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← More reviews of 'The Genius of Charles Darwin'

Lisa Bauer's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by Lisa Bauer

Logicel wrote:

If I remember correctly, RD referred to AA Gill as a loose cannon in one of RDs books (can't remember which one). I thought that description at the time was an astute observation on the part of RD and made me chuckle; the only adjective that would do Gill even more justice would be the addition of miniature as in a miniature loose cannon.


You're right, in Unweaving the Rainbow. And the context was...yet another negative, totally-missing-the-point review by AA Gill of one of Dawkins's programmes, this time Breaking the Science Barrier:

Another example of anti-science, though in this case possibly intended to be funny, is a piece from A. A. Gill, a humorous loose cannon of a columnist in the Sunday Times of London (8 September 1996). He refers to science as constrained by experiment, and by the tedious, plodding stepping stones of empiricism. He contrasts it with art and with the theatre, with the magic of lights, fairy dust, music and applause.

There are stars and there are stars, darling. Some are dull, repetitive squiggles on paper, and some are fabulous, witty, thought-provoking, incredibly popular...


'Dull, repetitive squiggles' is a reference to the discovery of pulsars, by Bell and Hewish at Cambridge in 1967. Gill was reviewing a television programme in which the astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell recalled the spine-tingling moment when she first knew, looking at the print-out from Anthony Hewish's radio telescope, that she was seeing something hiterto unheard of in the universe. A young woman on the threshold of a career, the 'dull, repetitive squiggles' on her roll of paper spoke to her in tones of revolution. Not something new under the sun: a whole new kind of sun, a pulsar. Pulsars spin so fast that, where our planet takes 24 hours to rotate, a pulsar may take a fraction of a second. Yet the beam of energy that brings us the news, sweeping round like a lighthouse with such astonishing speed and clocking the seconds more accurately than a quartz crystal, may take millions of years to reach us. Darling, how too too tedious, how madly empirical, my dear! Give me fairy dust at the panto any day.


I thought that review sounded a bit familiar...

Sun, 10 Aug 2008 17:21:00 UTC | #215716