The Scientist, Part I

scientist, logic, reason, scientific method, debate
Photo and Posted Design by James FitzRoy. Darwin from the National History Museum in London

“In 1960, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Eugene Wigner wrote a famous essay titled “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”, in which he stated that “it is not at all natural that laws of Nature exist, much less that man is able to discover them.”

‘Why does E = mc2?’ by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

__________________________

“Science as it’s done in school is not done all that well. Kids may be taught some science facts and methods but are not taught why science is important to our society, what problems it could help solve, what problems it has, and why science is one of the best ideas humans came up with. So kids in learn how caterpillars turn into butterflies and how to mix baking soda and vinegar and they say, ‘oh, that’s cool’. But that really didn’t teach them much of anything. They’re not going to go on and work as scientists, most of them. Or they forget what they learned and they don’t think much of science anymore because they don’t think its relevant to their daily lives….”

Sharon Hill (NECSS Conference)

An Introduction

It is odd that in the modern, developed world, there seems to be a great and ongoing confusion about what a scientist actually does (or even, what science actually is). In this article I will attempt to show the truth behind the scientist and during the process, take a look at the scientific method and what it means for us all.

I feel that it’s important to stress the details here as I have found confusion about the subject starting with a hazy miss-trust and progressing to a full-blown disbelief in what scientists do. This is generally not helped by the mass-media and sometimes, scientists themselves can seem far too obscure for the ‘general public’ to connect with their thoughts or projects.

Many great thinkers like Michael Sherma, Richard Dawkins, David Deutsch, Carl Sagan, Jason Silva and others who have devoted themselves to the task of improving the general mass-comprehension of science.

Yet it seems there are those who freely choose to pick and choose which sciences they want to believe in – mobile phones are ok but evolution is a resounding ‘no’. Computers are fine but the Earth is clearly 4400 years old.

I once knew a politician (Conservative) who refused the idea that DNA even existed because “you can’t see it”, let alone evolution! I argued that, “you can’t see the air you breath yet you trust that it’s there.” – Perhaps there should be a slogan like this for many topics in science.

So this is my rough guide to being a scientist and the look at the scientific method.

“In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the results of the computation to Nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

Richard Feynman

What is Science / What is a Scientist?

Science is a very broad profession that impacts upon every single fragment of modern living (everything from medicine to historical studies, mental wellbeing to building design, materials and flights into space). To think of a scientist as someone in a white lab-coat working away behind a complex machine is a fallacy – although I’m sure this is still an important part of science. Scientists are everywhere – buried in trenches investigating bones or rocks to drilling for core samples in Antarctica to conducting experiments in labs, in space, on other worlds or using a blackboard in an office to work out the mathematics of the Big Bang. They investigate new materials, atomic structures, the behavior of sub-atomic particles, they look into the distant past to piece together complex histories or into the vast future to predict or speculate.

To be a scientist is to work at a problem. And a problem is something that could have an easily understandable ramification if solved or it could be something that might seem meaningless (without context or connection) to a lay-person.

What do I mean by this? Well, we have often heard of scientists working on ‘the cure for cancer’ or ‘the cure of alheimers’. The impact of this work is easily understandable. The methods used to solve the problem are points for another debate on ethics. But in general, scientists like those working on drill samples from Antarctica are looking at problems or trying to understand the way the physical world works.

At the ‘cutting edge’ of science by way of the blue sky projects, scientists work with machines like the mighty particle accelerator at CERN to unlock the mystery of the universe.

And at all stages, scientists solve problems one little bit at a time, constantly refining the image, pushing back the fog of incomprehension to reveal the true and accurate picture of this amazing universe we live in.

But whatever the media interest in whatever type of science, all science is working towards a goal. The goal is to solve a problem – a biological mutation, a climatic change event, a deadly virus. Or to answer a question − what happened to a disappeared species? or how did the universe come into existence? To be a scientist isn’t to be a philosopher or a priest although the passion for the work can sometimes lead others to this conclusion.

How do we know what are problems and what needs to be investigated?

