Tag Archives: art

Taking a sketch instead of snapping a photo

We are lucky to live in a house with a great view of Liverpool cathedral [see picture in ‘Two for one‘ on January 2nd, 2019].  Hundreds of tourists visit every day and take pictures of the cathedral with their smart phones.  A few even turn around and take a picture of our house!  It is a modern disease: capturing pictures of a spectacle without actually looking at it and then probably never looking at the photograph.  There is some small level of fulfilment in having taken the photograph; however, 120 years ago there were fewer tourists and they had no cameras.  Instead, when Charles Rennie MackIntosh visited Naples on April 8th, 1891, he admired the tower of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine and ‘took a sketch’.  It must have taken him some time and concentrated effort.  The level of pleasure and fulfilment from taking a sketch must have been much greater than from our modern experience of snapping a photo.

Of course, there was no Liverpool Cathedral in 1891 and ten years later, Rennie Mackintosh was disappointed that his proposals for it were not selected from the 103 submitted.

Photograph taken on 17th August 2019 by the author at the Rennie Mackintosh Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Spokesperson for society

There is an excellent exhibition of Keith Haring’s work at the Tate Liverpool until November 2019.  Keith Haring and I were born a couple of years apart but that’s where the similarity ends.  He was an American artist who collaborated with the likes of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat and was influenced by Pablo Picasso, Walt Disney and Dr Seuss.  He was part of the New York street culture of the 1980s and many of his early works were forms of graffiti painted in subways and on the sides of buildings.  Some people think that art should challenge the way you think about the things; however, “Haring felt that the artist is ‘spokesman for a society at any given point in history’ whose visual vocabulary is determined by their perception of the world”.  His work about racism, the excesses of capitalism and the misuse of religion for oppressive purposes seem as relevant today as thirty years ago.

Sources:

Quotation from the one of exhibition displays with apologies to curators of the Tate exhibition, Darren Pih and Tamar Hemmes.

Comment on art challenging the way we think based on an article by Orla Ryan in the Financial Times Magazine on June 29th & 30th, 2019.

Nuclear winter school

I spent the first full-week of January 2019 at a Winter School for a pair of Centres for Doctoral Training focussed on Nuclear Energy (see NGN CDT & ICO CDT).  Together the two centres involve eight UK universities and most of the key players in the UK industry.  So, the Winter School offers an opportunity for researchers in nuclear science and engineering, from academia and industry, to gather together for a week and share their knowledge and experience with more than 80 PhD students.  Each student gives a report on the progress of their research to the whole gathering as either a short oral presentation or a poster.  It’s an exhausting but stimulating week for everyone due to both the packed programmme and the range of subjects covered from fundamental science through to large-scale engineering and socio-economic issues.

Here are a few things that caught my eye:

First, the images in the thumbnail above which Paul Cosgrove from the University of Cambridge used to introduce his talk on modelling thermal and neutron fluxes.  They could be from an art gallery but actually they are from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and show the geometry of an advanced test reactor [ATR] (top); the rate of collisions in the ATR (middle); and the neutron density distribution (bottom).

Second, a great app for your phone called electricityMap that shows you a live map of global carbon emissions and when you click on a country it reveals the sources of electricity by type, i.e. nuclear, gas, wind etc, as well as imports and exports of electricity.  Dame Sue Ion told us about it during her key-note lecture.  I think all politicians and journalists need it installed on their phones to check their facts before they start talking about energy policy.

Third, the scale of the concrete infrastructure required in current designs of nuclear power stations compared to the reactor vessel where the energy is generated.  The pictures show the construction site for the Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia, USA (left) and the reactor pressure vessel being lowered into position (right).  The scale of nuclear power stations was one of the reasons highlighted by Steve Smith from Algometrics for why investors are not showing much interest in them (see ‘Small is beautiful and affordable in nuclear power-stations‘ on January 14th, 2015).  Amongst the other reasons are: too expensive (about £25 billion), too long to build (often decades), too back-end loaded (i.e. no revenue until complete), too complicated (legally, economically & socially), too uncertain politically, too toxic due to poor track record of returns to investors, too opaque in terms of management of industry.  That’s quite a few challenges for the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers to tackle.  We are making a start by creating design tools that will enable mass-production of nuclear power stations (see ‘Enabling or disruptive technology for nuclear engineering?‘ on January 28th, 2015) following the processes used to produce other massive engineering structures, such as the Airbus A380 (see Integrated Digital Nuclear Design Programme); but the nuclear industry has to move fast to catch up with other sectors of the energy business, such as gas-fired powerstations or wind turbines.  If it were to succeed then the energy market would be massively transformed.

 

Two for one

I wrote this short annual report in anticipation of being on vacation this week.  However, as my editor commented, it is ‘a bit of a non-blog’ and so I have written a second post for today that will be published a few minutes later.

The painting in the thumbnail is by Peter Curran and shows a view of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral that is almost the same as the view from the seat at which I usually sit to write this blog.  The blog is read world-wide as shown by the distribution of visitors to the blog during 2018 in the temperature map in the graphic below.  The weekly readership dropped by 60% at the beginning of April 2018 after I deleted my Facebook page and cut the link between Facebook and this blog (see ‘Some changes to Realize Engineering‘ on March 28th, 2018).  However, I am pleased say that the visitor numbers have recovered; and last month’s visitor numbers were only 4% lower than the corresponding month in 2017.  So many thanks to those readers that stayed with me, or found the blog again without using Facebook.  While, I enjoy writing ‘to make life more fruitful’ to quote Sylvain Tesson (see ‘Thinking more clearly by writing weekly‘), it is also encouraging to know that people are reading the blog.

For those of you that enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing, there have been more than 330 posts since the first one in July 2012 – that’s a huge archive for you to browse, if you have nothing else to do.  Happy New Year!

 

Sylvain Tesson, Consolations of the forest: alone in a cabin in the middle Taiga, London: Penguin Books, 2014.