3rd July 2006 – Relativity for Dummies

Professor Jeff Forshaw from Manchester University introduced us to the basics of Relativity, the observations of light on which it is based and then some of the incredibly accurate but weird stuff that it forecasts – Big Bangs, curved space-time, black holes, singularities, wormholes, time travel – each with its own inherent contradictions.

This theory has been proven now to an accuracy of 1 in 10 to the power 14 and enables us to rendezvous precisely millions of miles away in space with comets and asteroids. Without Relativity we could not tell accurate time even on satellites which are very close. With it, astronauts age slower than the rest of us – yes really! – and two separate events can occur simultaneously, or not, depending on how fast you are moving. A fascinating evening.

Also at this July session of the SciBAr, Andrew Rudd – Poet Laureate of Cheshire read his poem reproduced below. There were also two other poems written/read by SciBarians Graham Barlow and myself (Dave Thompson).


All About Memory
By Andrew Rudd Cheshire Poet laureate




A lost memory
is ringing, ringing, somewhere
behind the bar. Will someone answer it

What were you doing?
What was the weather like?
What were you thinking about on that day?

A candle was burning, your wine
lay red in the glass. Pigeons were
bobbing into the gap, under the eaves
of the opposite windows. A pint
clunked on the table. I remember
how good you were at digits.

How does it all link together
the space, and the smell, and the word?
A herdsman’s skill, a kitten blind
in the blinding dark.

Do you know that you don’t know?
Can your brain be hard-wired to remember?
Can you be trained to forget? I knocked
on a door, a door that wouldn’t open.

How does it all link together
the space, and the smell, and the word?
A herdsman’s skill, a kitten blind
in the blinding dark.

Her research is in memory
for faces. She scans the crowd.
She takes a sip, nods, looks intently
at the questioner, hands crossed in her lap.
Actually knowing that you’ve seen
a face before. It’s stored
as a configuration, something resilient
that doesn’t change with age.

How does it all link together
the space, and the smell, and the word?
A herdsman’s skill, a kitten blind
in the blinding dark.

Andrew Rudd’s comments on his visits to the Knutsford SciBAr Poetry and Science session:

A fascinating session at SciBAr last night. On a sweltering July night, about fifty people crammed into a back room of a bar in Knutsford to hear an account of relativity – a talk followed by a question time which was challenging and wide-ranging. Professor Jeff Forshaw (from Manchester University and CERN) gave a jaw-dropping account of the implications of Einstein’s theories in plain English.
It’s really exciting that so many people care enough about ideas to form groups like this. More info about SciBAr: ( http://www.knutsfordscibar.org ). In Macclesfield they have started a ‘Literary and Philosophical Society’ which will have meetings in the Library in the Autumn. This will have a similar agenda of encouraging discussion of ideas, although its brief will be much wider than SciBAr. I hope to present a talk for them on Science and Poetry.
I was at SciBAr to bring a poem I’d written after an earlier session on ‘All about Memory’ – so this was a fairly rare conjunction between poetry and science. Here are a few first thoughts on the issue – and the poem:
Poetry and Science are two ways of looking at the world. Like science, poetry investigates experience, presents the data.
A poem is not just the observation, the results of the experiment – a poem is itself a repeatable experiment in the field of language. When you read a poem – if it works – the experience of the writer happens all over again. There’s ‘a shock of recognition’ I get it!
Science strives for accuracy. A poem makes room for, even encourages, ambiguity. The poet is trying to hit a moving target, directing the flow of a river which is always bursting its banks. Poetry has a sense that experience is bigger than the words we try to shoehorn it into, but that, if we get the words right, then that experience can be communicated.
The poet may be closely observing a particular experience, but the poem takes the data out of context. In the poem it can ‘fit’ all kinds of other experiences. The experience may be local, particular – the poem can be universal.
Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ is not, first of all, about daffodils: it’s about the recovery of sensory data.

Andrews’ Blog

dave-thompsonKnutsford SciBar – What’s it all about?

By Dave Thompson – Founder of Knutsford SciBAr




A glimmer of light meets an open mind
A path dimly lit for the assembled purblind
Facts and guesses of different kinds
A glimpse of a world with a godless design
Seen clearer, perhaps, through a glass of wine
Quarks neutrinos and leptons we hurl
Smash them together to make them unfurl
A Cosmos, perhaps, many .. in particular swirls
The x’s and y’s of boys and of girls
The way our brains work and The way of the world
Something may strike us — And cure we myopes
Veils of distance and size cast aside as we grope
For the answer to everything…within our mind’s scope
Our hands held by “profs “ moving forward with hope
Micron by micron up infinity’s slope
We’re the SciBArians .. in Science’s thrall
We’ve seen the Booth’s adverts and answered the call
We want to learn more, and though we’ll never know it all
We’re getting there, slowly, no more than a crawl
But “ Why, tell me why, is there anything at all ?”


grahamb_medTwo pints of bitter & a packet of Quarks

by Graham Barlow – SciBar member



Time, once, when Science was monotony
I’m sure the teacher had it in for me
Hours in the Lab, dull experiments galore
But I love learning now, it’s an open door

But a door to a bar? Is there knowledge there.. beyond idle natter
What’s that I hear,… articles, particles,… antimatter
Two pints of bitter and a packet of quarks
But be sure to hand in your feedback remarks

Every Science known to man is par
From galaxies to genomes at Knutsford SciBAr
Confused, concerned or just amused we attend
Some light in dark corners, perhaps, by the end

Ice breaker first, Ice Age next
Listen to the guest with their view of the text
Replenish your glass then its over to us
Questions and answers, all things to discuss

Earth’s orbit wobbles and leaves answers in cobbles
Search self for soul and all of its troubles
Time passes differently.. It’s all relative we’re told
Immortality looms soon… No need to grow old

Time to go the chairman declares.. but where?
Follow the string ..Another answer there
From Jupiter’s moons to comet’s tails
I just can’t wait for next months travails.

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