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Friday, 06 July 2007


Dark Puss has many, many wonderful skills (!) but knitting is not one of them. You know that cats just chase balls of wool around the floor! Cornflower also knows how highly her feline friend regards all of her abilities, so I am with "Lindsay" on this one.

Nonsense, Cornflower! You know that's not true - and anyway, I can't knit, and my Mum always said that the heel of a sock was one of the hardest things to knit. So Dark Puss and I are the inadeqate ones in this (unless he can knit, of course!)

The thing about both Dark Puss and Lindsay Bagshaw is that they are cleverer than the rest of us mere mortals (who can but cook a bit and knit an occasional sock).

Dark Puss gets my prize for one of the best (and longest?) posts I have received on this site. I will make a note to read Conway Morris - thanks for the recommendation. And I so agree with the idea that a cultured person should be well read across both sides of Snow's two cultures. But a planned post on a Gould essay looks a bit riskier with such a critic out there!

As a physicist I certainly have to agree with Feynman as a popular choice, and I'd add Murray Gell-Mann's "Quark and the Jaguar" to your list especially for his less reductionist view of science (compared to Feynman and Weinberg). A book that perhaps doesn't easily fit into any of your categories, but which gave me a great deal of pleasure is Oliver Sacks' "Uncle Tungsten" which surely should be commended to all who think there is no fun or passion in scientific discovery.

Its hard to beat the late Stephen Jay Gould's essays for sheer fun, audacity and the most wonderful titles. It is also well worth reading Conway Morris's criticisms of Gould and Dawkins, especially his book "The Crucible of Creation"

There is so much good science writing out there that rarely seems to penetrate the minds of otherwise intelligent and literate people. Imagine if I said I had never heard of, let alone read read, Shakespear or Burns or Tolstoy or the Brontes or ... I'd be thought a really superficial character, but somehow the reverse is considered entirely acceptable.

Dark Puss will now decend gracefully from his soapbox.

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  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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