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Serendipity

March 24th, 2003 · No Comments

So it was a gorgeous day yesterday in Cambridge, sun shining, birds singing, etc etc, and after a game of badminton in the morning I went to do some reading on the Trinity College backs. I originally intended to take along An Instance of the Fingerpost which had been sitting around in my room looking quite malovent and foreboding, but has turned out to be quite a decent read, and a couple of papers, thus mixing pleasure and business. In reality, of course, I knew full well that I’d just end up reading the book, but what the hell.

Anyway, once I got to the backs, the book had mysteriously disappeared from my bag, so I had no choice but to read the papers. A bit disappointing, but then the weather was good and I had my iPod, so I couldn’t really complain. While there, I met up with my friends Alex and Kristina who told me about a visiting professor from MIT they met at a party the night before. This professor was set to give a lecture on Tuesday on some neural/computer science topic.

After a bit of talking about university admissions and girls, the two stable topics of discussion in Cambridge, we decided to go and get some coffee and as we were walking over the bridge, who did we see but the very professor concerned, who was a rather diminuitive Indian fellow. On our way to a cafe we made a detour to the computer room to go and drool at the new iMacs they had there. While demonstrating their Unique Selling Point of the moveable screen (clearly I should be employed by Apple) I managed to set off an anti-theft device that was attached to it. This didn’t faze me particularly since it wasn’t as if I was carrying the thing away (although the thought did cross my mind briefly) and since no-one turned up immediately, I decided to check my email while the alarm was ringing.

So after a while it got a bit annoying, and as we were making our way out from the computer room, I spotted a porter striding to the computer room on our right. Sensing a potential disaster, my survival skills went into overdrive and it was as if I had a heightened awareness of the universe – and most importantly, I spotted the MIT professor approaching obliviously on our left. We quickly made a detour to the professor and asked him if he wanted to come along for coffee. He assented happily (thus giving us much needed cover from the porter). As we were looking for a cafe, we showed him around the sights of Cambridge. Being late Sunday afternoon, there weren’t any decent cafes (i.e. non- Starbucks) actually still open, prompting the professor to proclaim:

“Why don’t we go for dinner instead? Tell you what, I want to take you out to the best restaurant in Cambridge. My treat!”

Of course, we were spellbound by this magical combination of words, ‘best restaurant’ and ‘my treat’. Naturally, we made vigorous protestations about paying for dinner, but he insisted that he had plenty of discretionary funds and it’d just be treated as a business expense. With our consciences thus cleared, we made our way to one of the best restaurants, had a wonderful meal talking about US and UK universities, neural computation, quantum computers, university admissions policies and girls. The professor was a very intelligent and talkative guy, and had a lot of interesting things to say.

Afterwards, we then had no choice but to adjourn ourselves to The Eagle pub; after all, the guy wanted a photo of him in the Watson and Crick’s famous watering hole. More fun discussion about evolutionary strategies of mating and the apparent deteriorating mental state of Watson ensued, and we finally departed with a promise to meet up to do some punting on Tuesday.

Only in Cambridge could this wonderful, serendipitous sequence of events occur…

(I guess it could happen in Oxford as well, but just not in such a nice way. I will probably have ample opportunity to find out though, since it appears I will be going to Oxford University for a PhD next year)

Tags: cambridge · random

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