Saturday, January 30, 2010

Music, Dawkins and Nature

Really busy day on Weds: meeting at the House of Lords, giving a seminar in the City, and then back home to rehearse Beethoven 10 with Ruth Palmer. Following which Sasha Siem joined us for supper - great to catch up with her and that she is doing so well. Lots going on that I can't blog about.

Dawkins has another rant in The Times. To say that Christianity is about sin is like saying that science is about ignorance. Christianity is about God's love and sin is simply the falling away from God's love. It is also typically ignorant and simplistic to say that "We know what caused the catastrophe in Haiti. It was the bumping and grinding of the Caribbean Plate rubbing up against the North American Plate" That is what caused the earthquake. What caused the catastrophe was that large numbers of human beings were living in an earthquake zone in badly constructed buildings and with a very poorly functioning government and infrastructure that prevented effective relief efforts, including serious fears of violence to relief workers. And that, pace Dawkins, really is due to humans falling short of the loving glory of God, ie human sin.

I also think I have seen how to generalise the ideas in our proposed Nature paper. So back to work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To Oxford, and the Ismaili Centre

Interesting visit to Oxford on Monday. First off, a meeting with Bob May to discuss the work on Financial Regulation. Able to show each other some of our latest results and the current draft paper. He's such a great guy and it's tremendous fun, and very stimulating, working with him. He also introduced me to the amazing Sunetra Gupta, who is not only a Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at Oxford but has published five acclaimed novels. She also won the 2009 Rosalind Franklin Award from the Royal Society.

Then to see Bernard Silverman to get an ace statistician's view of our latest results. He was intrigued and they are certainly not an obvious corrollary of a well-known theorem. Though like many creative thinkers he is not a great scourer of literature, so he cannot rule out that something has been published somewhere.

Finally, Denis Noble had kindly given me a ticket to hear his Oxford Trobadors perform in the Holywell Music Rooms. Denis, in addition to being a world-famous biologist, has studied Occitan for over 35 years and is lead singer in this group, which performs songs from the 12th century to the 20th. Sadly I could only stay for the 1st half because I had to get back to London for an early start, but the juxtaposition of a song by the great Arnaut Daniel with a modern lament for the installation of a Nuclear Reactor was pretty striking.

Yesterday evening we went to the Ismaeli Centre in London for an event organised by a friend, and got a fascinating short insight into this intruiging strand of Islam. Many interesting people including Pauline Neville-Jones and Sayeeda Warsi. The President of the Ismaeli Society gave a very interesting talk including the striking phrase (attributed to the Aga Kahn) that we are not dealing with "a clash of civilisations" but "a clash of ignorances".

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jubilee and joyful music

A friend rings to say that she has seen an interview with John Polkinghorne in the the Channel 4 series The Bible. It may explain why QoT shot to #5 in Science and Religion on Amazon.co.uk (though now it has dropped to #8).

Great sermon this morning about how Jesus' reference to Isaiah (Lk 4:21 "this day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears") refers also to the Year of Jubilee. And a strong recommendation for Tom Wright's Surprised by Hope which I must get. Otherwise a run and an long lesson from the wonderful Kathron Sturrock on Beethoven's 10th Violin Sonata. Demanding, and she is far too good to teach me, but wonderful. She recommended a great book on performance style, called Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music by Sandra P Rosenblum.

We discussed the attitude of composers to their music. Beethoven was apparently asked "at what tempo do you play" one of his pieces and replied "at about 9-10 tempi, but the audience does not notice". Some composers will not listen to feedback from performers, but Rostropovich (who Kathron worked with) said that Britten did. R would say, "Ben that just won't work" and Britten would reply "well Slava, tell me about it".

Saturday, January 23, 2010

FRSs, Nobel Laureate, and Malice in Wikipedia - again

Grandchildren here for a birthday treat for younger grandson. Fri was a busy day in many respects. Our friend Nicole Cabell emailed, she's starring in Elisir d'Amore at Chicago but will then be singing at the Met and I hope we'll meet up Feb and I'll hear her sing in March. Also got an emal from a Nobel Laureate collaborator - we'll be meeting up in early Feb, and lots of discussion with one of the most famous scientists in the UK. Plus some really nice new results.

A brilliant mathematician (FRS at 45) emailed: he's seen a report of our key idea from Bob May and is interested in his team working on some of these ideas. We must publish out Nature paper - it's already being cited and isn't finished yet!

Meanwhile some vociferous editors on Wikipedia have succeeded in getting the article on Nicholas Beale deleted, despite clearly and obviously meeting the published criteria on [[WP:AUTHOR]] that applied at the time. The ringleaders are a linguist and allegedly a disaffected former spy, spreading untruths and disformation. Two really notable scientists kindly took the trouble to drop in on the debate, but who are they to comment?!? One of the deleters then took the trouble to change the criteria so as to try to make it unclear. Ah well. There are some sensible editors, and eventually truth and reason may prevail. But not yet, apparently.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Harvard, Chamber Music and Richard Chartres

Been a frantic couple of weeks. Spent the week of the 11th in Harvard, developing the ideas on mathematical biology and financial regulation with Martin Nowak, John Campbell and other colleagues. Also able to see Daughter and Son-in-law twice which was great. Managed to run a bit in the hotel, though there were people running by the iced-over Charles at lunchtime - some in shorts!