On the surface this might seem self-explanatory but to go deeper requires a very long voyage back through time with many lines of inquiry originating in and around ancient Greece. At about 2500 years ago, there was an enlightenment in thinking – new minds were waking to the possibility of looking at the world with fresh eyes. And so began observation, thought, debate and argument about the physicality of the universe – many of which could not be called science by any modern standard but nevertheless are crucial to our story.

Athens and its enlightenment was sacked by Sparta and eventually, Greece was supplanted by Rome as the dominant civilizing force. When Rome and its militaristic society fell (to this day, there is debate about this), the ‘western’ world was plunged into a dark age. During this period little was progressed, the occasional renaissance captured the spirit of this ancient greek thought and so small pockets of revolutionary change brought with them quantum leaps in our understanding about the world.

This eventually leads us to the Enlightenment – this time, new thinkers in the United States along with Europe and Scotland wanted to separate church and state and reclaim a sense of enquiry for knowledge previously proven unprogressive by the dominant religions.

“With the anchor of experiment, science was finally able to make rapid progress, and with that came technological advancement and prosperity.”

‘Why does E = mc2?’ by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

In the 300 years since this Enlightenment, every aspect of human civilization has drastically changed and with it, living standards, mortality rates and a general level of respect for life. We are living longer, healthier lives, we have profound understanding of germs, diseases and even genetic inheritance – the likes of which even a hundred years ago was not clearly understood. We understand the structure of the universe and how it began, we can use our understanding of space and motion and quantum structures to build planes and mobile phones and nuclear-powered medical scanners.

A good way of looking at what a ‘problem’ is and how it is eventually solved through generations of work is to look at the cosmos.

The Astronomer’s Story

In ancient days, the heavens was often thought to be a glass shell that rotated around the Earth and contained the fixed stars. Other shells rotates at different rates and contained the planets or ‘wondering stars’.

“There are many things about the world that appear at first sight to be self-evidently true, and one of them is that we are standing still. Future observations can always surprise us, and they often do. Perhaps we should not be too surprised that nature sometimes appears counterintuitive to a tribe of observant, carbon-based ape descendants, roaming around on the surface of a rocky world orbiting an unremarkable middle-aged star at the outer edge of the Milky Way galaxy. The theories of space and time we discuss in this book may well – in fact probably well – turn out to be approximations to an as yet undiscovered deeper theory. Science is a discipline that celebrates uncertainty and recognizing this is the key to success.”

‘Why does E = mc2?’ by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

This structure was held to be true for hundreds of years with refinements being made as better observations lead from orbital cycles becoming ‘epicycles’. Eventually, Copernicus and then Gallileo revolutionised this concept of an Earth-centered cosmos with the theory of a heliocentric universe (with the sun at the centre). The concept that Earth was in the centre of everything seems odd to us now but back then, it was the best explanation. This is the strong anthropic principal and we have steadily come to realise that this way of looking at ourselves in this universe is a misguided yet very human belief system.

In fact, by using and perfecting the telescope, Gallileo is often regarded as the father of – if not modern science – then certainly modern astronomy. He did far more than just make observations or think about solutions to problems like the ancient Athenians would have and this is why he is thought to be the creator of the ‘scientific method’. I will explain this in greater detail later.

As telescopes (new to but not invented by Gallileo), became ever-more powerful as a better understanding of materials and better designs helped see more and in greater detail, scientists began to realise that not only is the Earth not at the centre of the cosmos, but our little solar system is at the edge of a galaxy of stars, itself part of a massive universe filled with billions of other galaxies.

In the early 20th century, the biggest question revolved around whether the ‘universe’ had always been like this (in a Steady State theory) or whether it began in what later became known as the ‘Big Bang’. In order to resolve this problem, scientists began using the new science of radio telescopes to observe the depths of the heavens. And in doing this, Penzias and Wilson picked up hisses of background noise. They cleaned the pigeon droppings from their huge horn-shaped collector and tried again, the results returned. They even tried transporting the pigeons far away. It was later realised that the ‘noise’ they were picking up was part of the ‘microwave background radiation’ that fills all the universe.

