A Tale of Two Professors

There is a science festival taking place where I live right now. I had tickets for two events. The first concerned cyber security and the various scams designed to part us from our money. The second was an introduction to viruses.

The professor occupying the cyber security slot had ninety minutes to cover the subject. He showed signs of knowing what he was talking about, including footage of himself addressing a parliamentary committee examining the subject, and further footage of Amber Rudd, who plainly hadn’t a clue. (For anyone outwith these shores, Ms Rudd is Her Brittanic Majesty’s Home Secretary.)

The trouble with the professor’s presentation was that he flitted like a butterfly from one blossom to another and so achieved a remarkable degree of incoherence. He also fancied himself as a stand-up comedian, which didn’t improve things at all. Despite his best efforts, I did pick up the odd nugget, such as how easily passwords can be cracked in these digital times and how quickly this can be done.

When I was younger than I am today, which wouldn’t be difficult, I was sometimes confronted by on-screen messages accusing me of having made a syntax error. Well, this particular professor is no stranger to syntax errors either, of the order ‘I had went.’ And despite having ninety minutes, he left no time for questions. Too bad. Given the chaotic nature of his talk there must have been many.

So I attended the second presentation with some anxiety, but it was everything the first was not. Professor Dorothy H Crawford was introducing us to viruses – in more ways than one as she was suffering from laryngitis at the time. The lecture was given in the old anatomy lecture theatre in the building which housed our vet school before the new one was built; hard wooden seating raked to a vertiginous degree but intimate withal.

She was coherent and lucid, with a wonderful command of clear expression.  Though having thirty minutes less than the cyber security expert, she left fifteen minutes for questions. These were many and she answered them equally clearly. Dorothy Crawford is the author of several books on this subject, including Viruses: A Very Short Introduction. I now have a copy of this book, which is excellent, expressed in the same clear language as the lecture. Having said that, many sections will repay repeated reading, as can happen with prose when hardly a word is wasted – doubtless a function of her remit to keep the book ‘very short’.

Below is a link to her Author Page.


In the old days, and maybe it still happens now, students were asked ‘to compare and contrast.’ This I have done.


7 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Professors

  1. Excellent comparison and contrast. Well done Rod.

    I’m thinking about going to an archaeology lecture this week. Not been to any for a while, but it is my field, so to write, so I may be lured. You give me hope 😉


  2. I hope your lecture goes well; it is an instructive subject. Recently the BBC aired three programmes on the archaeology of Orkney, which is even more astonishing than I had realised.


  3. Good contrasts, Rod.
    I suppose there are professors and professors. On TV, most commentators seem to be professors. I am slowly overcoming my unfettered awe for them. Perhaps it stems from not having a degree in much of anything. How’s spring coming along, Rod?


  4. Spring. We’ve had the snowdrops and the crocuses. Now we’re on to the daffodils, though they’re getting close to the end of their season. The whitebeam is beginning to produce its heavy crop of light green candles, which will blossom into leaves soon. The limes, as usual, have a long way to go. It will be well into May till they are fully out.

    We have some particularly virtuosic blackbirds, whose variety of song always amazes me.
    The tits are active as usual, and the sparrows, and this year we have a pair of chaffinches – about as colourful as it gets round here.

    There was a relatively warm day last weekend.

    How is your autumn?


    • Autumn is at its peak. Chinese tourists arrive in buses and take selfies with a claret ash or burnished oak in the background.

      It is still warm but mornings chills have arrived.

      The silver crested cockatoos are screeching, mercilessly stripping the eucalypts bark and silver birch. Possums are getting ready to clamber over our roof with Milo powerless, but he still looks on and wished he could climb too…


  5. Great comparison. I am very familiar with this contrast. Every Friday from mid January to early March we attend the Darwin Lectures. These are free world-class lectures around a theme, this year it was Extremes, next year it will be Migration… a couple of years ago it was Plagues. Many of the lecturers are brilliant, some are average, a few are incoherent and occasionally we get an idiot. These talks are wonderfully informative and see us through the winter.


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