Reith

Once again, it’s the wonderful time of year when the BBC’s Reith Lectures are being presented. I’ve followed the Reith Lectures on my weblog for quite a few years now, so when I discovered that this year’s lecturer is none other than my old San Diego research supervisor, Prof. Vilanyanur Ramachandran, I was pretty damn surprised. The theme of his lectures is ‘The Emerging Mind’.

I actually first heard that Ramachandran was over in the UK when I was at an interview at Oxford University; I’d just been asked a question about multimodal sensory integration and the binding problem, and I responded by using synaesthesia as an example and mentioning my time in San Diego. One of the interviewers then said that Ramachandran would be over at Oxford next week to speak. “Really?” I said thoughtfully.

Anyway, on Tuesday I went to a Cambridge Science Society lecture on ‘The Phenomenal Brain’ by a visual neuroscientist called Richard Gregory. After the talk I had a brief chat with him, asking if he was familiar with the blind spot theory of qualia espoused by Ramachandran. He was – he collaborated with Rama on the original experiment! “I hear that Rama will be speaking at Trinity on Friday,” he told me. “Really?” I said thoughtfully.

The reason I didn’t know about this is because the organisers of the Trinity talk, Trinity College Medical Society, had seen it fit not to publicise the talk in any way other than an email to the University’s Medical mailing list. Thus, poor saps like myself, a mere scientist, didn’t hear wind of it unless they began investigating with the Trinity porters and figuring out which rooms had been booked up for Friday (that, and asking my medic friends about it).

So the upshot of all of this is that I went to a packed talk given by Rama yesterday evening. Rama was in top form, exuding a real energy and enthusiasm about his subject while gesticulating madly and delighting the audience. I fear that his ideas about synaesthesia and the development of language and metaphor may have been a bit too novel for some Cambridge students, but it seemed like most people really enjoyed the talk. I wasn’t sure whether he’d recognise me, but when I put my hand up to ask a question he remembered immediately. “Hello, how are you!” he boomed. “Uh, fine, thanks…” I said, taken a bit aback. “This guy worked in my lab last summer,” he explained to the audience.

It was all very cool and I had another chat with him afterwards about my future plans, and him suggesting that I should apply to UC San Diego one of these days. And then I went to a curry for dinner and watched an episode of 24 downloaded from the net, rounding off an ideal evening.

3 Replies to “Reith”

  1. Hello, would it be Adrian Hon personally reading this, if so wow, I love all your web pages (well the ones I’ve seen), you seem so interesting, and you are interested in decent stuff. I can never find any pictures of you anywhere. I can’t believe you are at Cambridge, I know you’ve probably been there for ages, but I’m not really up to date with your life. The last thing I read about you you were at space camp. You are so lucky to be clever enough to do what you are doing, I used to want to be an astro-physicist but I’m far too dumb, this year they actually put me in set two for science,and I’m in set three for maths, but that’s out of seven and I got fourth highest in the last test. I’m only in year ten at school. I’m sorry for not commenting on your diary pages, and sorry for writing so much, you probably think I’m really stupid and pathetic, and if you don’t read this I’ll seem really stupid, sorry. Well I’m going to go back to listening to my J.Lo CD, Bye Adrian.

  2. Hi Sian, yes, this is Adrian replying here. I’m glad you find my web pages interesting; you can actually find some photos and more info about me if you go to the About page linked at the top of this site.

    Hah, space camp was about five or six years ago now, at least. Definitely a very fun time though, I encourage you to go to it (I think they are doing it at Leicester Uni these days). And I think the fact that you actually want to be an astrophysicist demonstrates that you are pretty smart. It doesn’t seem like you’re stupid (although J. Lo?)

    (Sigh. I just know that I’m going to get a lot of stick from the rest of the readers here for replying to this. Bring it on…)

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