We now know (and it’s map has been refined once again by WMAP), that this is the cooled remnant of the Big Bang – an echo or a fingerprint of light from not long after the beginning of the universe, now expanded and stretched to the long wavelength.

So you see that scientists and science does not often work in a direct fashion. Just this very brief history of observations on the universe have lead to a gradual understanding of how things work, why they are the way they are and how we know what we do.

And every new discovery is backed up not only by itself, its research and peer review but also by its intricate connections to thousands of other scientists, projects and theories. Every scientist is in effect ‘standing on the shoulder’s of giants’ to reach new goals.

Very often, scientific genius is like any other – often scientists will come upon some fantastic idea and then work backwards to see if the theory matches reality (through experiment). So science works in both directions – in a methodic, systematic direction and by way of creative inspiration.

Some scientists work on massive problems that have clear goals. But many work on those odd little problems like cleaning the bird poop from an instrument to try and record a cleaner image. Or in Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s case, continuing to investigate a ‘wow’ signal spike long after others had chosen to ignore it in order to make the discovery of the pulsar.

The point is that science at whatever scale is important and that you can never really map out the importance of one piece of work as opposed to another. A scientist working on a strange mutation within a particular gene of a family of snails could end up resolving a major defect within the human genome.

And this is where we get to the core of the scientist: a person who wants to understand – through methodic processing and exploration, evidence collecting, comparison, minimizing bias, controls, creative thinking and deductive logic. A scientist is someone who works at a problem for the betterment of the project or the family of projects or the mission or for the human race as a whole. For the betterment of understanding which helps us all learn, grow and develop.

The best question that sums up a scientists is this; “What is going on here?”

“Achieving a simpler and more satisfying view of many diverse and at first sight unrelated phenomena through the introduction of a new unifying concept is a common occurrence in physics. Indeed it could be seen as the reason for the success of science as a whole.”

‘Why does E = mc2?’ by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

This 30 minute video lecture from NECSS by Sharon Hill called ‘Sounds Sciencey’ displays a good debate on the difference between real and ‘fake’ science and is a good example of how science is misinterpreted and misunderstood.

“… Modern science is not found in text books, its not the work of the lone genius who yells ‘eureka!’, its not laser beams, its not proton packs, its a really useful process, its an interactive community, its an ever changing body of knowledge, and its a great set of guidelines that will help you understand [the world].”

Sharon Hill (NECSS Conference)

This article will be conclude in Part II where I will take a look at The Mad Scientist, The Scientific Method, and Our Survival. Coming to The Quantum Lounge in a few days.

The Writer and the Coffeehouse

hot chocolate, the coffeehouse, coffee shop, coffee, latte, cappuccino, story of the coffeehouse, history of coffeehouse, writing in the coffeehouse
For the love of coffee

After a few month’s acquaintance with European ‘coffee’ one’s mind weakens, and his faith with it, and
he begins to wonder if the rich beverage of home, with it’s clotted layer of yellow cream on top of it, is not a mere dream after all, and a thing which never existed

- Mark Twain

And here I am, in a coffeehouse again… writing. What is it that draws a writer to a coffeehouse? I certainly find that I can write more, write more clearly and more cogently in a coffeehouse. But why? And I’m not alone, the establishments seem to be meccas for writers with their shiny plastic or silvery aluminium notebooks propped on tables or laps, tapping away or surfing through their portal on the world.

Legends abound about the introduction of the coffeehouse to various countries and cultures. Institutions began to appear in the sixteenth century in Constantinople, now known as Istanbul. These soon became centres of political and philosophical activity and debate. Coffeehouses became an integral part of Islamic culture, yet the coffeehouses that sprung up in Mecca soon became a concern for Imams who closed them down, fearing them to be a seat for political and secular dissent. Yet unabated, a coffeehouse opened in Damascus in 1530 and soon after another opened in Cairo. The idea had already fixed into city-based societies: Coffeehouses are centres on social interaction. They provide a place for members to congregate, to talk, to write, to read or simply to pass the time without the need for the constrains of other establishments. They are simple, informal places that can be used for a business meeting as much as a place to rest weary feet.

