Home' Greymouth Star : November 28th 2014 Contents London
P D James took the classic British
detective story into tough modern terrain,
complete with troubled relationships and
brutal violence, and never accepted that
crime writing was second-class literature.
James, who died overnight aged 94, is best
known as the creator of sensitive Scotland
Yard sleuth Adam Dalgliesh. But her
wickedly acute imagination ranged widely,
inserting a murder into the mannered
world of Jane Austen in Death Comes to
Pemberley and creating a bleak dystopian
future in The Children of Men.
James said in 2006 that she was drawn to
mystery novels because they “tell us more
... about the social mores about the time
in which they were written than the more
Publisher Faber and Faber said James
died peacefully at her home in Oxford,
southern England. Faber, James’ publisher
for more than 50 years, said in a statement
that she had been “so very remarkable in
every aspect of her life, an inspiration and
great friend to us all”.
James’ books sold millions of copies
around the world, and most were just as
popular when adapted for television.
Because of the quality and careful
structure of her writing “and her elegant,
intellectual detective Dalgliesh”, she was at
first seen as a natural successor to writers
like Dorothy L Sayers, creator of Lord
Peter Wimsey, in the between-the-wars
golden age of the mystery novel.
But James’ books were strong on
character, avoided stereotype and touched
on distinctly modern problems including
drugs, child abuse, terrorism and nuclear
Novelist A S Byatt said the realism of
James’ writing was one of its strengths.
“ When people in her books died the
other characters’ lives changed as they
would in real life,” Byatt told the BBC.
“Phyllis ( James) was working with real
people that she cared about. The world will
be a worse place without her.”
Although there was nothing remotely
genteel about P D James’ writing, she was
criticised by some younger writers of gritty
urban crime novels.
They accused her of snobbery because she
liked to write about middle-class murderers,
preferably intelligent and well-educated,
who agonise over right and wrong and
spend time planning and justifying their
crimes. Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, hero of
more than a dozen of James’ 20 novels, is a
decidedly gentlemanly detective, who writes
poetry, loves jazz and drives a Jaguar.
James was unapologetic. She said her
interest was in what made people tick.
“The greatest mystery of all is the human
heart,” she said in a 1997 inter view, “and
that is the mystery with which all good
novelists, I think, are concerned. I’m always
interested in what makes people the sort of
people they are”.
Her first novel, Cover Her Face, was
published in 1962 and was an immediate
critical success, but she continued to work
as a civil ser vant until 1979.
In 1980, with the publication of her
eighth book, Innocent Blood, her small
but loyal following exploded into mass
“Monday, I was ticking along as usual, and
by Friday I was a millionaire,” she once said.
As well as Dalgliesh, James created the
female detective Cordelia Gray, protagonist
of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and The
Skull Beneath the Skin.
Her work was not confined to the mystery
genre. Her 1992 science fiction novel The
Children of Men, about a dystopian future
in which humanity has become infertile,
was turned into a critically praised 2006
movie by Alfonso Cuaron. — AP
hat makes gold
golden? Why is
mercury the only
that is liquid at room
Daring to answer these seemingly
unanswerable questions has defined the
career of the newest recipient of our
highest science honour.
But in the beginning, the scientific
proposition on the mind of a teenaged
Peter Schwerdtfeger was slightly simpler.
How do I blow things up?
As with many other great careers, it was
a basic chemistry set that put the Massey
University scientist, last night presented
the Royal Society of New Zealand’s
Rutherford Medal, on a path to becoming
one of the world’s most sought-after
The experiments in his childhood home
in Stuttgart, Germany, began innocently
with dissolving sugar to make caramel.
That changed when he got his first
The equation of potassium chlorate
plus phosphorous was swiftly discovered
to equal the evacuation of the five-story
apartment building his family were living
in, followed by a visit from unimpressed
“I wouldn’t do that now,” the now
Distinguished Professor Schwerdtfeger
recalled with a chuckle.
“I did take a very tiny amount of that and
demonstrate the reaction in front of one of
my classes, but I couldn’t do it now because
of health and safety rules.”
That and every other experiment in
his life has been launched by a refusal to
swallow standard explanations for what
makes our world work.
“Growing up in Germany, whenever I
asked, why is it like that, the answer was
always ‘it’s just because’. I never accepted
While many friends in his working
class neighbourhood joined the city’s
automobile industry, the self-described
pacifist refused to ser ve West Germany ’s
military and instead absorbed himself
in mathematics, physics and chemistry,
gathering four or five degrees by the time
he turned 30.
He covered his living costs by driving
taxis at night and in one instance
reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi
Driver rescued a 14-year-old prostitute
from a violent pimp.
It was a Jacques Cousteau documentary
proclaiming New Zealand “the last
paradise on earth” that inspired he and
his then partner to travel here in the early
By the end of the decade, with a posting
at the University of Auckland, he had
begun to establish himself as one of the
country’s few theoretical chemists.
