discussing Measuring the World. All welcome!