• Matthew Laight

Past, present, future.

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Welcome to my blog, and my inaugural post. Two questions bother me as I write. The first, which clever aphorism should I use as a title in order to grab the attention of a passing reader? The second, should I even be so bold as to assume a reader?

So, if you're here, then I am thankful that minimalism, over maxim, won the day. Let me say quickly that this is not a post about the use of verbs, perfect or otherwise, nor is it a Proustian homage. Both excellent subjects, but not what I intended for openers. The title actually refers to one of those strange 'Life is trying to tell me something' moments; I thought I'd share my thoughts.

In the early 1990s I made a big decision to take an exciting job in motor racing. I accepted the post just a few important weeks before submitting my PhD thesis -- the opportunity was too big to pass up. In the space of a whirlwind week of interviews and the lure of actually earning money, I had swapped a cloistered life as an academic researcher, juggling partial differential equations and burning the midnight oil, for a desk in the high-tech, high-octane world of F1 … the high stress was yet to come. On my first day I was introduced to Michael Schumacher, took a seat in the Benetton B194 F1 car, and began work in what was to be a World Championship winning year. Definitely fewer, but still some, differential equations, and the PhD would take another five years to complete.

Eleven years later: I left the busy world of motorsport in 2006. My children were young, at school, and I was working a ridiculous and unsustainable number of weekly hours. Something new, I thought. I took a slow-paced year out and then, in order to keep the wolves away, found myself in the world of high-performance computing (HPC). My role was to benchmark ’super computers’ in order to provide performance data to prospective HPC clients - large corporations, universities, and as providence would have it, Formula 1 teams. How are these machines benchmarked? By essentially timing (among other criteria) how long each computer takes to solve a complex set of … you guessed it, differential equations.

Tick-tock, tick-tock and in 2008 I was back in aerodynamics, this time helicopters. To be specific, using HPC in order to analyse the airflow and performance of various military aircraft. In case you are wondering; analysing the airflow = solving many, many differential equations (albeit with the aid of good old HPC).

Jumping ahead another decade. Older, wiser, and with that familiar itch for ’something new’, I retrained as a proofreader and copy editor -- a definite break with my past and an exciting step forward into uncharted territory. Within a few weeks of qualifying I set up as a freelancer and quickly found work editing a novel, a thesis, and preparing university proposals for a Swedish university. My most recent job? editing a prestigious aerodynamics journal for Cambridge University Press. Have a guess what the material is.

So here I am, a proofreader and editor, still knee-deep in partial differential equations -- but happily so. My past is my present, my past is my future. Another title springs to mind now ... 'Don't fight the tide'.

#proofreading #aerodynamics #formula1 #proust #ribagnac

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