|Boffoonery for Bletchley Park
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
I have now seen Simon Singh speak twice in the space of two weeks. I didn't know he was going to be at last night's charity comedic nerditry event "Boffoonery", in aid of Bletchley Park, at the Bloomsbury Theatre beforehand, though. So I think that means I am definitely not a Loony Fangirl. Nope.
For those of you who don't know, Simon Singh is a particle physicist turned popular science writer who has written such fascinating epistles (no, I'm not being sarcastic) as Fermat's Last Theorem and The Code Book. He is also a dynamic and incredibly articulate speaker. Last Monday, the deliciously cerebral mathmo happydork and I met upstairs at the Blue Posts pub in Piccadilly to hear him discuss his latest book Trick or Treatment, which is about alternative medicine, with the Science London book club. Much to our surprise, we found we were part of an audience of only 40-odd people, and thus nearly everyone who wanted to do so got to ask a question and engage him in dialogue.
Of course, we had to have the following discussion at the end.
nanila: "Oh, you've taken notes!"
happydork: "Yes. I wasn't going to so I didn't bring my notebook, but..." She holds up a heavily annotated bus ticket.
nanila: "That settles it. You're blogging this."
And she wrote up the evening beautifully. I recommend that you read about it here.
Last night, Dr Singh opened "Boffoonery" with fabulous demonstrations of the perils of believing in pseudocode by finding signs and portents of Princess Diana's death in Moby Dick, and of the Enigma encoding machine that was cracked at Bletchley Park by Alan Turing & friends during the WWII. This was by far the most geekcore moment of the entire evening, which was good because the two pints on an empty stomach had kicked in completely by the time Hugh Dennis (yes, the one from "Mock the Week"), Robin Ince and Robert Llewellyn (better known as Red Dwarf's Kryten) appeared to make bad puns about computing and cryptography. Additionally, Maggie Philbin, Richard Herring, Robin Ince and Johnny Ball competed in the first and last ever Bletchley Park-themed quiz show, scored in binary. Johnny Ball explaining the Königsberg bridge problem with flourishes of green marker pen while strands of white hair waved energetically about his head is a sight I shall not soon forget.
Next week, I plan to attend a symposium in memory of Harry Elliott, FRS, a debate on human spaceflight run by the astrophysics group, and the Jay Reatard show. If Simon Singh appears at any of those, I shall be quite surprised.