Thursday 28 January 2010

Science, Or Why I Don't Just Do Art

It's not something that I talk about all that often, but I am actually a great lover of science. My dad is an engineer, so I've had an awareness of the rational forces that hold the fabric of the universe together since I was little (he once helped me make a warren truss bridge out of drinking straws and push pins). I always thoroughly enjoyed biology, chemistry and physics at school, although I confess that anatomy held my attention the longest. I'm continually fascinated by how things work, and I suppose anatomy is similar to mechanics, in a way - it's simply mechanics on an organic level.

Anyway. I'm already starting to digress. Now, as well as loving science, I'm also heavily interested in the arts, and humanities. You can look at me as being split down the middle, if you like, a bit like Spock. Science, logic, rationality and reason on one side, and creativity, art, language and music on the other. So when BBC Four decided to run a programme on the history of chemistry, I was thrilled. You just don't see "history" and "chemistry" in the same sentence often enough. Episode two is on today (you can catch Chemistry: A Volatile History on BBC iPlayer) although I finally got around to watching the first episode with my dinner.

I was hooked! I learned how to get phosphorous from urine, how to make an electrical current using salt water, copper and zinc, and how thermometers work. It's all truly fascinating stuff, and I think that science, in a way, actually helps me to be more creative. Some might believe that in drawing back the curtains and showing what the world is made of, and how the universe works, scientists are destroying the magic and wonder of life. I disagree. In showing me how all of these random elements interact in a particular way, I'm even more in awe that the whole system works at all.

Air is made up of 21% oxygen. Only a few percent less and we couldn't breathe. But how does it stay at the right percentage?! It's questions like this that don't make me go, "Oh, there's no magic in the world, it's all science..." It's things like this that make me go, "Science makes it work...but HOW?!"

The world is wonderful, people.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Still Running (Flash Fiction)

Apologies for the lapse in blogging, dear friends - real life had that annoying habit of getting in the way. Weddings, interviews - that sort of thing. Anyway. I've just been looking back through my notebook and discovered I actually have some reasonably decent work squirrelled away in there, so I must prompt myself to work on the stories. It's really not good practice to leave them 'festering' like that.

In lieu of anything else, I thought I'd post an old flash fiction of mine, slightly edited. I give you...

Still Running
"Yeah, we never thought the old girl would make it, but she has. War means nothing to her!" Caleb patted the generator. A kind smile creased his face.

Rising out of the concrete floor, the machine was a tumble of pistons, steam pumps and glass valves. Rust marked its metal skin like smallpox scars. It hummed quietly, an archaic melody out of place among the pragmatic Resistance.

"How much juice can she handle?" Philip stepped back to see the antique control panel. Needles flickered across coloured bars behind grimy panels. Buttons and levers, smeared with oil, covered the switchboard.

"Enough to power the Resistance. That's all we'll ever need." Caleb grinned.

"I guess she’s the founder member then. Eighty years old and still running."