How do you get to where you are today?
My first intellectual love was electronics that naturally lead me to physics. I worked in a radio repair shop for years (GWM Radio, Worthing) and this gave me a powerful experience bringing together science, technology and people. After my first degree (Physics at Surrey Uni.) I went to Sussex to do a PhD in Astronomy but ended up in the chemistry department working on a famous new form of carbon - Buckminsterfullerene!
Who and/or what were some of the influences on you when you were at school/university?
My brother, mother and father are not scientists but they always supported me and showed me great enthusiasm and encouragement. At school I had a teacher (Capt. Rhys James) who loved science and electronics. We were very much on the same wavelength and I don't think our age gap mattered at all. I liked books but because of reading difficulties I learnt to love the diagrams and absorb their meaning without having to read the 'horrible text' - this was another reason for going into science!
Why did you choose to study science?
There was (and is) something real and relevant about learning how the world around us works - that's science.
What other interests do you have outside science?
I love backpacking in the Alps. Besides this I find painting and drawing an inspiration. I spend as much of my time as I can designing and making things from my own ideas. I have also spent hours juggling. Along with meditation, these things have slowly taught me how to find my own learning pace which helps a lot in life.
What do you consider to be the greatest scientific achievements of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries?
James Clark Maxwells theory of electromagnetism was a beautiful work and it turns out, in our electronic dominated world, amazingly useful. It explains, among of other things, why the stars that shine in the night sky can be seen at all. Relativity changed our way we understand information and light and explained the multitude of radioactive particles that were discovered at the beginning of the century. Solid state physics gave us transistors that have revolutionised the way we work and the speed with which we communicate - all major human issues.
What answers would you like science to provide in the next 10 years?
Someone once said 'I seek not to find the answers but to understand the questions': - that applies very well to fundamental science.
Who's the scientist that impresses you most?
Ernest Rutherford, among others, discovered the nucleus of the atom (perhaps 10,000,000,000 times smaller than the earth) with bits of glass, sealing wax and a few other bits and pieces - that was a remarkable achievement! Out of it we might find the solution to our energy problems. I think Rutherford impresses me most, at least for his achievements - of course I never knew him.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of embarking on a career in science?
Learn at your own pace and study because you really want to, not just because of exams. In science, it is essential to go slowly through the difficult bits if you want to understand the rest properly. I would say that the basics are actually the hardest part.
What's your recollection of your first involvement in science?
My father gave me a battery, bulb, some wire and a couple of clips. He said 'after Tea I will show you how to wire them up'. I was so captured by these bits and pieces nothing could have stopped me from working it out for myself. That was probably my first real conscious experiment. I also remember discovering that you could still, just about, get a TV picture when the aerial plug was just out of the socket - that got me thinking about science.
What do you hope to have achieved by contributing to the 'Castaways Science' TV series?
I want to show that Science is one of the most creative activities of modern times. People see the Arts as creative and forget the creativity in almost every electrical or mechanical consumer item! Its worthwhile trying hard to understand science because it has, and will, help humans so much.
What would you like to be doing in 10 years time?
As far as work is concerned I want to be running my Creative Science Centre and offer its activities to as many areas of the community as is possible.
What was your most memorable experience while filming the castaway Science TV series?
I don't think I have ever laughed so much when working. There was a great team spirit. It was an amazing experience - I found it very hard to concentrate when I got back!
At parties, how do you explain to people what you do for a living?
Sometimes I tell them I am a researcher and that I like making things in science. Other times I say I am a science teacher - which is true as well. Apparently my girlfriend told me that when I first met her I told her I was an Astrophysicist and that she was made of star-dust! Err did I say that, … No … err …
Why do you think Science has sometimes had such bad press?
I think media simplification of issues make a balanced debate in science almost impossible. Science then becomes the 'miracle' of medicine and the 'horror' of the nuclear - both far from the truth.
What aspects of science frightens you most?
Science is a very powerful force for change and advance. Because things are moving so fast I feel uncomfortable with the quick thinking that sometimes results. We need to use these advances to help the way we think. I admire Edward de Bono's work for this.
home | diary | whats on | CSC summary | latest news