I’ve just returned home after an evening at St John’s College where we had a small supper following my talk at the Computer Lab this afternoon – it will be online soon, by the way. It was a delightful event, especially because Maurice Wilkes joined us.
It’s fifty years since CP Snow gave his famous lecture on The Two Cultures at the Senate House in Cambridge. Tomorrow I make my contribution to the University’s 800th anniversary celebration with a lecture on ‘The 10 Cultures Problem’ at the Computer Laboratory.
And it’s featured on the University home page. No pressure then…
[This is also on the WattWatt site, an online community for anyone concerned with energy efficiency]
Like every other product of the advanced manufacturing capabilities of a long-industrialised society the computers that surround us – and, for the pacemaker wearers among us, that we have taken into our bodies – carry an environmental cost.
Silicon may be cheap, but turning it into processors requires vast amounts of energy, clean water and many potentially toxic chemicals.
Some of the raw materials used elsewhere, like the coltan in our mobile phones, are extracted at great human and environmental cost.
Displays and casings may contain heavy metals and damaging chemicals, while the disposal of old computers is becoming a significant issue.
And the billions of processors, hard drives, screens and network devices that we increasingly rely upon consume more and more electrical energy, much of it wastefully generated from non-renewable sources that release carbon into the atmosphere.
I was distraught when Drakes bike shop on Hills Road closed as I’d been buying cycles there for over twenty years, and I had always found them reliable, reassuring and efficient. Fortunately I’ve found an alternative – Blazing Saddles on Cherry Hinton Road.
And they are wonderful….last Friday I was cycling in to the railway station on my way to London when I finally accepted that the poor brakes I’d been putting up with for a few months had reached the end of the line. Since I was planning to take my bike with me – it’s the easiest way to get to and from City University – and didn’t want to end up under a bus outside King’s Cross I popped into Blazing Saddles intending to buy new brake blocks and do the repair on the train.
The owner took one look at the bike, advised me that I needed a new cable too and when I asked if there was any possibility of doing it for me took pity on me and sent me to a nearby cafe for a quick coffee while he did the job in 15 minutes. He even pumped up the tyres and refused to take extra for the job.
So I’m alive, my students are happy and I think they are wonderful. Next time you need your bike serviced, it’s the place to go.