Saturday at the Manchester Mancunicon Easter science fiction convention started in the traditional way, with a cooked breakfast including a generous serving of mushrooms. We then made the mistake of returning to our 4th floor room, to pick up our stuff for the day. It was a mistake, because the 23-floor hotel has a paltry three lifts and no (usable) stairs. After a 20 minute wait, seeing lifts fly by, or full lifts stopping, we finally managed to squeeze in one. But because of this we arrived late for the 10am session (Dave Clements’ talk on How Space Science Happens), to find the room packed to overflowing. So we went to the Art Show instead. And didn’t make the mistake again of trying to use the lifts during the day.
The Mathematics of Juggling. Hilarious, brilliant, a technical tour de force (complex juggling while talking!), and with some deep maths to explain the patterns, leading to the deduced need for a time-travelling ball. He’s going to be a hard act to follow. The admiration was a two way street: he complimented the audience for getting all his technical and SF jokes.
Next came a talk by Verity Allen, on Designing the Supercomputer for the World’s Largest Radio Telescope. The radio telescope is the proposed Square Kilometre Array, and it will produce a truly prodigious amount of data: 5 thousand Petabytes/day (1 PB = 1000 TB) initially, then up to 100 thousand PB/day if phase 2 gets built. This amount of data offers interesting engineering issues, covering input, storage, buffering, memory bandwidth, and processing. And they need to architect the system for hardware that hasn’t been invented yet.
The Ecology of Doctor Who had Smuzz talking through how stories in Dr Who were alternately mirroring, or pointedly ignoring, a variety of ecological issues happening in mundania, backed by relevant clips (once the technology started working).
And continuing the Dr Who theme, we wrapped up the Saturday with An Adventure in Time and Space: 53 Years in 53 Rels: the entire Dr Who canon performed by five people in 53(ish) of your earth minutes. Rib-achingly funny, and clever. The Reduced Shakespeare Company has a lot to answer for!