## Friday 26 July 2024

### Trinity treeees

Let everyone bob to their own level. I was happy to be a second rate scientist because it gave me the chance to watch ticking first rate minds at work. I wasn't a fifth rate scientist; although I guess some of them are ignoring Mark Twain's advice about writing and writers and still drawing a salary in colleges round the world rather than sawing wood. Before I worked at The Institute and started The Blob, I was a computational immunologist in UCD and then TCD, the rival universities in Dublin.

One of the first raters, for whom I worked, decided to formalize the process of allowing teenagers to intern in science. Having Professor Bigcheese bullying his colleagues to edutain his nephew for a few days got to be disruptive, haphazard and [therefore] not a good window into the wonders of science. If the Department could limit interns to a couple of weeks in the year then a) the kids would have some peers to hang out with while the centrifuge span down b) group activities / explanations / safety announcements would be efficient use of employee time c) the disruption to Real Work would be time-limited. And let's make a scientific scavenger hunt round college to get the teens out in the fresh air and explore campus. That would be Let's you Bob make a scientific scavenger hunt. Nothing loath, in 2008, off I went to research and write a booklet called Finding Out in Trinity. One of the tasks was to guesstimate the height of a particular tree near the college rugger pitch adjacent to the Engineering Building.

I was in Dublin recently and made a progress report on tree-growth between 2008 [L] and 2024 [R]. We can take it that the white building hasn't grown over the last 16 years (that is a new build behind it, extreme R). Even if you take the angle and camera differences with a pinch of salt, it looks like [data tabulated below] that tree has grown 2.05 ÷ 1.79 = 14% in that period.
 Year Building Tree Ratio 2008 28mm 50mm 1.78 2024 23mm 47mm 2.05 growth = 14%

The Oregon maple Acer macrophyllum in which I was showing off in 1974 came crashing to earth in 2018. Partly because it was "a hazard", and partly because The Patriarchy prefers things symmetrical to show they are in charge, the matching maple on the other side of front square was felled out the following year. They were replaced with a pair of ginkos Ginko biloba which are native to Clare China. The trees are doing well, so far, although one could, and I do, fault the committee for failure to plant a species native to Ireland . . . and for still obsessing about symmetry as if we're André Le Nôtre in the Versailles of Louis XIV. They never learn.

The other famous paired trees in front square are the Erman's birch Betula ermanii - also native to China. There used to be two more Oregon maples in the patches of manicured lawn here, adjacent to Front Gate. One of them blew down in a storm in 1945 and after much hand-wringing the College Symmetrists won the day and the remaining maple was felled out and replaced with the pair of birches. Nature, sunlight and soil had the last laugh on the Symmetriarchy: leaving one birch struggling and the other winner-takes-all - a fitting metaphor for late stage Capitalism:

Trouble with tree decisions like these is that they stand testament long after the responsible dusty old academics have passed on to the library in the sky.