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On the Sunday we decided to visit the Musée des arts et métiers, which is another museum situated in a redundant church, and which is one of the world's oldest science museum.

It has lots of fun stuff, including 18th Century clocks trying to tell decimal time (I knew that the French revolutionary government renamed the months of the year, but had not realised they also introduced decimal time. It didn't catch on.)

Clement Ader's 'Avion 3' - 1890

There are also lots of weights and measures, many of them very beautifully decorated, and lots of bits and pieces from Lavoisier's laboratory.

I enjoyed the architectural scale models of bridges and windmills, and the baby steam engines.

There are also more modern exhibits - early televisions and computers, not to mention M. Lumiere's film.

My favourite part of the museum came at the end of the museum, however, where there are some early flying machines and vehicles.

There was Clement Ader's 'Avion 3', which looks like an inspiration for Batman, and is displayed very strikingly above a staircase. It didn't quite achieve flight, but it does look impressive.

Then in the body of the church itself, there are further planes, and Foucoult's pendulum, hanging from the centre of the Apse.

There's a walkway which allows you to climb up to see the planes 'face to face', as it where, and also to view various vintage vehicles.

I am not certain it would have occurred to me to display vintage aircraft in a deconsecrated church but it works beautifully!

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Saturday was mostly spent running errands - my car now has nice new brake discs and pads, and as had something underneath tightened slightly so there is no longer a tiny oil leak, I've bought the last few christmas gifts and have posted most of the ones which need posting (one more to go!) and bought various bits and pieces of food (I am hosting christmas this year, for the first time!)

While the car was being worked on, I went over to Wells, which was looking very pretty in the winter sunshine. We had a heavy frost overnight, which was only melting as the sun got round. (the picture is of the Bishop's Palace)
It was rather chilly, but lovely to look at!

I also did the kinds of things one has to do at weekends, laundry and cleaning and the like.
In the evening, I headed back out in order to go to the cinema, to see The Imitation Game.

I first learned about Alan Turing when I went to see Derek Jacobi in a play called Breaking the Code, in Bath, in around 1987 (the play, still starring Jacobi as Turing, was made into a TV production by the BBC in around 1996).  More recently, I've had the chance to visit Bletchley Park, and 2 years ago visited the Turing exhibition at the Science Museum in London

He was an extraordinary man, and his achievements, both during the war and in relation to the development of computers, cannot be overstated.

The film is interesting, although (perhaps inevitably) takes a fair number of liberties with the facts - everything from Turning's age when his friend Christopher died, to the sub-plot about Soviet spies, to the suggestion that Turing himself would break his silence to tell a police detective about his war-time activities!

The there is also implication that Turing has Aspergers Syndrome, given scenes when, as a schoolboy, he is upset by carrots and peas touching one another, and another scene, later, when he appears not to understand that he is being invited to join his colleagues for lunch. I did find this slightly irritating - it seemed to be there in order for Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) to then teach him how to interact with other people.

However, despite these liberties, the film is still extremely good - Cumberbatch's Turing comes across as ferociously intelligent,  emotionally vulnerable, and very, very logical.

Mark Strong, as Stewart Menzies, (MI6) was delightfully smooth and Machiavellian, and Charles Dance, who played Commander Denniston was excellent as an old-school Navy type (which I suspect may be another variation on the truth. But which makes for a good drama!)

I think I shall be buying this when it comes out on DVD.

It was a very clear, cold evening, and after getting home I went out to see whether I could spot any of the Geminid Meteor shower, which was due to be at its peak. I went out a little after 10 pm, and despite only being in my back garden (with  a street light in front of my house, and other in the road behind) I nevertheless was able to see masses of stars, and saw 5 or 6 meteors in the 10 minutes or so I was out. Which was nice.

I did peer out when I woke up around 1 a.m., as I believe that peak density was due to be visible around 2, but it have become quite cloudy and overcast by that point, and I could only see a very few stars, so I decided against getting out of bed and going back outside for star-gazing!
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If Sunday was all about history, on Monday I was expecting to be entertained, more than informed. I had a ticket to see Sandi Toksvig. I love her dry humour, and thoroughly enjoy her as host of ' Radio 4's News Quiz. I also missed seeing her when she was due to appear in Bath a couple of years ago, as she was ill and had to cancel, so was particularly pleased to see she was going to be at the Lit. Fest. this year.

Sandi is possibly Denmark's best known import to this country, (after bacon) - I am most familiar with her radio work, but she's also a regular columnist and has written a number of books. She admitted, when asked, that her upcoming book, Valentine Grey, has communalities with her other books "I used a lot of the same words. But in a different order". It's a novel set during the 2nd Boer War (1899). The eponymous heroine disguises herself as a man and joins a bicycle regiment and goes to war. Toksvig explained that she got the original idea to set a book in a bicycle regiment in the Boer War after seeing a memorial in (I think) Canterbury Cathedral. It fired her imagination, she wrote the novel, and then went back and found that the memorial which started the whole thing was, in fact, in remembrance of members of a bicycle regiment in a different war, and a diferent country....

She read a short extract from the book, about the first occasion Valentine tries on male clothes, and talked a little about the way clothes change the world - Pockets! Trousers!

the conversation wasn't limited to the book (which isn't out yet) but also encompassed comedy (and the terrible scandal of the 'cuts' joke she made on R4 last year.."It's the Tories who have put the "n" into cuts" which led on to talking about politics and politicians more generally, to Sandi’s childhood and her family.