Landed on Sat and straight down to the Wye Valley Chamber Music Festival, staying with a dear friend and her lovely husband. The first concert was a Mozart Quartet and although jet-lagged it was clear within 30s that something was wrong. Although the players were technically accomplished they managed to make it really dull. My wonderful new piano teacher (who studied with Brendel and worked with Schwartzkopf and Rostropovich) says that all Mozart should be approached from the perspective of opera - how would singers sing this? No-one would ever have sung the lines the way that quartet was playing them.

The next concert was the Bruckner String Quintet. The programme note pointed out that this was, at 45 mins, not much shorter than his Symphonies, and I was filled with foreboding. However the completely different group that played it gave a wonderful performance. The Cellist, Kate Gould, is clearly an outstanding collaborative musician - not only did she play beautifully she really animated the work, and her active listening during her long rests was in itself a delight. She returned in a different ensemble to play the Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence which is for a string sextet. This essentially had two solosits: the Deputy Leader of the ROH orchestra playing a heavenly del Gesu and a young rising star 1st cello, Gemma Rosefield.

The following morning we had another truly outstanding performance (also with Kate) of the Schumann Piano Quintet. Having Simon Crawford-Phillps on piano meant that Kate did not have to "conduct" and the playing of this wonderful work was great. I'm convinced BTW that the 2nd subject of the 1st movement inspired Cole Porter's "who wants to be a millionaire".

We had to rush back because the wonderful Bishop of London was coming to our church to celebrate 10 years since the church plant. Richard was, as always, superb. "Eleven years ago, I came to this church to take a service. When I arrived I couldn't get in, it was locked. And when I took the service, there were 10 people in the congregation.... what have you been doing!?" he beamed to a packed church with perhaps 800 people. Turns out that he read History at Trinity as our daughter will DV and his son is going up at the same time to another college.

The work continues in the UK as does the complex situation we are trying to resolve. We have a clear position that now needs a decision by a third party. If he says yes, we can move forward.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Trinity & Cameron

Great news yesterday - Daughter has been offered a place a Trinity - I think she would be the 11th family member to go there (but maybe more - not sure about my great great great granfather). Celebrated with v nice 2000 Claret.

Went to Cameron Direct event in our church - he was answering questions from an audience of local people many of whom were quite hostile. Our Vicar when he agreed to this made it clear that he would be happy to have people from the other main parties doing a similar event, and has I think already approached the PM and the Chancellor.

C, I and our colleague J were reminiscing about our Oxbridge offers. C and J got them by phone. I got a telegram: "warmest congratulations scholarship Trinity" - in those days Trinity didn't bother to interview people who passed the maths scholarship, so my first ever visit to Cambridge was the day I went up.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone!

On NY Eve we went to see our friend Janie Dee in Calendar Girls at the Noel Coward theatre. She plays the wife of the man who dies from cancer and in whose memory the charity calendar is made. She is of course a great actress, and for the play to work the audience really needs to believe in this relationship - which we did. Saw her afterwards in her enormous dressing room - apparently one of the biggest in the West End. She had been to stay with the woman she was playing and it was very interesting hearing about the real people. We thought we hadn't been to this theatre before, but Janie reminded us that we had, with her, to see the amazing production of Mary Stuart with Harriet Walters and Janet McTeer. Janie has a really exciting new project, and is also in Me and Orson Wells which I very much want to see. Then we travelled together to our respective New Years Eve celebations.

Ours was with another actor friend, who lived within walking distance. One of the fellow-guests had served in the Royal Canadian Navy during WW2, on corvettes doing convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. He said that The Cruel Sea really got it right - but did not know about Three Corvettes. He also really liked The Battle of the River Plate - we discussed the curious fact that the ships in that film were played by real ships: two of them played themselves, HMS Cumberland and HMS Achilles (which by that time had been sold to the Indian Navy and was therefore INS Delhi).

The previous day we had seen Nine which has a fabulous cast incl 3 of the finest actresses of their generations: Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren (who are both 75). Worth seeing for them, and in fact fine performances from Day Lewis and Kidman, but we didn't like the movie as a whole - musical seems poor and the production too Chicago.

Really interesting email exchange with an Orthodox Jew who asks How can Christianity consider itself a fulfillment or completion of Judaism if St. Paul abrogated the Law? Since the Law, by it's own terms is eternal, how can it become obselete?

I reply that Christians believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that through Jesus God has in His infinite love and mercy made it possible for anyone to come into a right and loving relationship with Him.

Jesus is thus, in our view, the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and in this fulfilment many things change in significance and application, and everything is to be understood in the light of God's amazing love. God's intention is not to bind but to bring us into a true loving relationship with him through His Spirit. The Law was a "schoolmaster" training us for this (Gal 3:24). The Law is not "abrogated", but salvation is opened up to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15, Rom 4:9-11).


Friendly salutations are exchanged - a nice dialogue. Must update the JCP Q&A pages they are a long way behind.

Really enjoying A Nobel Fellow on Every Floor. Also practicing Beethoven Vn Sonata 10 - run through with Ruth tomorrow - and working hard. So back to work - and have a great New Year.