Last updated 6th March 2002: Various misc. bits of info and 'Where am I going to be'
Who am I?
According to keirsey.com, I'm a Fieldmarshal. According to TheSpark.com, I'm an Experimenter, and according to emode.com, I'm a Renaissance Man. However, online personality tests aren't really the best judges of character, are they? A particularly vicious rugby-playing friend of mine was mortified to find that he was profiled as 'Someone who finds missing children over the Internet.'
I currently live, depending on the time of year, near Liverpool in the UK, or at Cambridge University. At the time of writing, I'm 18. I used to link to my UCAS Personal Statement here, and an entry I made to the Leaders of Tomorrow competition, but I don't any more. They're horribly out of date and I don't think I'm quite the same person I was back then.
Want some more pictures of me? I'm sure there are some lying around in my Photo Gallery.
I've been interested in space for as long as I can remember - I used to have an inflatable Space Shuttle tent which provided great fun. Unfortunately, it provided so much fun that the impossibly cool elasticy tent poles were used as swords and eventually got broken.
But I'm supposed to be talking about Mars here. Well, people who know me will have heard this story a million times, but you don't know me. My interest in Mars was non-existant until I was 15. I'd started to consume large amounts of science fiction, starting off with Arthur C. Clarke. At that point, I hadn't read many of his books so I was saving up all my money to fill my shelves. On a fateful day in the summer of 1998, a book club catalog fell through our letterbox and I, with a healthy amount of skepticism, flipped through it to find any potential bargains.
As it turned out, there was a series written by one Kim Stanley Robinson about Mars being sold cheaply. My exact thoughts were: "Well, he's no Arthur C. Clarke so I can't be bothered buying this stuff," and I prepared to consign the offending catalog to the bin. I then noticed that there was an endorsement from the man himself, Arthur C. Clarke, attesting to the quality of this series. I mulled it over for a while and decided that if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. Besides, I wouldn't be paying for the books anyhow so what could I lose?
As soon as the books arrived, I read them as quickly as I could and then, in my usual style, became obsessed with them (a friend once said that I can't get interested in anything without getting obsessed with it. "Rubbish," I retorted as I mentally worked out whether there was enough time left on my Babylon 5 video to fit three more episodes on).
At the third Mars Society Convention (2000), I was invited to take part in a Mars Arts and SF panel. You can see me on the right, with everyone looking at me. Without a doubt, I'll be putting my prodigiously large foot into my even larger mouth.
On my searchings on the Internet for Mars, I came across Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct homepage and thence the Mars Society's homepage. The Mars Society didn't actually exist at that point, but I subscribed to their newsletter and on the Mars Society's 1998 Hakluyt prize, which meant I went to Colorado to attend their founding convention. There, I received a rather nice telescope which sadly doesn't get used that often at all. A concept many people fail to grasp is that just because I'm interested in space doesn't mean I'm interested in astronomy.
For some obscure reason, I was made Chair of Youth Outreach, a title which I have completely failed to live up to. No small amount of guilt in using this title occasionally to further myself has caused me to start the Generation Mars project, which you'll probably read about every now and again in my regular weblog.
My involvement in the Mars advocacy movement has been intermittant but right now I'm doing any number of things. Lately I've given a few presentations and have been invited to speak at a few events about Mars (the high point of which was speaking at a Royal Society venue), something which has caused the Evening Standard to term me as an 'award-winning Mars lecturer,' in their review of weblogs. If I have time, one thing I would want to do is to make a tour of schools and maybe museums in the UK giving talks about Mars and Generation Mars. And other countries, why not? I feel much more comfortable talking about Mars than I did two years ago and I find it pretty fun to boot.
Of course, I'm also interested in science. I've won or reached the finals of one or two competitions, and I'm studying Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge University. Last year (my first year), my options were straight biology; Evolution and Behaviour, Physiology of Organisms, Biology of Cells and Quantitative Biology. All were interesting, to varying extents. E&B was a dream subject, like reading Dawkins books for fun. Physiology was generally interesting. Biology of Cells was initially ridiculously hard, having to remember molecular mechanisms and whatnot, but eventually improved. QB was maths, 'nuff said.
This year (my second year) I am taking Experimental Psychology (immensely interesting), Molecular Cell Biology (intermittently interesting but essential to know) and Neurobiology (a bit of both).
I've written a html-based Biology and Chemistry GCSE study guide on CD, which has since been published by Europress. And for those of you wondering, yes, it is for sale, and royalties are positively trickling in. My other major computer project has been the Astrobiology: The Living Universe Thinkquest competition entry. Visit it. Now. I busted my guts working on that damn site, and despite my perfectionism I'm very happy with it.
This is my largest project to date, and it's both a joint UK/Canada competition for the youth about Mars, and also the seeds of a new pro-active Mars advocacy community that will be totally inclusive and transparent. As they say, practice what you preach, and for me, that means inclusiveness and transparency. And Mars. A lot of Generation Mars' work will be educational outreach to the public about the benefits (and pitfalls, because I'm a balanced kinda guy) of the exploration of Mars and space.
There are a lot of causes that are in the public consciousness, but none so compelling and adventurous as creating a new world on Mars. I am to bring this cause to them. Check out the Generation Mars website.
Books and TV
My bookshelf holds novels by Iain Banks, Philip Pullman Kim Stanley Robinson, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, David Brin, Stephen Baxter, Douglas Adams, Ben Bova, Ken MacLeod and Peter F Hamilton.
If you haven't read any science fiction, and want to read something that doesn't involve bland characters, predictable storylines and technobabble, you could do a lot worse than reading Iain M Banks' Culture series. You may have heard of his novels The Wasp Factory and Complicity, so you can be sure he'll do a good job.
If you're actually taking my suggestions seriously, go and read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It's extremely daring in completely denouncing organised religion and Christianity, so considering that it is marketed for children, Pullman is a brave guy. Despite being 'for children', it's still one of the best-written and perfectly plotted novels I've read for some time.
As for TV, I hold the opinion that Babylon 5 is the best drama that's ever been screened.
Where am I going to be?
I'm going skiing in Chamonix in France in March 2002.
It's not out of the question, right now, that I may be in San Diego for around eight weeks in June to August 2002.
Again, I may also be in Utah at the Mars Society Desert Research Station sometime in December 2002.
My room (photos) in Trinity College Cambridge I'm currently sitting in has:
1 Athlon XP 1800+ with 512MB RAM and all sorts of assorted
1 very strong door that is locked to stop people from nicking all of this stuff.