Wavewatcher’s Companion, with Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Gavin has focused his gaze on WAVES - water, magnetic, all kinds - and takes us on a tour that transforms our idea of the world around us in a radical way

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From Mexican waves to shock waves, from micro-waves to sound waves, from the waves of the sea to the Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Cloud... waves both visible and invisible control our lives in ways we have only begun to understand. In this talk, Gavin will help us see and appreciate waves everywhere. His is a wonderfully poetic vision of a dynamic, undulating universe.

One bright February afternoon on a beach in Cornwall, Gavin Pretor-Pinney took a break from cloudspotting and started watching the waves rolling into shore. Mesmerised, he wondered where they had come from, and decided to find out. He soon realised that waves don't just appear on the ocean, they are everywhere around us, and our lives depend on them...

From the rippling beats of our hearts, to the movement of food through our digestive tracts and of signals across our brains, waves are the transport systems of our bodies. Everything we see and hear reaches us via light and sound waves, and our information age is reliant on the microwaves and infrared waves used by the telephone and internet infrastructure. From shockwaves unleashed by explosions to torsional waves that cause suspension bridges to collapse, from sonar waves that allow submarines to 'see' with sound to Mexican waves that sweep through stadium crowds...there were waves, it seemed, wherever Gavin looked. But what, he wondered, could they all have in common with ones we splash around in on holiday? By the time he made the ultimate surfer's pilgrimage to Hawaii, Gavin had become a world-class wavewatcher, although he was still rubbish at surfing.


Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Gavin is the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. He is the author of 3 best-selling books: The Cloudspotter's Guide, The Cloud Collectors’s Handbook and The Wavewatcher’s Companion. Gavin co-founded The Idler, a magazine that promotes the noble art of doing nothing. He is a visiting Fellow of Reading University and an Honorary Member of the Astronomers Association of Kurdistan. _The Wavewatcher’s Companion_ was the 2011 winner of The Royal Society’s Winton Prize for Science Books. The judges called it:

“ A brilliant, almost poetic book that really opened our eyes. We were amazed to find that we now see waves everywhere we look, making the world around us a more absorbing and enchanting place.”

The Royal Society’s annual Winton Prize aims at encouraging the writing, publishing and reading of science books – especially those that deal with complex subjects in a style that can be absorbed by a non-specialist audience.

2012Martin Keeley