For hundreds of years, the coffeehouse has been a regular melting pot for workers wanting to chat about life, philosophers or artists needing to express themselves, for debate on politics and as social meeting centres. They have always been a hive of social activity – perhaps they are safe havens. They do not contain the harder drinks and hardier souls found in pubs. Do not have loud music or distracting screens. They do not contain the various aromas and etiquette demanded by the food establishments. The coffeehouses with their small tables have room for a drink and a book or a laptop, not cutlery and plats of food. They can seat a group of a dozen or simply a single solitary soul. They also contain comfy chairs and a relaxed environment conducive for work or chat.

Throughout its history, the coffeehouse has been used as a seat of intellectual debate while governing bodies have looked upon them with distain or as hothouses of unsavoury activity. Wherever it spread, coffee and its related house was met with interest and controversy. In the 17th century, the Pope gave his blessing to coffee brining the coffeehouse from Turkey into Europe’s Catholic countries. The first European coffeehouse opened in 1652 in England by an English merchant who traded in Turkish goods, and two years later, Oxford’s Queen Lane Coffee House opened and is still there today. For Europeans, adding cream and sweeteners to the rich black liquid became the fashion.

the coffeehouse, coffee shop, coffee, latte, cappuccino, story of the coffeehouse, history of coffeehouse, writing in the coffeehouse
Coffee Brands by Louisa Appleton

Perhaps its the ready-source of caffeine – the drug that fuels the writer. Perhaps it’s the quiet muttering from other patrons that acts like a auditory blanket, helping the writer to concentrate. Little bubbles of activity like self-contained planetary systems. Perhaps there are just enough distractions to help refocus the mind without detracting too much from the narrative. Perhaps the constant shift of people within or outside the windows helps re-focus the eye onto objects away from the screen leading to less eye-strain. Perhaps there are just fewer distractions in a coffeehouse – the washing, the vacuuming, the dishes, the telly, the internet, the computer to fix, the bed… Too many other things to be done. Too many other things that can be done. Too many other things that just get in the way.

In 17th century England, the coffeehouse became hugely popular with shops flourishing, supplanting the tavern as a central social meeting place for communities. It was in the English coffeehouses that the ‘tip’ jar was first used to help patrons receive a speedy service. Yet the long hours spent in them by men created resentment in women who were not permitted to sit or drink in them. King Charles II found the coffeehouse to be “seminaries for sedition” and used the ‘Women’s Petition Against Coffee’ to issue a proclamation to shut them down. But threats of rebellion forced the King to rescind his order. Coffeehouses became known as “Penny Universities’ because, for the penny price of a coffee, anyone could sit and listen to intellectuals talk. Lloyds of London began life in a small coffeehouse run by Edward Lloyd in 1668 as an important business hub.

A very different condition existed for women in Germany as the industrial revolution brought farmers into the towns, freeing their wives from the backbreaking routine of agricultural life. With more free time, they huddled in coffeehouses to discuss scandals, local gossip and the relative merits of the latest German opera. Like in many other countries, these establishments became important symbols for liberation and the freedom to think and express openly.

The coffeehouse is also great window for the artist to sit and observe. Words and stories and conversations filter through the muted babble, wafting toward the writer’s ears along with the aromatic smell of coffee. Fashions and haircuts and tattoos drop into his eyes. Words and names and people can be captured and imprinted like plucking apples from a tree. Some of the snapshots can stick to the page, others mutate and evolve over time, merging ideas to form something novel. Life is presented for the author like a stage without the need for a performance.

Throughout the length and breadth of Europe, coffeehouses became dynamic places for democratic political discussion. After the Enlightenment, coffeehouses became increasingly popular for scientists and philosophers. In Paris, the Cafe Procope opened in 1689 and served such philosophers as Rousseau and Voltair along with young Napoleon Bonaparte. In France, the cafés also served alcoholic drinks along with small snacks. In parts of the Netherlands where the sale of cannabis was decriminalised, many cannabis shops called themselves coffeeshops.

