Scientific conferences: everyone thinks they’re just glorified booze-ups but more often than not you spend nine or ten hours a day sitting in stuffy rooms in a concrete box located in an industrial complex in the suburbs of a city you would never have visited if you had the choice. Luckily I spent last week in Montpellier, where they have beaches, sunshine and 30C. Yet somehow I still managed to spend nine or ten hours a day being bored, confused or, occasionally, inspired. Now Last week was the Euromat conference, during which I pretended to be a materials scientist and learned about composites, hip replacements, solar cells, railway line degradation and hundreds of talks about carbon nanotubes. This week, I’m doing it all again. Geology replaces materials, but the rain of Switzerland replaces the French sunshine. More on this later, once the freezing cold and shocking prices have properly kicked in.
In the mean time, here are some photos from Montpellier.
I have some beautiful photographs of the Eiffel Tower, but the internet here is too slow to share them with you.
Christmas lights here in Paris are somewhat more tasteful than their UK counterparts. Each major road has personalised displays hanging across the road, whilst the pedestrian areas are ablaze with lights strung here and there. The highlight is the Tower though, which is a lighting engineer’s dream. Each strut has been wired individually with at least seven colours, each can be switched on and off independently to create pulsing rainbow effects, with colours running up and down the height of the tower. There are also searchlights on top and spotlights which can be set to flicker and sparkle. Each hour the lights change from a simple white illumination to a full-on spectacular for 10-15 minutes, visible from all over Paris.
I guess the question would be, who has to climb up and down the inside of the struts when they need to replace a bulb?
Three days down, two days in the lab, and still just the one merde incident. I feel like keeping a track of the number of times I successfully dance across the pavement, avoiding another well-laid trap. However, keeping score like this is fruitless; if I score a point each time I avoid some, I effectively lose a million points each time I fail.
On a lighter note, the food today has been great. For lunch we had the plat-du-jour at a local Spanish restaurant, a fantastic paella stuffed with chicken, prawns and saffron. Back in the lab the lasers are switching between playing ball and playing up, but data is appearing quickly at least and I will have plenty to keep me busy over the winter. This evening I wandered around the Christmas-lit city centre with Lauren (who is being paid to do a masters here!) but unfortunately it was raining and I’d left my camera at the hotel, so pictures will have to wait until another night.
Having been back in the UK for three weeks it’s time to rack up some more expenses. This time I am in Paris visiting Olivier Beyssac, who has a shiny lab here with lots of expensive machinery for me to use. Eurostar was great, the check-in and passport-control system managed to get everyone in the right place at the right time, even though the train was really busy. It made me think of early aviation, where you could walk onto your plane with ease rather than the current system of frisking, security announcements, airports miles outside the city requiring a transfer as expensive as the ticket, water-bottle nazis and several miles hiking to get to your gate.
Right then, time to try some french cuisine wine 🙂