When we got to the Q&A section she was asked about the Great Marmite Scandal (last year there were a lot of news headlines about marmite being banned in Denmark) Sandi explained that the Danes are not interested in Marmite because they have real food, like herring…

More than any of the other events I’ve attended this one felt like a conversation we were lucky enough to have joined, rather than a scripted ‘talk’.

After the event, I got Sandi to sign my copy of ‘Hitler’s Canary’, and she definitely wins the ‘friendliest author of the festival’ prize, too!

Two days later I was back at the Guildhall to listen to physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili, talking about the “Golden Age of Arabic Science”.

He started by explaining that the “Dark Ages” between the fall of the Roman Empire and the start of the Renaissance, were really only ‘Dark’ in western Europe, and that during this time, and in particular during the period from the 8th to 10th Centuries, Arabic was the language of Science, and Baghdad was the centre of the scientific world. Harun al-Rashid, the Caliph, was tolerant and encouraged scholars within his empire.

This wasn’t a solely Islamic phenomenon; although Islam did feed into a great deal of the science; for instance, the need to be able to accurately locate Mecca was one of the motives for work on astronomy, cartography and geometry, but the Caliphate welcomed scholars from other countries and religions, and extensive work was done to translate earlier scientific writings such as those of Aristotle, Euclid and Galen.

I think it’s fairly well known that the word algebra comes from the Arabic. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi wrote a book ; Kitab al-jebra, which set out the principals of solving algebraic equations, and which ultimately became Latinised to ‘algebra’, but what we learned was that the word ‘algorithm’ comes from the latinisation of al – Khwarizmi’s name – he was known as Algorithmus!

There was also Ibn Sina (980-1037) whose name was Latinised as Avicenna, and whose ‘Canon of Medicine’ and ‘Book of Healing’ became the standard medical texts for the next 700 years, and, like other Arabic texts, spread into the west as Arabic texts were translated into Latin.

Al-Khalili is clearly enthusiastic about the subject, and his interest comes over very clearly, and he managed to make what could be a dry subject accessible and interesting even to a non-physicist such as myself.
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=I suppose the good thing about starting your day by almost falling under a train, is that things will almost certainly get better.

In my case, they did.

I was able to check in early at my hotel, which gave me the chance to shower, change and count my blessings, then it was off to the Royal Festival Hall for the first show, which was a matinee and billed as a family show.

I remember coming to the Festival Hall regularly when I was a child, for the Robert Mayer Children's Concerts (short concerts designed to introduce children to classical music) - I belive that you were not allowed to attend unless you were accompanied by a child, and as this was in the late 70's when Red Ken was running the GLC they were probably heavily subsidised, too.

The Hall hasn't changed much and it felt strange not to be going to "our" seats up in the balcony, but as my seat for this show was in the second row of the stalls, I had no regrets!

The show is part of, or at least timed to coincide with, The Royal Society's Summer Festival of Science" and there were life-sized Pterasaurs outside, and all kind of experimenty stuff inside, the absolutely best of which was Festo's amazing Air Penguins one of which was flying in the foyer bafore the show, and one in the auditorium before and during the show!

There were lots of kids, some very young, and this was great as they were really enthusistic about the show.

By the end, there were lots of kids dancing and playing with confetti, although I noticed just as much adult as child enthusiasm for the audience participation and singing along parts of the show!

Most of the set was songs from the 'Here Comes Science' album, although there were others. I particulalrly enjoyed hearing 'Why Does The Sun Shine' sung in Pirate-Speak. (Who knew the Plank, Eye Patches, and Hook-for-a-hand were such important parts of the Sun's make up?

I had a fantastic time!

At the end of the show, not only did the amazing Air Penguin return, but so did its friend, the AirJelly.

The show ended at around 3.30, and I was then faced with the decision as to what to do fort he 4 1/2 hours until the evening gig (listed as a 'Rock Show', rather than a Family one) was due to start.

Originally I had planned to take in a museum or gallery but as I was still feeling rather battered I didn't feel up to a lot of walking around, so instead I spent a little time outside, admiring the Pterasaurs and the giant purple cow, and some more time inside, admiring the Science stuff. There was a fun microscope-y thing which you could put under your tongue, and see the little blood cells charging along your veins (Not mine personally - I decided it wouldn't be appropriate to push little kids out of the way to have a go), and a vacuum cleaner that could climb walls, and all manner of other things.

I also found time to eat, drink, and read. After all, one must the priorities right, mustn't one

Then at 8 I was back in the Hall - having paused only for a champagne cocktail on the terrace overlooking the Thames - this time, my seat was in the front row of the rear stalls - so about half-way up the auditorium but with a good view. Only slightly marred by the group of about 5 people sitting in the row behind who talked loudly throughout the support act's set. Very rude!

Again, the hall was almost completely full and the show was great - opening act was a guy named Mike Doughty (on Twitter as @MikeDoughtyYeah) - I hadn't heard of him before, but enjoyed his set.)

Then TMBG again. Cue more chat (this time with added swearyness)

I was further back this time, so didn't get as many pics, but Phil Jupitus was near the front and took this video of 'Why Does the Sun Shine' - this time with added James Mason...

It didn't take long before the audience were out of their seats, and dancing. I wasn't dancing, on account of my legs having stiffend up, but I did attempt to at least limp rhythmically on the spot!

Despite 2 encores, the gig was over all to soon.

I just hope that TMBG come back to the UK soon - I'd love to see them again.

(Originally posted at comment here or there)


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