Beijing, 9 April 2013

The thing about my current position is that it requires me to get involved in a lot of issues about which I know absolutely nothing, or close to it. In a previous post I described a trip to Dali, in the province of Yunnan, where I went to discuss with the local government what could be done to increase markets for the prefecture’s walnuts. I am an ignoramus when it comes to walnuts but I can read up on the topic and learn enough to sound intelligent for half an hour’s discussion. But this afternoon, at the request of our Legal Advisor, I attended a meeting about the regulation of internet domains. This was fated to be one of those meetings where I understand the single words that people are uttering but find that when they string the words together it turns into gibberish. Luckily, someone else was leading our group, and my role was principally to fill a chair.  So I let it all wash over me and allowed my mind to wander. For some reason, the organizers of the meeting had put a slide of a galaxy on the screen. It looked something like this:


I sat there as the meeting droned on, admiring the simple, pulsating symmetry of it all. It reminded me of a book I had bought in Vienna which was filled with photos of the Universe like this one.


Look at those towering clouds of intergalactic dust. Wonderful …

But actually, the Universe seen from Earth is just as nice. I mean, on a clear, cloudless, moonless night the Milky Way is absolutely lovely

milky way-2

Even simple stars can take your breath away. I remember a night on the shores of Lake Sevan in Armenia, where we were seeing what could be done to get the economy going again and the environment back in shape after the devastations wrought upon both by the central planning of the Soviet Union. We walked down to the lakeshore one night, and the sky looked like this:


The tragedy was that we could see the sky so clearly because the economy was bankrupt – no-one could afford electricity so there was no light pollution.

Well, that was a nice, relaxing daydream. Lord knows what I’ll write to the Legal Advisor tomorrow, when I report on the meeting.


Milky way:
Desert sky: