Tab Tries: A Science Lecture

The debate between science and humanities is one that has been raging since time began

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I’m a second year and I study Classics. 

For me, seven hours a week of lectures about megalomaniacal emperors, countless wars and Greek plays that make Game of Thrones look tame seems a pretty agreeable way to get a degree.

But in my time at university, I have realised my degree commands about as much respect as a Celebrity Big Brother contestant.

So when The Tab asked me to go on a covert mission into the bowels of the Science Site, the equivalent of Mordor for your typical Classicist and sit in undercover on a Science lecture, I decided I had to see for myself what happens in this dark and miserable place.

So on my day off (yeah, I have a whole day off on a Tuesday), I decided to investigate.

Obviously at ease

A day after Deadline Day, inundated with offers to go to lectures on a range of “fascinating” modules such as Cell Structure and Function, Electro Magnetism and Quantum Theory (which I definitely thought was something made up for sci-fi films), I accepted an offer to go to the “Reactions” one in the Chemistry department.

Having watched five seasons of Breaking Bad I banked on an hour long instruction of how to make meth, delivered by Durham’s very own Heisenberg.

Sadly this wasn’t the case.

So on the most boring espionage mission in history, I entered the Science Site for the first time and set foot into the Chemistry Department.

Immediately I was taken aback by the seemingly endless threats to my life that each room possessed, with each door warning me of various unusual ways I could die.

When faced with radioactivity, compressed gas and killer magnets just an inch of wood away, the life of a superhero suddenly seemed less appealing.


In the corridors outside, there was far less tweed than I am used to and I felt they could smell the “Classicist” from me. I kept my head down and took my seat in the surprisingly small lecture hall.

As latecomers stood at the back, I sat bewildered, in the place that should have been for a proper scientist.

What followed for the next 50 minutes was a blizzard of straight lines, letters, outrageously scientific words and the repeated mention of the word “cleavage”.

I consulted my Natural Scientist friend and he sadly told me that this did not mean “boobs”. I struggled to hide my disappointment.

Not too dissimilar to ancient Greek

GCSE Science was proving of absolutely no use and I was beginning to feel as nauseous as the poor bastards who had clearly struggled in post-Waff for their weekly dose of torture.

The lecturer was ruthlessly efficient, reeling off formulas and principles and using words like “tetrocetal immediate” and “acid catalysed hydrolysis”.

There were no pictures of nude lady statues or YouTube clips from “Gladiator” here.

She was even using two whiteboards. After almost two years in the Classics department, I thought they were just for decoration.

Soon my cover was blown by my bored friend, who had informed the “others” via WhatsApp that there was a Classicist in their midst.

Rather than being welcome for my David Attenborough-esque observation into their culture, I was told to “fuck off”, perhaps rightly so.  

In the theory of relativity, time dilation is an actual difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers, in which time seems to move slower than it usually would. This was epitomised in this lecture.

It just would not end.

People nearby were clearly bored. The girl in front of me slapped the guy next to her. I was assured that domestic violence wasn’t a common feature of chemistry lectures but I didn’t know what to believe in this hostile place.

Like Ross Kemp in any mildly dangerous situation in his gang documentaries, I just wanted to get out of there.

Mercifully the lecture ended and I walked free from this scary place, vowing never again to set foot in the buildings of science anymore. One lecture was enough.

I left with renewed respect for the science students, who might go on in the future to be involved in developing cures for diseases that might save my life when I’m older, developing sustainable energy that stops us ruining our own planet or advancing technology to make my easy life even easier.

But I ask, could they quote “The Iliad” on a cold Wednesday morning in Palace Green? Could they recite the Imperfect Passive Conjugation in Latin, could they tell you how historically accurate 300 is?

In response to whether my degree is useful, I cite the famous words of a great philosopher, “Don’t care”. And you know what great Classical philosopher said that. Not Plato or Socrates. It was Andy Tate.