Steve Connor: Science Notebook

The night I fixed drinks for Sir John

Share
Related Topics

Sir John Maddox, the former editor of the scientific journal
Nature and towering figure of science journalism, died last week at the age of 83. It is said that he was one of the last great polymaths and that there was barely a dusty corner of science he had not inspected at some time or other.

Everyone has a story about John. His chain-smoking, his brinkmanship with print deadlines, his erudite knowledge and his mischievous conversation. Mine is the time when he uttered his very first words to me: "A glass of red wine, please."

It was the mid-1980s and we were both attending a science writers' awards ceremony at some posh Park Lane hotel, which had laid on a complimentary bar. The hotel's barman had stepped away for a while and told me to help myself, which I duly did.

I can only guess that when John arrived a minute or so later he took the young man behind the bar dressed in an ill-fitting dark jacket, black tie and white shirt as a hotel employee, hence the request for a glass of red wine. I knew who he was of course, but I was too timid to do anything other than offer him what he requested.

I never did get round to asking him in later years whether he recalled our first meeting. Or what he had thought later that evening of a hotel barman walking away with one of the science writer's awards.

Smile, it's a recession

The recession appears to be good for dentists, at least those who are experts in the science of restorative dentistry. Many people, it seems, feel that it is more important than ever to put on a brilliantine smile when every economic indicator is pointing to an exceedingly glum outlook.

Keith Cohen, a Harley Street dentist who specialises in fixing wonky smiles, tells me that many people come to him to whiten or straighten their teeth because they feel it gives them confidence before an important job interview. Teeth-whitening has become a bit of a fashion must-have in some circles – as soon as a critical mass of people go for bleached teeth, he says everyone's got to have it done.

Another trend is to straighten teeth using a series of clear-plastic braces that are gradually altered by computer over the course of 12 months to pull teeth into the required alignment while you sleep. The idea comes from America, where it is sold as a treatment for "English mouth".

Doomed to more gloom

Another newspaper is predicting that solar Armageddon will arrive one evening in late September 2012. A solar superstorm caused by "50,000 mile-wide eddies of boiling hydrogen plasma" will eject "a billion-tone, malevolent blob of crackling-charged gas" our way, causing a meltdown of the power grid and the biggest economic catastrophe in history. So not much to smile about there.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

£21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger & Arrears Supervisor

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are an experienced super...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Web Designer

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this leading ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Durham Free School, which has already been ordered to close, has been accused of harbouring  

From creationism and bullying to reading abilities that go backwards, free schools are a complete and utter failure

Tristram Hunt
 

Now’s the time to bring back Top Of The Pops

David Lister
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss