Think the Cybermen I met have done something to my computer. Can't get online at moment from my main one and using backup, which is a lot slower. Just what I don't need. Will fix it but could take time.
Stirling University, King’s College, London, Strathclyde University
Rolls-Royce, British Aerospace, Open University, Glasgow University
Favourite thing to do in my job: Starting with a complicated system and working out a computer model of it is very satisfying. If it’s something really tricky, like a ship at sea or an underwater oil well, it takes a long time to get right. The moment you do and can start using it to tell you how the real world behaves is very exciting.
Was a research physicist and engineer in industry; now a writer and journalist with a keen interest in getting real science out to real people.
My Typical Day
Rise, walk, write, drive, talk to people, home, walk, eat, write, beer, bed.
What I'd do with the prize money
Put it into Real Science, where we turn science news stories into activities with films of real scientists we’ve chatted to.
Got a couple of good web people who live high up in Spain’s Sierra Nevada working on my Real Science website. I’d use the money to pay them to make it look and work better.
By the way this isn’t the web people. It’s Sarah, whom I mention below in the three wishes section. But the site won’t show her photo there for some reason so I’ve included it here. Lovely isn’t she?
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Creative, curious, kind.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Designed a new system for controlling minehunters – ships that destroy mines at sea using underwater robots. These ships have to hold very still while the robot investigates, which is hard to do when the wind’s blowing and the waves are crashing. I developed a mathematical model that worked out what was happening and what would happen next, and showed a picture to the guy on the bridge. This meant he could hold the ship very still while the robot did its job. Only problem was the week after I’d finished this new system for minehunter control, one of them lost control completely and ran aground on Arran, the biggest island off the coast of Scotland – and very hard to miss. The ship wasn’t using my new super system. But my sons wouldn’t believe that when I told them. And they still don’t, the little buggers.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not until I was about 7. Then pretty much every day after that. Couldn’t seem to get the hang of it at all.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I’d like my sons to get married and have lots of kids, my sister to make time to write the great poetry I know she can, and Sarah to make a huge success of the jewellery business she’s been working all hours to get off the ground.
Tell us a joke.
I like one-liners. Like when they were explaining gravity to Eccles in the Goons: “When you jump up in the air what happens?” “I come back down again.” “Why’s that?” “Cos I live here”.