Friday, January 06, 2006

Not an Episode of Steptoe and Son

When I was a pup I was in the British Association of Young Scientists – a geek’s society if ever there was one but I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. Our one field trip was a day combining a visit to Berkeley Nuclear Power Station with a visit to the Coal Research Establishment (Not currently involved in a legal dispute over the acronym CRE). While the nuclear stuff was fun and big, the CRE was much more interesting, even if I didn’t understand much of it. It was located in two-storey, thirties flat-top buildings – lots of little rooms with the occasional big space for some giant throbbing bit of machinery. We say NMR machines, CAT machines – stuff that everyone has heard of now but then was whizzy and on-the-edge. The big thing for the people there at the time was fluidised beds where coal was persuaded to behave like a liquid so that it could be pumped like oil or gas. I seem to remember a big pipe running down one big room, making noises so unfamiliar that we thought something was about to blow-up. You want a generic laboratory for a film? – go to the CRE and copy it.

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