Around that time appeared a New
Zealand Herald article about an IBM
computer bought by the university which
had proven a multi-million dollar white
“I rang the guy responsible and said, ‘I
can tell you, I’ll use that computer 100%’.”
The use of a super computer eventually
helped him achieve his first major
breakthrough and one of his most cited
papers out of nearly 300 to date.
In analysing the chemistry and physics
of gold, he drew upon Einstein’s Theory of
Relativity to give new understandings of
what gives the precious metal its unique
Carrying on this work, initially rejected
by journals, he has sought to reveal what
chemical reactions can be caused or
influenced in heavy elements like gold
when the effects of relativity were factored
Last year, Einstein’s special relativity was
used in calculations and computational
simulations to solve a long-standing
problem of why mercury is the only
metallic element that is liquid at room
Without the effect, the melting point
would be about 80degC, not 39degC as
Today the director of the Centre for
Theoretical Chemistry and Physics at
Massey’s Albany-based Institute for
Advanced Study, Prof Schwerdtfeger
occupies a world of such mind-boggling
concepts as quantum electrodynamic
effects, electroweak interactions and graph
theory with fullerene structures.
But fundamental research, he said, had
borne countless invaluable benefits to
society, from the internet and development
of lasers to treatments against illnesses
such as cancer.
“It will be fundamental research which
helps us to solve the many great challenges
human beings face on our planet,” he said.
“If you focus solely on the commercial
side without investing in fundamental
science you may get neither of them.”
He thought it wrong that the tightly-
contested Marsden Fund was one of the
country’s only avenues to drive applied
science, especially with immense challenges
like global warming still awaiting solution.
That the Rutherford Medal was named
after a hero of fundamental science, Sir
Ernest Rutherford, the 59-year-old felt
even more delighted to win the country’s
highest science honour.
“He’s one of the true giants of science
— not only did he split the atom, he also
discovered the proton ... he’s in the same
category as Einstein,” he said.
“In physics, you know, he’s very much up
there and I’m down here.”
Yet with seven Marsden grants in the
last 15 years and a published research-
quantifying “h-index” standing tall at 47,
he can claim to be the most highly cited
chemist and physicist in the country at his
The Rutherford Medal selection panel
described him as one of New Zealand’s
“most brilliant and internationally highly
sought-after scientists”, adding that his
research had provided a deep insight into
how atoms and molecules interact at the
With no plans to leave New Zealand, he
wants to keep pushing the boundaries of
science, while inspiring his students with
the same curiosity that has driven his own
“I absolutely love teaching, but I do
tell my students not to believe absolutely
everything I’m saying,” he said.
“I can teach them what we know today
— but that may well be very different
tomorrow.” — New Zealand Herald
4 - Friday, November 28, 2014
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
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Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
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uLetters to the editor
1885 - British forces occupy Mandalay in
1905 - Sinn Fein Party is founded in D ublin,
1916 - German planes make their first raid on
London, already subject to Zeppelin
1919 - Lady Astor is elected
first woman member of Britain’s
1943 - US President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader
Josef Stalin meet in Tehran during World War
1948 - First G M Holden goes on sale in
Australia for £760.
1971 - Jordan’s Prime Minister Wasfi Tell is
assassinated while attending an Arab conference
in Cairo, Egypt.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Jose Iturbi, Spanish pianist-conductor (1895-
1980); Keith Miller, Australian cricket star
(1919-2004); Gary Hart, former US senator
and presidential candidate (1936-);
Randy Newman, US singer (1943-
); Beeb Birtles, Australian musician
(1948-); Ed Harris, US actor
(1950-); John Galliano, British
fashion designer (1960-); Martin
Clunes, British actor (1961-); Jon
Stewart, US comedian-actor (1962-
); Anna Nicole Smith, American
television personality (1967-2007).
“No man can be a patriot on an empty
stomach.” — William Cowper, English
“ Do not love the world or anything in the
world. If anyone loves the world, the love of
the Father is not in him. For everything in the
world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of
his eyes and the boasting of what he has and
does — comes not from the Father but from
the world. The world and its desires pass away,
but the man who does the will of God lives
forever. ” — 1 John 2:15-17.
A Paroa resident has
not closed his front
gate for the past 10
years because cars are
continually running up his drive, from a bridge.
“Suicide corner” he calls it. But the time is in
sight when he will again be able to close the
gate with confidence it will not be knocked
The Grey County Council is to make
provisions in its estimates for 1965-66 for
a new bridge across the Dowling Creek in
Yesterday ’s monthly meeting of the council
was waited on by a deputation of Messrs C
Coulson and H Tibbles representing the Paroa
Ratepayers’ Association. They sought action
on the provision of a new bridge (in better
alignment with the road), and were successful.
