A Good Month

It’s been a busy month for me, as you might imagine, what with four shows in the Comedy Festival and appearances in others. As well as +1 Sword, Dungeon Crawl and the Museum Comedy programme – all of which are going very well, by the way – this Friday is one of the special ones: the Political Asylum Comedy Caucus, two hours of top-notch topical political stand-up from our regular team, plus Rod Quantock and a special international guest (I’ll give you a hint: he’s from New York). On top of all that, it was my birthday, my Mum’s come for a visit, my beloved opened her smashing new cabaret show (First Against the Wall), and I’m still working three days a week.

Hardly surprising then that I’ve not blogged much; I’ve hardly had time to catch up to my beloved in Dragon Age: Origins (which is better than Mass Effect, I think). I had to break my busy silence though to celebrate, because it’s been a good month for science!

First, the Large Hadron Collider has been turned on. It’s been a long time coming, and the world hasn’t ended; indeed the press didn’t seem to notice until it was all over. Now, of course, we have to look at the data that the various sensors and arrays and detectors have collected, and see what it tells us about the Universe. It’s going to be an exciting few years…

It’s also been a good month for Simon Singh. In 2008, he mentioned in an opinion piece in The Guardian that he felt certain chiropractic treatments promoted by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) were “bogus”. For his trouble, he was sued – successfully, in the first instance – by the BCA under the UK’s harsh libel laws. This week? He won an appeal, and what’s more, the appeal court judges were very critical of the BCA’s behaviour – it looked like it was trying to “silence one of its critics” – and of the original judge, who has “marginalised or underrated the value now placed by the law on public debate”. Read more about it in The Telegraph.

In a similar vein, the University of East Anglia scientists whose emails were stolen and publicised as “Climategate”, which supposedly revealed the “truth” behind the “Anthropogenic Global Warming conspiracy”, were cleared by a parliamentary enquiry. The response recognises that they could have been more open in sharing their data, but most of it was already publicly available and the methods for obtaining and analysing it published. They had a culture of “stonewalling” critics at the university, but then when the majority of requests for your data are from people hoping to undermine your research, that might be forgiven… The main point, though, was that plenty of other institutions have come to the same conclusions from data, so even if they had falsified anything, other research still rejects any notion of a conspiracy.

Those are my reasons for a good month. I’ll talk about them some more, with more jokes in, on Friday night. Maybe I’ll see you there?