A little girl toddles around, returning to a display of plastic bags filled with muffins, her mother periodically rushes over to grab her unruly child. A couple of sharply suited businessmen relax for a moment while preparing for an important meeting, laptop and folder open. A group of mothers nestle on the comfy leather sofas and natter about the shortcomings of their husbands. Two teenage girls hide away at the back and giggle while secretly eyeing the young man brewing a caramel latte. The little girl finally manages to grab a muffin and, holding it like a treasured teddy, disappears into the depths of the coffeehouse, her mother chasing after her.

Until the Boston Tea Party, in 1773, tea was the drink of choice for most American colonies who originated from Western Europe. King George’s tea tax established by the British government and the East India Company caused a rebellious uproar in Boston and a campaign began called ‘the destruction of the tea’. The boycott of tea established coffee as the new democratic drink for free, independent Americans. Matching the coffeehouses in England and mirroring those in London, the ones in America became hotspots for the business community. So much business was conducted in the Tontine Coffee House in New York that it became the base of the New York Stock Exchange.

Perhaps the mind just needs this kind of stimulation. There are certainly writers who need absolute silence. Some even demand to lock themselves away in a caravan or a cottage by the sea or in the depths of a forest, so that they can be utterly divorced from stimuli. But there will always be the coffeehouse writer, the writer who thrives on the colours and smells and the constant stream of caffeine stimulation. Writers relish the establishment where ideas can also be bounced around in a calm social environment.

In the Middle East – now as it has been for centuries – the coffeehouse serves as an important social gathering place for men who frequent them to drink, listen to music, read, pay chess and backgammon and watch TV. In Egypt during the early 20th century, coffeehouses became crucial venues for political and social debates. The 20th century American coffeehouse revival started in the 50’s with the post World War 2 beat generation. In more liberal corners of 60’s and 70’s New York, San Francisco and Seattle, the coffeehouse provided a backdrop for the revival of arts, debate and in particular, the protest music that spurred the civil rights, anti-war and women’s rights movements. In the 90’s, coffeehouses in America were usually centred on or close to college campuses or to districts associated with writers, artists or the counterculture.

MacBook Pro and coffee
the coffeehouse, coffee shop, coffee, latte, cappuccino, story of the coffeehouse, history of coffeehouse, writing in the coffeehouse

In the modern world of instant communication and a global pool of social networks, the coffeehouse becomes more than a connection to local townspeople. It becomes a pleasurable experience to sit in a coffeehouse and write, blog and chat with others anywhere around the world… information can be researched, ideas can be quickly realised and work can be dragged kicking and screaming from the mind into words on the page. A new age of self-publication direct from the writer’s mind onto the bookshelf of the world can be achieved and the coffeehouse is at the forefront of free global communication.

And to one side there is always room in the modern coffeehouse to host the aspiring writer who is also a jobseeker, not writing his ever-expanding tome but hunched over the application for job, a job that pays real money.

© James FitzRoy 2012. Sketch © Louisa Appleton 2012

Lost Property

Lost-Property
Lost Property Photograph and Poster by James FitzRoy

My eyes flutter open.

I feel an immediate sensation of dread;

Something is terribly wrong.

I’m moving… What the hell is going on?

There is a bad taste in my mouth and a lack of saliva from dehydration.

Don’t panic. Deep breath.

I’m on a train. Where am I going?

The world is rushing past quickly. It’s an intercity. God, its fast!

I sit in a bubble hermetically sealed from the outside.

Why am I here? Why can’t I remember getting here?

Don’t panic. Where is that from and why does it mean something?

Nothing seems to make sense. Check my pockets.

Jacket; smart phone, power button’s not working – must be dead. Damn.

Okay, not a problem; must be a wallet here.

I feel so silly; is anyone looking at me? Carriage is almost empty.

A business man, ear stitched to his iPhone chatting to some colleague.

An elderly couple reading a book and doing a crossword at a table further up.

Across the table from me, a young woman dozing in the light from the waning sun. Is she with me?

Best not stare just incase.

