CloudLab digital footprint grows and introduces the Geeks….

The countdown clock is in full swing now and the project now has it’s very own place in the twitterverse (or whatever the current name for it). Head over to @BBCCloudLab to see what’s what. This is the official account that has been setup for those interested in following our progress, you can expect commentary from assorted CloudLab-ers as well as, no doubt, some pretty impressive photos.


Our new logo has been adorned onto the side of our airship, this was done before it left the hangar in Elizabeth City. As well as this we have installed a sensor right on top of the envelope this will measure solar radiation (downwelling is the technical term). The Airship itself is a most impressive beast, it is over 200 feet long and contains over a quarter of a million cubic feet of helium! We have commandeered ourselves a Skyship600 for the trip these are more often used for advertising and airborne camera platforms for sporting events (Olympics etc…).

Geeks and Boffins. The tag line for the twitter account is “One airship. One continent. Six geeks. In a whole world of weather” which means I have made it to ‘geek’ status, nowadays this is a good thing! The term geek however has become ubercool, I suspect that this is mainly due to the TV show Big Bang Theory which I have to admit only discovering in the last 12 months. In fact you can buy t-shirts advertising the fact that the wearer is a geek! BBT follows the lives of a bunch of scientists, mainly physics based although those female characters who are also scientists are more biology facing. This follows the common high school and especially university male/female splits where physics is far away dominated by males whereas the male/female ratio in biology type subjects is considerably more even. In the UK, the more traditional term for a scientist might have been “boffin“, this is still in quite common use by UK tabloids when referring to an academic who is explaining a scientific principle or testing a new hypothesis.

Heinz Wolff archetypal boffin

Boffins* often invent things too, so much so is the link between boffin and inventor that the BBC programme The Great Egg Race was presented by Professors Heinz Wolff and Ian Fells, although I have to say Heinz always wins hands-down in a boffin contest. Other boffins include Magnus Pyke, James Burke, Barnes Wallace, Albert Einstein, Patrick Moore, Richard Feynman, and even Heath Robinson ticks the boffin box!

* A further clue as to the origin of the word is the parallel term “Brain-Box”, which enjoyed great popularity among the wartime generation. A “box” in military slang is the word used for a “coffin”, and it is quite possible that the word “Boffin” is simply a play on the words “Brain-box” and “Coffin” (source).

About Jim McQuaid

Atmospheric scientist (chemist by birth). Working in the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds). Often found in close proximity to the FAAM146 research aircraft. Previously found urrently providing some science (and weighing clouds!) to the BBC Cloud Lab project as well as making clouds for BBC Wild Weather series.... (more... @jimmcquaid
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