Monday, May 13, 2013


By Colin Kerr, Executive Editor, EuroTimes

If you were a teenager growing up in the 1960’s, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, released in 1969, would have been part of the soundtrack of your life.

Space travel defined that decade in the same way that the internet defines the times we live in today.

I’d recommend that anyone who loves m music and literature should listen carefully to Bowie’s lyrics and then read “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe, one of the great American novels about the pioneers who put man on the moon (also listen to “Man on the Moon “by REM for a more whimsical insight into the great adventure ).

It started on April 12, 1961 when Yuriy Gagarin, an army major in the Soviet Union remained in orbit for 1 hour and 48 minutes, proving that human beings can survive in space.

For most children and young boys of my generation, the pinnacle of the space age was reached on July 16, 1969 when the American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin safely landed on the moon, while Michael Collins orbited around it. Their space ship Apollo 11 spent 21 hours and 31 minutes on its surface and returned safely back to Earth.

So where do we go from here?  Commander Chris Hadfield has posted a cover version of Space Oddity, recorded 230 miles above the earth on his last day in charge of the international space station.

Only the great, great songs can bring tears to your eyes, and Hadfield’s version of the Bowie classic is one of them.

The lyrics have been reworked slightly but Hadfield has stayed true to the original and made it even better with a really stunning video.

Welcome home Chris, on behalf of all the ophthalmologists in the world who dare to go where no man or woman has gone before.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


By Colin Kerr, Executive Editor, EuroTimes

I keep returning to The Observer newspaper to read some of the best and incisive writing in the English language.

The cover story in the paper's review section looks at The Whole Earth Catalog and the visionary work of Stewart Brand.

The article features an interview with Brand by Carole Cadwallader whose breathtaking range of ideas has influenced generations of scientists, futurists, architects, storytellers, photographers, inventors and inventors including Steve Jobs.

Brand is now 74 but as Cadwallader points out he is still fit and active and brimming over with new ideas and insights into the way the world has changed and is changing.

Read the full interview at


Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, recently suggested that online courses herald the end of traditional lectures.

In an excellent article in The Observer newspaper, Philip Henshaw, novelist and professor of creative writing at the University of Bath-Spa, UK and John Mullan, writer and professor of English at University College London, went head to head and argued the case for and against.

Henshaw argues: "Since I took to lecturing myself, I generally approached it as cabaret. You and I have stood together and yammered in front of silent audiences of sighing Germans. Since nobody much walked out, we believed ourselves to be extraordinarily fascinating. This discovery for academics is thrilling, and so there is an incentive to hang on to the hour-long lecture. But, realistically, if one wanted to teach anyone anything, I think one should make them participate, interrupt, ask questions, disagree, talk back, and that's the alternative route I've taken. There are probably a dozen lecturers  in this country so brilliant you don't want to do anything but listen to them for an hour. The rest of them should approach learning as an exchange with students."

According to Mullan, this approach is flawed. "Participation, interruption, disagreement – all those student responses you celebrate are virtuous, of course, so you have class or seminar teaching, where they are part of the deal. But sometimes the students want to know what the academic knows," he says.

"Learning shouldn't all be exchanging thoughts with students (and in the sciences and quantitative subjects it often cannot be this). The students can find it frustrating (as they tell us) when they have to spend their time listening to the least informed but most opinionated fellow student in the room."

So does this logic apply for ophthalmology students? I'd welcome your comments so let me know your views.

Colin Kerr