Last night, at a ceremony in London, Gavin Pretor-Pinney was named as this year’s Royal Society Winton Book Prize winner. His winning book, The Wavewatcher’s Companion, is his second, and followed naturally in the footsteps of The Cloudspotter’s Guide. He told me “many waves are revealed by clouds”, and that the act of watching clouds and waves is “rounding and calming”.
Forty-eight years ago an unassuming physicist drove to Princeton to present a controversial theory on the origin of mass. His visit triggered a hunt for a particle that has so far taken decades, involved billions of dollars, and simultaneously raised and dashed the hopes of a generation of scientists.
Maybe you’ve sat by the sea and watched waves lapping up onto the beach, or showering rocks with their foamy spray. Pleasant as these contemplative or dramatic moments are, most of us will up sticks, walk home and not give waves an extra thought.
2011 is the International Year of Chemistry, and there have been a lot of grand claims in the past 10 months about the relevance and excitement of the field. I must confess that these claims have failed to excite me, and as such I approached The Disappearing Spoon with trepidation.
Back in 1858, William Gladstone wrote a three-volume tome on Homer. Volume three contains a chapter concerning the limited use of colour in the Iliad and the Odyssey that triggered a debate about whether nature or culture shapes and controls language.