The wallet has been stripped clean except for a £10 note and a ticket stub.

“Yate”. One way. Booked in advance. Where on Earth is that? Did I buy it? What’s waiting for me there?

The place and ticket doesn’t trigger anything.

The question that troubles me the most is: How did I get here?

I can feel my breath quickening.

Don’t panic. Relax back; take in some deep breaths.

I can feel my heat beginning to pump blood and adrenaline to my body.

I don’t like it; not knowing. I feel violated.

Is this some kind of day-after a crazy stag-do? Had I had a little too much to drink? Dumped on a train to… who knows where?

I try to think about who I might be marrying and no one come to mind.

My eyes flick to the woman opposite but I just can’t place her in my life.

I don’t remember. Why don’t I remember?

I can feel myself shifting from panic to anger.

I stare through the thick glass to study the landscape. Perhaps the journey or the countryside will trigger something.

I’m facing in the direction of travel and immediately wonder why that seems to matter.

The carriage is almost empty after all and I must have had free-will to sit anyway.

Yet I chose to sit here. I must have made that choice…. mustn’t I?

As I force myself to relax my mind begins to shunt into action like an ancient steam engine.

I am English; I recognised the currency; I recognise this as an English intercity train and the countryside – it looks English. That narrows it down.

The more I focus, the more I am able to identify. But I am left clattering down a track inexorably leading to more troubling questions.

I understand that the UK population is about 100 million. I understand that I have lived here a while but thats about it.

Why would I remember these details? Are the details in a general knowledge game more important than my life?

I try to double the effort to focus my mind.

Perhaps I am privy to some deeper insight. Some spiritual trick or Buddhist meditation. (Again, how do I know about these things?)

Have I been hit on the head?

I check myself for physical damage and once again feel immediately silly for doing so.

Good; no one is looking and I seem to be okay. At least on the outside.

For some reason my hand pulls out my shirt to check for any recent surgical scars on my torso.

None; at least my organs have not be harvested.

I’m in a rather shabby casual suite; perhaps I’m a businessman but I don’t think so.

My clothes remind me of a travel writer from the 20th Century; cotton suite and trilby.

I stop myself from constructing some fantasy.

So where am I going and where have I come from.

The train is in the country and is heading west. The hills are rolling and green. Its summer.

Again, nothing triggers anything.

My mind begins to churn through the fragments while I study the others in the carriage.

Perhaps this is some kind of test.

Perhaps someone else here is more than just another traveller.

The businessman finally finishes his call and begins using his phone to tap away some unknown messages.

His back is to me but I can recognise the technology; an iPhone 8 with holographic projection screen and smart body sense chips.

Fully wet wired but still insisting on using the old-school interface. That makes me smile but why?

Maybe I have some connection to technology… My own dead phone is a Samsung Galaxy S10 or 9… I can’t be sure.

I wish I could get into it.

Ah… does this carriage have a wireless charging pad. It does! Brilliant.

I slip the phone from my jacket pocket and place it on the table’s pad. It begins to charge almost immediately.

At the other end of the carriage, the door slides open with a quiet whoosh and a tall, dark curly-haired man walks down the central corridor.

I look away when our eyes connect and my back stiffens as he gets close. He passes without hesitation.

I notice the toilet ‘engage’ sign light up and I let out the breath I didn’t realised I was holding.

A thin film of sweat is forming on my brow and I brush it off with my hand.

This is infuriating and I feel scared as the deeper ramification of my dilemma begin to dawn.

At some point, I will arrive at Yate and disembark to any number of scenarios.

The phone. The answer has to be in here. I snatch it from the charging pad and in one swift move activate it.

It’s holographic screen flashes into vibrant life creating a little bubble of ghostly images that hover just above the screen.

The 3D background image is a hideous, over-saturated landscape and the image’s depiction of a sun just shines right through the icons making them difficult for my eyes to identify what apps the phone has.

Lost-Property-Sub

Can’t be my phone; I take an automatic dislike to the customization.

Air gestures and eye-linking seem to work fine as I skim though the available apps.