The council engineer considered that a sign
should be erected to warn motorists of the
danger of the bridge.
Mr Tibbles: I have lived on the corner by the
bridge for the past 25 years. I haven’t closed my
front gate for the last 10 years because cars are
always shooting up the drive from the bridge.
As for a sign being erected on the corner,
the words ‘suicide corner ’ would most aptly
Dr G W Harrison, parish priest of
Hokitika, has been appointed director of
the Propagation of the Faith Society for the
diocese of Christchurch. It was reported in
a Christchurch newspaper that Dr Harrison
would be returning to Christchurch, but
although he could not be contacted today,
it was stated authoritatively that he will be
directing the society from Hokitika.
Dr Harrison ser ved in Christchurch before
going to Hokitika a few years ago.
uFood for thought
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Peter Schwerdtfeger’s love of chemistry first caused the evacuation of his family’s apartment block.
On Wednesday night, it won him New Zealand’s highest science honour. JAMIE MORTON reports.
Taxis to test tubes
Described as one of New Zealand’s “most brilliant and
internationally highly sought-after scientists”. His multi-disciplinary
research provided a deep insight into how atoms and molecules
interact at the quantum level.
The director of the Centre for Theoretical Chemistry and Physics
at Massey University’s Albany-based Institute for Advanced Study.
Born into a working class family in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1955.
Once rescued a teenaged prostitute while working as a taxi driver to
earn a living while he studied.
Has received many international grants, awards and prizes,
including a James Cook Fellowship and the Hector Medal in 2001,
the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize and the Fukui medal in
Joins other celebrated Rutherford Medallists including
Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond (2013), Distinguished
Professor Margaret Brimble (2012) and Professor Christine
At a glance: Distinguished
Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger
Batting helmet in cricket
Englishman Patsy Hendren was the first
man to wear a helmet — of sorts — when
he pulled on a modified rubber cap, which
offered some protection, during a test
match against the West Indies at Lord’s in
The idea of wearing a helmet hardly took
off but in the 1970s they started to make a
regular appearance during Kerry Packer’s
World Series Cricket.
Motorcycle-style helmets were the
norm before they gradually evolved to
become lighter with a more robust type of
Previously, helmets without a metallic
grill were popular as players believed
it allowed them to see the ball better
but now a grill is commonplace among
batsmen who regularly wear helmets, even
against spin bowling.
Wicket-keepers and close-in fieldsman
have also taken to wearing helmets for
Neck guard in ice hockey
If you have not seen the footage of Clint
Malarchuk getting his neck sliced open by
a stray skate in a 1989 NHL game then
you should track it down, providing you
have a strong stomach.
The then-Buffalo Sabres goaltender
suffered massive blood loss when St Louis
Blues player Steve Tuttle’s skate blade
slashed his carotid artery. Malarchuk
needed emergency medical attention and
nearly died on the ice.
He eventually needed 300 stitches to
close the wound, while the NHL reacted
by making neck guards compulsory for
The guards help goalies avoid injury from
pucks, sticks and skates and while they
will never completely eliminate the risk of
ailment, they are a positive advancement
for a player involved in a brutal sport. Most
neck guards have a moisture system which
lets the player keep cool while working so
their neck guard will not get hot.
Nowadays you would not think
of playing a contact sport without a
One US dental manufacturer suggests
that 200,000 oral injuries are prevented
each year in the US by the use of the
instrument, but it was not always this way.
Tracing the exact origin of the
mouthguard is tricky but some reports
suggest that boxers were the first athletes
to use them as they looked to avoid mouth
injuries during their matches. The early
prototypes were made of cotton, tape,
sponge and even small pieces of wood and
often required the athlete to clench their
teeth just to have the mouthguard sit in
In 1947, a major breakthrough was made
when Los Angeles dentist Rodney O
Lilyquist used transparent acrylic resin to
form the first acrylic splint. Designs have
continued to evolve and the American
Dental Association now recommends
that mouthguards be worn in 29 different
Their usage is also compulsory in many
junior sports across the world.
The inflatable horse rider’s vest
In 2003, the air-vest was launched and
has enjoyed an award-winning run in
The vest, which is connected to a rider’s
saddle, inflates instantly if a rider falls from
their mount. It offers protection for the
hips, neck and torso.
Falling from a horse can produce
devastating consequences but this can help
limit the risk of injury.
This tool has proven popular throughout
Since the vest was launched the
deployment time for the bag has been
halved. The company who manufactures
them has also provided similar vests for
police forces in Japan and Spain for their
officers who ride motorcycles.
Evolution of sports safety equipment
Safety equipment in sport has evolved extensively during the past century. DANIEL RICHARDSON, of NZME, takes a look at some examples of the changes that have been made.
Crime writing queen dead at 94
P D James
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