Prof Patrick Evans’ advice for aspiring writers

Professor Patrick Evans has officially retired from his role at UC. During his career, he specialised in New Zealand Literature and also Creative Composition – following is his advice for aspiring writers.

– If you want to be a writer, commit to it or give up now. It’s hard work and particularly so in New Zealand where there’s so little money in the publishing industry. There are so few readers and the reviewing and literary-critical system is so primitive.

– Few successful writers I know have managed to write full-time; the crucial question is how you will support yourself as a creative writer by doing something that doesn’t draw from the same well writing draws from (hint: avoid school teaching: all that spare time you think you’re going to use for writing will be taken up in marking and therapy).

– Marry someone rich and naïve, someone who ‘believes in you’; around them set up a supportive network of friends who will read your work and criticise it intelligently, honestly and kindly.

– Don’t have kids, as they will suck up all your time and money. Or do, and be prepared to write less and on cheaper paper.

– Remember that writing can be a selfish and lonely existence; be aware of what you’re doing to those around you. Write about them, not you, and learn what it is as well, and how to write about it.

– Remember that novels in particular are hard things to write, particularly if they’re going to be any good. You might think you’ve written a novel, but you’ve probably just written 80,000 words of stuff. Be patient. Life is long. You might not be a writer now, but you might be a writer then.

– Learn to write out of love, not hate – out of the gratitude you feel for being allowed to live in the wonder of the world (see R.K. Narayan for this). You think the world is two gin-and-tonics below par (see Humphrey Bogart)? Then why do people want to live in it as long as they can? Learn to recognise that wonder around you (this will take you the rest of your life). Learn to read the Book of Life (Allen Curnow’s idea). You will know what that means when you find you are starting to do it.

– Avoid meetings.

Crafoord Days 2016 – symposium

Following is a post from Professor David Wiltshire, who recently attended Crafoord Days 2016 in Stockholm, including the symposium and Crafoord Prize ceremony.

Greetings from Stockholm.

The Symposium covered a diverse range of talks on all the aspects of rotating black holes. This included the history of the discovery by Roy Kerr, the astrophysics of accretion disks and jets by co-laureate Roger Blandford, simulations of accretion processes by Jonathan McKinney, simulations and visualisations of the geometrodynamics of strong field vorticity in colliding black holes by Kip Thorne, the LIGO discovery by Laura Cadonati, and more about its implications by Frans Pretorius.

Andy Fabian discussed observations of accretion disks, and Avery Broderick showed the sort of images of the central black hole in our galaxy, and the one in M87 that we might hope to have from the Event Horizon Telescope within the next several years. These are really going to nail down the Kerr solution in general relativity versus some other exotic theories. Gerard ‘t Hooft spoke about the black hole information paradox.

I covered outstanding theoretical issues, which we might hope to resolve in the next few decades. In particular, I highlighted the possibility that primordial black holes created in the quark-hadron transition at the GeV energy scale in the early universe form a significant part of the dark matter. This possibility is raised as a serious option if black holes of a mass similar to those discovered by LIGO are typical; an option which had not been thought about much prior to the LIGO discovery but which is the subject of a paper by Bird et al, in the latest Physical Review Letters.

The physics needed to make such an option viable turns out to naturally tie in with the direction of my own current research plans, which involve the treatment of back reaction in the primordial plasma – i.e., treating general relativity differently from traditional approaches in the first few fractions of a second after the Big Bang. A typical reaction to my talk was that of Roger Blandford who said he enjoyed the talk, and “it would be fun if the heretics won”.

In the evening the laureates – including also the Mathematics Crafoord laureate Yakov Eliashberg – symposium speakers, partners and invited fellows of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences – dined in their private club, looked on by portraits of Carl Linnaeus, Alfred Nobel and other less familiar characters. This was a time both to catch up with old friends – such as Andy Fabian who is a fellow at Darwin College where my wife Anneke and I met – and meet new faces, some of whom turned out to be collaborators of other people we know well, such as Gerry Gilmore. A very memorable evening indeed.

Tech Jumpstart Competition – now open

The Tech Jumpstart 2016 competition is now open.

The three winners will receive $20,000 funding to help with experimentation, proof-of concept or technology development projects. Research & Innovation will provide commercialisation support and possible access to additional funding sources for continued development.

The competition is open to all University of Canterbury staff members (not students), and ideas can be from any research area. More info here.

Presentation of the Crafoord Prize

The University of Canterbury’s only New Zealand Canterbury Distinguished Professor, Roy Kerr has been presented the prestigious Crafoord Prize in Sweden by HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Emeritus Professor Kerr retired as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Canterbury in 1993 after 22 years, including a decade as the head of UC’s Mathematics department. At its December 2015 graduation ceremonies, the University conferred a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on Professor Kerr.

Roy Kerr (centre) and Roger Blandford receiving the Crafoord Prize from HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden (right) in Stockholm yesterday.

Roy Kerr (centre) and Roger Blandford receiving the Crafoord Prize from HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden (right) in Stockholm.

.  Roy Kerr and Roger Blandford attend the Symposium in their honour.

 Roy Kerr and Roger Blandford attend the Symposium in their honour.

Photos by Laura Pishief.