Tag Archives: Peter Higgs

Bookwitch bites #115

Steve Cole had some great news to share this week. He will be writing four (yes!) new Young Bond novels, with the first coming next autumn. He even had to go get a nice new photograph of himself, as befits an Ian Fleming replacement.

Steve Cole

Some longlists are longer than others. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award list is longer than ever this year, with 238 names of hopefuls. 54 are there for the first time (which just goes to show people get nominated and nominated until they win…), presumably getting all excited about the possibility of winning five million kronor.

I was going to say that the Nordic countries have put forward more names than others, but I happened to notice that the UK list was longer still. See below. For the rest of the 238 you have to download the pdf yourself.

UK nominees for ALMA 2014

This week also saw the announcement of other Swedish related prizes, and I’m pleased for Alice Munro and Canada. A bit shocked to learn that only 13 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, however…

The other Nobel Prize that made the Bookwitch family very happy was the Physics prize to Peter Higgs. It almost feels as if we’d been awarded the prize ourselves.

Peter Higgs

Malorie Blackman has announced ‘a campaign to support fiction for young adults in the UK during her two year term in the post. A highlight of this will be the first ever YA Literature Convention, hosted at the London Film and Comic Con in July 2014. Blackman will also be working with Booktrust on a search for the rising stars in the UKYA community.’ I think that sounds terrific, and I’m looking into ways of splitting down the middle so I can go to lots of events all at once.

And finally something on a smaller scale, but who knows? ‘Anyone’ could make it to be children’s laureate or discover a boson or write James Bond books. Here is a challenge for students doing A-levels. The Connell Guides are giving £1000 for the best essay in a competition to be judged by William Boyd. Submissions in January, but they want students to start writing now. So I suggest doing just that. Write! Who knows where it might end? (In Stockholm, shaking some royal hand.)

Friday the 13th

Fascinating Aïda used to sing a song called Taboo. One line was about inviting a vegetarian to a barbecue. In the case of Daughter yesterday, it was more about the wisdom of asking the vegetarian to order the food for the AstroSoc barbecue for Freshers’ week. I have no wish to ask for more details as to what she actually bought. (Grilled mushrooms anyone?)

The event was shared with the Physics students (might be Quantum Soc?), who wanted them to have a plan B in case of rain. It won’t rain, Daughter told them. And, you know, Astrophysicists are surely that little bit closer to any potential rain, so would know what’s coming. That’s my theory.

It was Friday the 13th. Did you notice? My travelling went better than the date made me expect, but I suffered the ignominy of being mistaken for a woman who goes to Blackpool. By the time I got to Manchester Piccadilly the platform was full of (superficially) similar women, all heading for fun in Blackpool. I changed trains in Preston, and the Grandmother later told me about the time when she did that, and a kindly man tried to tell her she didn’t have to, because it was a through train to Blackpool. (He found it hard to grasp that she wanted to go to Glasgow.)

I spent part of the day reading about devils and demons. In two separate books. What are the odds? I expect the date helped. First I read a short story about The Good Little Devil (with my breakfast, if you want to know). Then I moved on to John Connolly’s latest Samuel Johnson book, which as the disCERNing fan knows features CERN and the Higgs Boson.

Once Daughter had got the barbecue going, starring whatever devilish veggie-burgers she could muster, she left the two Socs to their fate and grabbed her gown (academic, not dressing) and dashed downtown for her meeting with Hillary Clinton and Peter Higgs.

Hillary Clinton at St Andrews

It wasn’t a threesome, but when people like that come to town, you go and see them. At least if you’re so boring as to having applied for tickets before the star turns became publicly known. As it happens Professor Higgs didn’t come. But what Daughter forgot to mention was that Hillary Clinton wasn’t exactly alone.

Rowan Williams. Mary Beard. Tim Berners-Lee. Jane Goodall. To name but a few ‘nonentities’ who were there. Apparently the former archbishop said his only claim to St Andrews fame was having married two of its former students.

Hillary Clinton at St Andrews

I mentioned Glasgow. Like the Grandmother, I went to Glasgow, where I overheard someone talking about crayfish kebab. Walking from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street I came across a poster for safe sex. No, I didn’t. I looked again. Surf and Fax was being offered. So did I hallucinate that crayfish kebab?

Once I’d reached my destination I learned that the Hungarian Accountant is in town. But also that Eoin Colfer isn’t.

Sob.

Little bundles of photons

They probably sound cuter than they are. I remember photons from school. In fact, I remembered a lot from school, during the talk by Frank Close and Peter Higgs. Things I never understood too well then, and time has not improved me. But it was interesting, and I’m glad I went.

Peter Higgs

It’s not every day you are in the same tent as a world famous name of importance. We came for Frank Close, and then we got Peter Higgs and his newly found Boson as well. It’s not every day the director of the book festival introduces an event. (A first for me.) That proves how big this event was. Nick Barley told us about the developments over the summer, when on July 4th an interesting talk suddenly became hot news and even more exciting.

It’s also rare with applause lasting quite so long, especially at the beginning of an event. It’s probably also not every day you sell out a huge tent for a talk on Particle Physics. But there we were.

Frank Close is an excellent speaker, more than capable of bringing science to the masses. And mass to erm, well, yes. I now know that a ‘discovery can only happen once.’ I know vaguely about electromagnetic force, and weak force. There was something about getting rid of infinity.

