I sit on Cambridge University’s staff childcare committee. We’re investigating ways to improve the childcare provision available to all staff. So, I’ve been talking about childcare with friends and colleagues. This led to asking the wider question: Is academic life compatible with family life? No! Not in the seventeenth century. Go back four hundred years. All academic staff at Cambridge were male; most were forbidden to marry. Academic life was, by dictat, incompatible with family life. This might lead us to imagine a University stuffed with aging bachelors, gently pickling in port. However, I understand that it meant a more youthful staff. A young man would completeRead More →

In my Research Skills course at the University of Cambridge, I use the Gettysburg address as an example presentation. The course is about how to give good research presentations, so it may seem curious that I use a political speech from the 19th century as an example. However, I find that this speech has much to teach us. Peter Norvig My original reason for choosing the Gettysburg address was that Peter Norvig has produced a Powerpoint presentation of it. His set of slides demonstrates how a presentation tool can turn a good speech into a poor presentation; this was the key teaching point in the first year I used it. The Gettysburg address is sufficientlyRead More →

Next week I am speaking about movies at EuroMed, the Euro-Mediterranean conference on cultural heritage. Most of the talk will concern the ways in which modern movie production techniques could be used to aid cultural heritage applications. However, the first part of my talk considers movies as cultural heritage in their own right. How do we preserve movies for posterity? When I visited CineSite in London a few years ago, concern was expressed about the sheer number of movies in the British Film Institute’s archive that had yet to be digitised. I got the impression that time was pressing and that we risk losing precious footage to the inevitableRead More →

I teach the Research Skills module to Masters and PhD students in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge. I aim to improve their writing, reading, and presenting skills. A major part of the course is the writing of scientific papers. But what is a scientific paper? Scientific paper as message-bearer A scientific paper is foremost a mechanism for communicating a scientific idea. A paper’s purpose is to convey ideas from one researcher to another. A paper should be written with this in mind: as an author, you are writing to convey an idea from your mind to your reader’s mind as accurately and effectively as possible. YouRead More →


One of the most common complaints against modern art is “my child could have painted that!” My work on Bridget Riley’s stripe paintings demonstrates that this does not stand up to scrutiny. Let me explain, first looking at the composition and then at the execution of the painting. First, composition. Could a child compose a sequence of stripes that emulates Bridget Riley’s work? Elsewhere I have analysed the sequence of colours and the choice of colours in Bridget Riley’s stripe paintings. Her colour choice and her ordering of the stripes require a depth of artistic understanding that would evade many adults. It would be an extraordinary childRead More →


Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work 24 November 2010 – 22 May 2011 Sunley Room, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London Admission free British artist Bridget Riley is best known for her 1960s ‘op-art’ paintings: black and white patterns that appear to shimmer and twist as they play with the early visual processing system in the human eye. Riley’s later paintings exploit higher cognitive processes: provoking softer visual sensations rather than perceptive shock. An intimate exhibition at London’s National Gallery, running until May, shows how her experimental style is rooted firmly in the Western artistic tradition. Eleven of Riley’s abstract paintings, spanning her career, areRead More →