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Space School UK: the big sleep

Link to: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine (The Critical Conclusion)

Combat pants, bad hair days and anti-insomniacs

So, the first two people I see at Space School do not give me a good first impression - these two people were on the same bus as me going from the underground station to the University. Why didn't they give a good impression? They were wearing combat pants. I personally have no intrinsic hatred of combat pants, per se, if they go well with the other clothes, and look good on the wearer.

The problem is, this generally doesn't occur. Most people wear combat pants because they've grown out of wearing track suit bottoms - in the mistaken belief that combat pants go with everything. Which they don't. Especially not manky looking old T-shirts (you know who you are).

As it later turned out, one of the persons wearing the aforementioned combat pants was a perfectly fine bloke. I just didn't like the combat pants.

Lunch was lunch. The first lecture, by Helen Sharman was relatively good. It wasn't wonderful, but when she said something like 'You always have bad hair days in space,' I was thinking, 'You always have a bad hair day, full stop.' Have you seen her hair? What's that about? It's terrible. I detest women who have men's hair cuts. What's the point? It's just like combat pants - it's the sort of thing you do when you can't be arsed making an effort.

Grand Tour of the Solar System was good, but it was unfortunate that we knew most of the stuff he was saying, and I would be willing to bet good money that everyone had seen the BBC Planets series in the first place, which went into much more detail.

Ah, yes, the RABIT space archaeology practical. IMHO, this had absolutely no relevance to Space School whatsoever. It did, however, help people to get to know each other and to get them to use their brains. Then again, I'm sure there are other things that could do the same. I mean, what's all this business about comets from the sky, and 3rd moons, and religious babies?

If I wanted to do something like this, I'd much rather have watched Star Trek, or preferably, Babylon 5.

I was pretty pleased with the group I was in, though. We actually made a good effort at the presentation, unlike others who just read out translations of inscriptions and so on. I can't say that the so-called 'co-ordinator' group was much help; they were supposed to inform each group of the others' findings. This obviously didn't happen, since we'd be scratching our heads, saying 'Eh?' when other people went up to do their own presentations.

Before I go on, I'd like to talk about the lecture hall itself. It wasn't anything amazing, but the thing that became most important were the seats. These seats folded up, like seats at cinemas. At least, they were supposed to. Some didn't. So during lectures throughout the week, you'd be dozing in your seat, pretending to listen, when - bang - a seat falls down into the 'down' position. You see, since there wasn't that much leg room, if you tried to slip your feet underneath the row of seats in front (the seats were in a descending order, also like a cinema), and you were unlucky, you'd make the next seat in front fall down.

And they made huge bangs when they went down, because they impacted on metal. I managed to do this twice, during the week, and each time I'd get an exasperated look from everyone on my row, while I'd be feigning innocence by waving my hands about in a 'Who, me?' manner.

Which brings me on to the next point. I don't know about you, but no matter how interesting a lecture is, or how few people are in the lecture hall there are, I will almost always fall asleep during the lecture. This is due to two things:

  1. The lights are turned off, and the chairs are comfortable. How can you not fall asleep?

  2. The lecturer generally drones on in the same tone and volume of voice. This is not a bad thing. You don't want a lecturer who goes loud, then quiet, then loud again. Or one whose voice changes pitch all the time. But it does make me go to sleep.

I should say that the majority of the lectures at Space School were indeed interesting. I should also say that I slept (only for less than five minutes each, mind) during the majority of the lectures at Space School.

Warning: The next bit has bugger-all to do with Space School. It does, however, tell you a lot about me.

Let me give you a few examples of how this has happened in the past. Ever since I was roughly 12 or 13, I'd always be sleeping in Latin lessons - you know the kind of sleep, where you're staring at your book, and then you close your eyes, and a few seconds later, you'll suddenly wake up, then you'll close your eyes...

A memorable time was when during the summer in a Maths lesson. Apart from the fact that I was tired, it was summer, and I was on Triludan, a sleep-inducing hayfever drug, it was just the lesson. So there I was, sleeping away, when the Maths teacher (who is an expert at spotting these things) shouted out 'Still with us, Hon?!' I was jolted awake, and then he said 'What're you doing?'

In a flash of desperation and inspiration, I ventured 'Um, I was... considering the next question, sir.' Now, our Maths teacher, Brian P. McGuerk (the P is widely suggested to mean 'pythagoras'), is a funny old soul, so he took it well. Funny, in that during the lesson, he'd walk up to the blackboard, and start talking about how he worked out a way to make a perfect rectangle while he was building a shed, and funny in that his explanations of GCSE vectors defied comprehension.

'Take this example. You have a ship, sailing north at 5 m/s. Inside it, you've got a swimming pool, and there's a swimmer, going east at 0.5 m/s.' <scribbles a load of mad signs on the board>. 'Now, the ship turns 90 degress, and the swimmer has a resultant force of this speed in this direction. But, aha, there's a water current in the swimming pool. A wave machine. And there's a water current in the sea...'

By this time, everyone's given up trying to work out what's going on, and are usually chucking someone's bag around the room.

But I digress. The other important time that I fell asleep was when I went to the Trinity College Open Day at Cambridge University. The particular lecture was being given by a Natural Sciences interviewer, and there were only about a dozen people in the room. The lights were off. The seats were comfortable. The stage was set. Before long, I was sound asleep.

When I woke up about five minutes later, the lecturer was looking directly at me. Whoops. I realised the enormity of my mistake. This guy, who is probably going to be interviewing me in a few month's time, has just seen me fall asleep during one of his lectures, about interview technique. In a stroke of luck, he was also a humorous soul, and he was just smiling. In an attempt to redeem myself, I tried to make a semi-intelligent question at the end, as if to say 'I don't always go to sleep in lectures. I was just pretending. I heard every word you said.'


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