Life, the universe and The Book (an update)

First of all (and I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately), sorry for the radio silence, lovely followers, and thanks for your patience. Things in Laurie-land have been hectic of late… crap excuse I know, but hopefully you won’t mind too much… especially when you see the epic update on life, the universe and The Book below. Be warned, it will be a brain-dump. Anyway, let’s go through them in priority order…

  • The Book

You’ll hopefully be happy to hear that writing is progressing really well on Science and the City (SATC). I’m still further behind than I’d like, but momentum has definitely shifted and I am loving every minute. I made the decision to take a few months off work to just get my head down. Even just the process of making the decision had had a huge impact on my productivity. It cleared my head, leaving me focused, excited and more determined than ever. I’ve spoken to some AMAZING people in the last few months – from a researcher in India who is using waste plastic bags as a replacement for bitumen in roads, to a Canadian company trying to pump CO2 out of the air on a massive scale. It’s been an eye-opening period of research. And yet again, people have astonished me with their kindness and generosity with their time. Everyone I’ve spoken to has seemed excited about the book (no pressure!!) and keen to help me in any way. If writing the book has taught me one thing, it’s that people are brilliant.

I’ve also been sending out some draft chapters for review. To all of you reading this who have also agreed to read a chapter, THANK YOU. I’ll be moving onto a chapter all about water and waste (called Wet) shortly, so I’m secretly hoping to report back from a sewer somewhere. Then, it’ll be on to all things power, and I’m targeting some big interviews for that one…Fingers crossed.

Away from the writing stuff, there’s also been lots of progress. First off, I’ve met (via email) my US publisher – yep, that’s right, SATC will also be published by Bloomsbury USA (in Dec 2016), woop woop! Exact UK publication date is still TBC, but it will be in September 2016 sometime. And yes, there will be a party to which you’ll all be invited. Cover illustration is still in the works, but I’m looking forward to seeing the initial sketches. I’ll also need to get a headshot taken. Not looking forward to that :/

Let’s be honest though. The next few months are going to be very difficult – I have lots more to do but very little time in which to do it – and I’ve no doubts that I’ll have my wobbles. But I am absolutely determined to work my ass off for this, and to do all I can to produce something I’m proud of…. and that hopefully you’ll all enjoy 🙂

  • The universe

I thought that it was about time that I start pointing my followers to interesting science-y stories that I’ve read in the past while. This section will now be referred to as “the universe” (which, admittedly, feels like a much smaller place for me these days).

#1: Science Isn’t Broken. This piece is bloody brilliant. It talks all about the complexity of the scientific method, and let’s you have a go at it yourself. If you have some spare time, I urge you to spend it here: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-isnt-broken/

#2: Curiosity-selfie. Perhaps my favourite ever: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/news/whatsnew/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=1851

#3: GCSE results. STEM-wise, more students got grades A*-C in physics, chemistry and biology, but fewer students taking double science achieved high grades: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-33990713 – chuffed to say that my student got all A’s in the sciences 🙂

#4: 3D printing. But not as you know it – MIT manage to print glass: http://3dprint.com/90748/g3dp-glass-3d-print/

#5: Kickstarting. The Smithsonian Raises $700,000 on Kickstarter to Save Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/08/smithsonian-neil-armstrong-spacesuit-museum/401663/

#6: Ferrolic. A Clock with a Liquid Face Powered by Magnetism: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/08/ferrolic-magnetic-clock/

In other news, two more Sigma books hit the headlines – Kathryn Harkup’s ‘A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie’ is due out in just a few days, with Kat Arney’s Herding Hemingway’s Cats: Understanding How Our Genes Work’ coming in January. I’ve also just finished reading Gulp, by Mary Roach, which is a genius romp through the digestive system – I definitely recommend it.

  • Life

It’s certainly not been JUST work over the last few months – I actually went on a holiday, a proper one, longer than a long weekend somewhere (which, although lovely, rarely help me to de-stress). This year, myself and RJ packed our bags and headed to San Francisco – a city I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was a little girl. During his engineering career, my Dad spent a lot of time travelling in order to set up new facilities, introducing new processes at existing ones or train apprentices. His time in SF was a huge highlight for him, so I was pretty sure I’d feel the same way.

In reality, I felt even more strongly about it than Dad had. Compact, but densely packed, it’s a city of hills and ever-changing weather, and I loved every second of my time there. RJ had an acoustics conference for three of the days, but the rest of time, we were firmly in holiday mode. We didn’t do most of the must-do things in SF and that suited me perfectly – instead we hung out with my awesome niece and her boyfriend, and explored the city at our own pace, getting to know each neighbourhood, and savouring the time spent in each.

Three specific things to mention though:

1. I found myself getting emotional about a bridge. Fo’ realz. Below you’ll find a small selection of my photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. Not gonna lie, I was ridiculously excited to be there – it’s been on my top 5 bridges list for my whole life (well, obviously I have a list) but to be there, and touch it with my bare hands?! All too much.

2. I interviewed a couple of members of the Bay Bridge team. This montorous bridge carries more than 240,000 vehicles a day, making it one of the busiest bridges in the world. In addition, it lies across two fault lines, as the 1989 earthquake attests to. I spoke to them about the rebuild and the seismic innovations they’re using to ensure a collapse doesn’t happen again. More in The Book.

3. If you ever happen to be in SF, promise me that you’ll go to The Exploratorium. It is the best science museum I have ever been to. Ever. It’s amazing. Totally work the $30 entrance fee. But make sure you leave loads of time though, it’s HUGE. I wrote a wee blog post on my visit for Proof – you can read it here.

In other life news – my family are all well and happy, I’m setting up a new website and I’m looking forward to the Rugby World Cup….

Phew, I’m shattered! And you’re probably bored. So I shall stop now… Hope you like the bridge pics below 🙂

L 🙂