Nothing personal; just the factory defaults.

Damn it…. No; can’t get upset. Don’t panic.

What can the phone itself tell me?

Good signal; EE network; empty memory; no pictures in the Gallery; no email accounts linked. Wow, this really is giving me nothing.

No Twitter. No Facebook. No TekBase. Nothing that could link this device to an actual person.

Maybe I just bought it before getting on the train… it looks brand new.

I grit my teeth and flick across to the NavStation.

GPS informs me that I’m currently heading west from (possibly) London to the South West.

Okay, nothing earth-shattering there.

Traveling at 200 mph on the electrified west-coast line. I do a quick calculation.

From the current time I estimate that this train departed (possibly) Paddington or Waterloo.

I do a web search to take a look at the train timetable and eventually find that I’ll be arriving at Yate in a little over an hour.

Okay. Time to think and plan ahead.

I flick to the news feed from the BBC to see what’s happening in the world.

A crisis is brewing in Iran after a recent revolution. The PM’s dealing with a cabinet shuffle.

The biggest ongoing story was the manned mission to Mars with constant updates on the crew during their epic voyage to the red planet.

The story distracts me for a moment and I let it wash through me; calm me.

Like the knowledge of tech, I have a vague recollection of these issues and events.

But they provide a texture like the fabric of my jacket.

No substance. No depth. No personality.

So what have I learned? I have a wiped (or new) phone and cleaned-out wallet. All other personal artifacts have been removed by myself or someone else.

There’s no luggage in the overhead locker.

I appear to be alone but the jury is still out on the other passengers.

Either I’ve done this to myself or someone has done it to me. I didn’t like thinking about either possibility.

Perhaps there’s a third option, I try and convince myself: Perhaps I have a medical condition?

I ponder this for a moment while the world passes in a blur of green and brown.

Towns and villages become smudges of grey and red and beige; all meaningless places.

Can’t be true. Surly I would have some form of identification. Medical eTag. Something to let me (and others) know of my predicament.

None of this is making any sense no matter how I pitch it.

The carriage door behind slide open and the toilet-man ambles back through the isle.

Why did he use this toilet and not the one from his own carriage? Why is the train so empty?…

I stop myself from questioning everything.

I know I need to build up my courage to investigate the train.

Perhaps I’ll use the money to get a drink…

Just at that moment, the woman sitting opposite begins to stir and her sky-blue eyes flicker open.

Our eyes lock and in that instant, I knew something deeper was about to transpire.

-

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2 – Coming Soon

Who is this man and how did he get to be on the train? Where is he going and who is the mystery woman? All this and more will be revealed in the next part of Lost Property.

© James FitzRoy 2013

Defining a Blog

Defining-a-BlogWhat is a blog? What does a writer or blogger post? How frequently should a writer publish? And should articles contain other media?

Where I can see that a blog specifically designed for travel journals or photographic adventures can be seem almost like a personal ‘magazine’, I find it difficult to really pin down and define a blog.

There are ‘bloggers’ who will publish furiously with little updates and small pieces like a diary or journal. And there are others who will write bigger, meatier articles on reviews and inspirations. There are even those that publish entire landscapes of creative fiction and this I find very impressive.

But I find that, for The Quantum Lounge, I just don’t want to write those little pieces – instead wanting to stick to the big articles of deeper interest. And I suppose that’s fine, its a personal choice but it does mean that I publish less frequently. (Even though I really want to publish more often… as well as read the works of other).

But does this define a blog? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a good blog; is it frequency of published material? Is it broadness of media used to help extend or elevate the works? Is it community connections? Is it quality of content or is it defining an exact focus for the blog?

I think that perhaps it’s all of the above but having said that, I have read perfectly decent blogs that contain little of the above and there seems to be nothing wrong with that either.

My point here is that, to define a great blog, the articles should be short, concise and regular; more like a newspaper or magazine than a novel. An ‘reader’ has to know how often to come back and what to expect. Thats often hard if you have a lot to say on a particular subject in a big article, but from what I’ve read, successful bloggers find ways to break down these into more focused points to help keep their articles short.