Frank Close

I got the impression that the discovery of Higgs Boson had something to do with travel insurance. Peter Higgs was in Sicily, when he was told in no uncertain terms to pop to Switzerland for the 4th of July, or he would regret it. That was his reply to Frank’s Olympic style question ‘can you tell me how it felt?’ (I can’t be sure, but I think Frank insulted Scottish soccer in the process.)

By now Peter is getting used to signing autographs, and his email is this high. (About two feet off the floor.)

Unsurprisingly, the questions from the audience were complicated. People were suspicious. Someone wondered how we can trust Particle Physicists when they say whatever it is they say. Higgs Boson won’t solve our economic problems, but that’s hardly something we expected.

There was talk of what I put in cheese cake, but they seemed to feel Quark is to do with Physics. Top Quark. Bottom Quark. The guide dog across the tent slumped on the floor. Maybe he’s not into this LHC stuff.

Anyway, a 48-year-old equation has reached its goal, and Peter Higgs is glad he’s here to enjoy it. But as for the next such thing, ‘we don’t know yet.’

Director Barley bowed to his guests and told the audience that he had read Frank Close’s book The Infinity Puzzle, and it was an easy read, and why didn’t we go across to the bookshop and buy it? Especially since Peter Higgs had agreed to sign it as well.

So we did. But only after more lengthy applauding.

Close encounters of several kinds

Barry Hutchison

Her condition for crawling out of bed early on Monday morning, was that Barry Hutchison should buy Daughter a Coke. Just to keep going. As it happened, Barry needed to keep going as well, so that was two Cokes plus a water for the witch, for our interview at the hotel across the road, first thing. Barry and I have been trying to synchronise our diaries for months, and success finally arrived in the shape of the book festival.

We interviewed and laughed and had fun, even on fairly little sleep. I’m so excited I will have to go and read some of Barry’s Fiendish books now.

With another eleven hours of our festival day to go, we ventured over to Charlotte Square for the morning’s event with Sally Gardner and Celia Rees, chaired by Nicola Morgan.

Towards the end of their fascinating talk, Daughter crept out for one of her most important photocalls. The one with Frank Close, who had been joined by none other than Peter Higgs of Boson fame. The two physicists cavorted and posed as though they were really actors. Well done!

Frank Close and Peter Higgs

Meanwhile your witch was on camera duty in the bookshop, doing her utmost best to do justice to Sally and Celia. Luckily the real photographer popped up to repair most of my mistakes. The ladies had so many fans queueing that I didn’t even get the chance to chat. I left an incoherent message with Nicola and ran for the sold out talk on Particle Physics (which in turn meant I had to leave Barry Hutchison and his 13 horsemen to their fate…)

It was great. And in case you feel that isn’t enough information about this year’s big happening, rest assured I will follow up with detailed events reports.

The Particle Physics queue

We did double camera duty for the queue at the signing afterwards. The queue was as busy as you’d expect for Particle Physics signings. Daughter put her fan hat on and got close to Peter Higgs, who kindly signed his colleague’s book.

Peter Higgs and Frank Close and fan

Meanwhile I turned 180 degrees and caught Andy Stanton who was signing on the opposite side. Still. He had been there two hours earlier, signing, with enormous queue across the square. Andy was singing and joking and chatting as though he wasn’t even tired. (And the ladies in the Ladies were gushing about how wonderful he had been… Just so you know.)

Andy Stanton

Not being able to catch Celia still, we departed for lunch. She phoned while we were reviving ourselves, and we agreed that her Edinburgh visit was just too short for that elusive interview. We will manage it one day. Third time lucky, perhaps.

Sally Gardner

Back to Charlotte Square to catch Sally before her event with Barry (which I also had to miss), to take some much needed proper photos. Her outfit for the day, of which you can’t see much here, unfortunately, was as great as ever.

Chris Riddell

Daughter wandered off and encountered Chris Riddell drawing in the middle of the square, having drawn a large circle of people around him. And then we went to join the unusually large crowd of photographers in ‘the studio,’ where we stood around for a long while, waiting, and me staring at the FBI type by the gate. But eventually the festival’s director popped along to greet Gordon Brown as he was ushered in. He disappeared after stopping for a split second for photos, after which we hung around for another half hour until the former PM returned and gave us a couple of minutes for proper photos. He was there to give the NLS Donald Dewar Lecture, and his queue was a long one.

Gordon Brown and Nick Barley

Trying to grab some internet, we headed back to the hotel, which we left rather quickly when the fire alarm went. So that was more or less goodbye to the internet again. Michael Palin cavorted outside the yurt, and then for the paparazzi. Daughter went to hear Michael talk, along with a few hundred others. Apparently he was GOOD!

Michael Palin

In amongst eating more cold pizza (yes, we do have a large supply of this ancient cheese topped bread) I managed to take some photos of Sjón and Jess Richards. Everybody is talking about this Icelandic author, but I know almost nothing about Sjón.

Sjón

I was afraid I’d have to do the honours (photographic variety) for Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, but was saved by prompt arrival of the real photographer. Neil had previously been posing for Chris Close. Lying down. That won’t have done much – good – to his clothes. Black as usual. Black with grime afterwards, I imagine. Edinburgh started Monday with rain, leaving the ground in a eugh state.

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

I popped along to Neil’s and Chris’s event, which was even better than you’d expect from such a pairing. We were lucky to have Neil at all, since he had to depart for home straight afterwards, due to a family crisis. Chris signed for the two of them. Sort of.

Chris Riddell

If I paid myself overtime I’d have been rich after a Monday like this Monday. But I don’t, so I’m not. But it was good. Apart from the internet.