If anyone has any better ideas for what LIYSF should stand for, please, let me know.
You may have guessed the topic of this post by now. Yup, I’ve just returned from the boringly-named-but-amazingly-amazing London International Youth Science Forum. And I’m feeling good. (You know the song. I know it seems a bit random but I had to find a better way to end the paragraph than with the word “Forum”.)
Above irony realised and retrospectively intentional 😛
Anyhoo, the affectionately christened “geek camp” of 2009 was one of the most incredible two weeks of my life. My eyelids drooped during the unending and falsely advertised mobile phone lecture; slammed shut as my head hit the pillow after so many knackering days; but were ultimately, and I think permanently, locked wide open.
Guernsey is a small place. I’ve had to come to terms with that before – the tour guide for Disney Land in Florida announcing it was 48 square miles, and thus twice the size of Guernsey, drove that home a while ago. What I hadn’t realised, though, was just how isolated it was. That was driven home as I sat in the Royal Geographic Society for the opening ceremony, surrounded by 300 students from something like 60 countries (www.liysf.org for those screaming “CITATION NEEDED!”); listening and hearing so many different languages; looking around and not recognising a single face; and yet all calmly, but excitedly, sat in the theatre for the same reason. Science.
I hate melodramatacism as much as the next guy, but until you’ve sat in a massive lecture theatre looking at a huge screen showing a Google Earth globe spinning, music crescendoing, chatter rising, and flag-bearers…bearing, then you don’t know what it’s like. Professor Lord Winston (affectionately known as “Bob”, I’m sure) gave the opening speech, followed by Professor John Ellis from CERN detailing us on the latest magic going on in Switzerland. The reason I say “magic” is this image. Spot the difference.
But although the fortnight is named after the science that brought us all there, and although you could throw any geeky joke at any of us and we’d all get it (my “May the m×a be with you” T-shirt was a good buy), I think the memories we all took away from it were of each other. Memories of tasting Vegemite for the first time, of learning how to shake hands in Jamaica, of learning Greek swear words, and of the sense of relief when I no longer had to explain where Guernsey was geographically. Winning a game of bowling wasn’t bad either ;].
Although there were some bad times, like getting the ‘flu or discovering that the pavement in London is indeed harder than my teeth the hard way (literally. But it had to be done! For Science!), I couldn’t list all the good times simply because there were so many. Flight of the Conchords (and there you were thinking I would quote you John Lennon or someone) sang “Brown paper, white paper, stick it together with the tape, the tape of love.” I reckon “love” and “science” are interchangeable.
So there you have it. The power of sticking 300 youngsters from all over the world with a common interest in the same place, at the same time. If only politics was more like this.