Category Archives: Writing

Art, Science and Language

On Thursday I went to a talk by author Ian McEwan at Newcastle University. It was part of Parallel Worlds a weekend of events looking at the relationships between art and science. His new novel Solar has a, very humanly flawed, nobel prize winning scientist involved in research on climate change as its main character. I am a McEwan fan, from the extracts read it seems a wonderfully amusing book, in addition to the usual detailed observation of  human behaviour and endeavour. It was a fascinating event, in which McEwan shocked me by saying he felt too much contemporary literature was studied in schools and called for students to have extensive knowledge of the older literary cannon.

Prior to the event I had my own linking of art and science courtesy of the very large concave mirror sited in the Herschel building, the location of the event. The mirror was gifted to the Physics department by “Sir Howard Grubb Parsons Co Ltd”, a once famous local engineering company, in 1967 (co-incidently the year of my birth).

I loved the distortions that it created and soon gathered a crowd around me as I began to investigate its qualities – people who had passed it by only moments earlier hardly noticing came back to ‘play’ themselves.

What had captured my interest was a potential link to a school project I’d only been discussing a few hours – which is based on the theme of The Madhatter’s Tea Party. I felt quiet Alice like being distorted by this enormous mirror.

Leaving the event another item in the building caught my and my friend’s eye – now how often is it that you see the word ‘egress’? Maybe we had stepped into a parallel universe after all. We started to talk about all the alternative words that could be placed around a school building, in response to the frequent pleas of teachers for pupils to extend their vocabulary.

What words would you put up? I’d love to compile a list of appropriate ones – do help me out.