King Edward's Gate, Trinity College, Cambridge - geograph.org.uk - 1057067This is the last week of semester before the Christmas break, so things are getting a little busy, and I could spend a day at Cambridge talking science with an old friend and his PhD student. The student has started from a paper I did almost ten years ago, and is extending the work. He is doing some really smart calculations, and it is a little humbling, and very flattering, to see how has taken what I have done and gone far beyond that.

My friend is a Fellow at Trinity, arguably the grandest of all Cambridge’s colleges. It is definitely the richest. Which perhaps explains the palatial nature of the room I was put up in. The Judge’s Room is the size of 2 tennis courts and comes with furnishings that would not be out of place in Downton Abbey. It is off a staircase in a tower just out of shot on the left of the picture above. It also had a good wifi signal, and a modern wet room bathroom. This is good. Century-old bed-side cabinets I am OK with, century old plumbing not so much.

But as I sat there on the overstuffed candy-striped sofa, writing emails, it did occur to me that this grandeur was not very useful. Seventeenth century architecture does not educate students or do research, and Cambridge based academics take it for granted very quickly. Universities are just people really, students and staff. Still, I was there on Tuesday night, which was very cold and foggy, and so in the dark the college really did look like a Harry Potter set, which was fun. I half expected a Dementor to float round a corner.

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