My biggest point here is that, the one thing I am still struggling with is this ability to focus more tightly on a topic. I came into this game with these big ideas for essays and reviews that are perhaps too big and long for a good blogging experience (unless, of course, you have a lot of time to spend in The Lounge and there’s nothing wrong with that, you are more than welcome here).

In The Lounge, I have a continuing serial of mini-short stories (which is a challenge to write), thoughts on and some publications of creative shorts (dependent on work commitments). I also have film reviews, looks at science and technology along with some more random musings on something that catches my mind. Quite an eclectic mix which is why my GUIDE TO THE LOUNGE helps bring people in with a little easier.

Looking back, the one thing that I do enjoy and want to push for more frequently, are small creative musings on personal moments in life. I recently moved home and published a couple of pieces on the beginning of this process. I have in mind a short film to complete the transition. These may not connect with anyone else but it is a pleasure to look back and remember where I was physically or emotionally at that moment.

I’m not sure if I have truly defined a blog here – suffice it to say that it is a very personal experience and one that can only truly be defined by the creator of the blog. The biggest step beyond the originator of the material is perhaps a connection to the community; after all, the biggest part of publishing in this medium is to broadcast your ideas to others to hope that you might make connections.

Those connections might help define your talent, your stories or even your blog as it evolves with you and your readership. Let me know how you define a blog or your own blog; what does it mean to you and why? If I get any enough feedback, there maybe a continuing article in this.

Thanks for reading and good luck working with and defining your blog! Don’t be afraid to contact me if you have any requests; I am working on several video editing request projects at the moment.

Jamesfitzroy@gmail.com

 

PS – My move to a new home went well and I will be posting again with some journal entries and other creative works ;-)

The Lounge Reflections

The-Lounge-Refelctions-PosterThis is a reflective look at blogging and work published on The Lounge.

 

Its been almost a year since I started blogging and far too much has happened during that single orbit around the sun to really do justice here. I started the Lounge as a way to write reviews and miscellaneous ramblings (as well as some fiction, of course), and now feel a little more confident about the whole thing. I’ve worked many of my initial ideas out in a cathartic frenzy of furious typing – and sometimes (but not often) feverish inspiration, and I feel I have learned a lot about blogging along the way.

I wanted the Lounge to be a little more than a personal journal; I wanted it to be a growing library of materials on the strange, the scientific or technical or just plain creative, experimental writing and I think it’s steadily heading in that direction. The unfortunate reality is that I cannot post as regularly as I would like, consequently it takes a long time to fill those daunting shelves.

 

The Challenge

In the last entry of The Quantum Journal, I posted a challenge – I wanted to write a story to be published in August for the 1st Anniversary but as yet I have had little feedback :-(. Please do challenge me with character, situation or location and I will endeavor to write a little story. Leave a comment or email me directly, and don’t worry, I don’t bite (but I have been known to nibble).

 

Design Change

Now that I’ve worked with WordPress (and love it), I feel more confident about how it all works. I have found it a struggle to find exactly the right theme to suite my needs and – of course – those needs evolve. But for the first time, I’m looking at properly redesigning things from the ground up. I want a lighter, cleaner, white theme (something very difficult to get right – many things can be hidden in black and pictures can stand out and have more impact but I feel its time for a change. So if anyone out there has any ideas for a great, sleek and simple white-based theme, then please let me know.

As I am moving home, I feel it’s time to move on from the whole black look of my blog; I want to have something clean and bright to go with my new home and (eventually) new tech to fill my new studio.

 

Moving Home

During my seemingly-endless days of packing and cleaning for the big move, I found a moment to pause and to write a little creative piece on the state-of-mind. I’m actually moving into a bigger house with more space so that we can set up a proper home studio. Space to work on some bigger, more ambitious projects. I’m hoping to get settled down quickly so I can continue to write and finish some of those near-completion pieces like My Irregular Friend: Episode 3, Fantastic Voyage, Shooting Video on an SLR, The Modern Score and far too many others.

Thank you for visiting and I shall be back soon. Peace.