Posts Tagged ‘university’

Old Woman Whinge

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

I warn you in advance that this blog post is likely to sound like an old woman whingeing about “The Youth of Today.” Feel free to move on and maintain a positive outlook on life and not be bogged down by my complaints. HOWEVER, I write this having been woken up at 5am to the sound of some sort of pre-dawn chorus. It sounded similar to cats being strangled but I believe it was a group of drunken students singing along to an unrecognisable song completely out of tune. I suspect their performance took place on one of the balconies of the surrounding apartment blocks, their voices bouncing off the concrete buildings, entering my bedroom window and attacking my sleeping ears. Just brilliant.

Now, I admit that I did reach my “There are a bunch of drunken students singing outside” call without any proof of a. who was singing or b. their sobriety. However, recent events in Manchester forced me to jump to this conclusion and really there was no other possible explanation for the unforeseen concert.  September has arrived and Manchester has been taken over by students. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. The centre of the city is swarming with young, barely-dressed teenagers buying pillows, saucepans and bottles of vodka. Now, my after work pop in to Aldi to buy vegetables for my dinner has become a elbow fight with 17 year olds carrying shopping baskets. Luckily, not many of them know what vegetables are so there’s still plenty left for me, but if I ever went mad and decided I wanted to buy frozen pizza, I would be in trouble.

Yesterday it took me an hour and fifteen minutes to catch a bus from Manchester city centre to West Didsbury. It is a five mile journey and one that I once ran in less time. Why did the bus take so long, I hear you ask? Because I happened to be taking the £1 Magic bus ride that goes past two universities and almost every location for student housing in south Manchester. I get it, students need to catch buses, too. But do they need to push the button at every stop and slow the bus down so frequently? Can’t they get off at the same stop (preferably mine) and walk a little bit?

The bus travel time isn’t helped by the fact that two or so weeks ago, a HOLE OF DEATH opened up on the main road into town (the road my bus drives down) and therefore traffic has been diverted onto smaller roads that can’t handle the extra traffic. This HOLE OF DEATH is really just a small gap in the already dodgy bitumen and not the massive sink hole the local authorities are making it out to be. Perhaps I should be grateful that they are looking after my safety, but really I’d just like to be able to spend less time on a rickety bus full of young people who say “Ummm… like totally.” a lot.

Ok. Rant over. I LOVE STUDENTS.

Maths and Mouse Brains Equal Sunday Fun

Monday, November 7th, 2011

What a great day! I woke up fairly late this morning due to a long and very enjoyable evening entertaining our friends, Sonia and Guibril, last night. After breakfast, I met up with some other friends, Becky and Vivien, and we headed off to the Fondation Cartier – a gallery space owned by the Cartier corporation which houses some very interesting exhibitions. The current exhibition is an exploration of mathematics, and presents an interesting mix of maths and arts in a single space. It is the first Sunday of the month, meaning most galleries in Paris are open for free. Not this one it seems. No matter – we paid our entrance fees and went in.

Fondation Cartier

The Fondation Cartier is in a really nice glass building surrounded by a very pretty garden

The exhibition consisted of seven or so large exhibits, usually requiring you to stand and watch for a fair length of time. The exhibits explored various concepts around mathematics and included robots that are able to learn; a large sphere that had images of mathematical problems projected on it; and descriptions of the mathematics involved in the Hadron Collider. For most of these, I stood back and watched the pretty pictures and said, “WOW!” a lot as completely foreign concepts were thrown at me. I have never been a particularly maths and science person, however I have always wished I was, purely for the stability and ‘factual’ nature of it all. Cultural theory is far too open ended and ‘there is no answer’-ish.

My favourite part of the exhibition was a series of films where mathematicians spoke for about three minutes on what mathematics means to them. Words that were mentioned and that struck a cord with me included creativity, exploration and expression. Obviously the films were made with the topic of mathematics and art in mind, however these mathematicians were passionate about how mathematics provided them with creative outlets and how it was beautiful, magnificent and amazing. A few of the mathematicians admitted their love for the physical shape of lines within equations or geometric forms. A mathematician by the name of Sir Michael Atiyah said that he felt maths to be a more creative way of expressing yourself and that the written word was archaic. I would require further explanation before I could agree with this statement but I found the concept fascinating. My whole concept of mathematics as a dry and quantitative thing was completely refuted by these mathematicians. They were all very passionate about their work and the affect the field has on the way in which the world functions. It was very inspirational.

After the exhibition, we went and ate galettes (yum.) before Becky and Vivien invited me to their laboratory. They are both neuroscientists who are studying (together) the way in which a part of the brain (the hippocampus) affects memory. At least, I think that’s what they’re studying. Anyway, they showed me their lab which is full of very, very cool machinery and instruments which they use to dissect mouse brains into teeny tiny pieces and then study them under microscopes. FASCINATING. They were kind enough to explain everything to me and I got to look in a microscope and then on a large screen I saw the neurones inside a mouse brain. So cool.


It's a giant microscope!

I have recently been reading a grant proposal they are working on, hopefully providing them with helpful advice about where to place commas, and I am completely in love with what they are studying. It amazes me to learn what other people do all day and how there are people in the world who are working towards solving problems and finding answers to how humans function and how we can make the world a better place. I makes me feel like what I do all day, every day (ie. nothing) isn’t really having a great impact on the larger picture. That said, I’m not sure I have the brain capacity or the inclination to study for that long in order to do so. So instead I will write about how great Becky and Vivien are and stay out of their way to ensure they can continue to do amazing things.

Becky and Vivien's view

Not only do they have cool machines, they have a great view from their lab, too!

Somewhat connected, yet also not, I am currently reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which makes me wonder about all of these science experiments and the desire for human improvement. Hopefully all science students are forced to read that book to ensure the world doesn’t follow Huxley’s concepts.