London Howlerfest and Pharynguloid Fair

There is a tradition among the regulars of the usenet group to have occasional gatherings, usually at some major locus of evolutionary activity, and accompanied by beer. Such an event will be happening this Saturday, in London.

We’ll be meeting on these steps at 2pm:


That’s the Natural History Museum here in Kensington. Look for the bearded nerd with a black computer bag and a camera hanging from his neck; that’s me. I’ll be there with a distinguished and professorial science nerd scholar*; that’ll be Laurence Moran. We’ll hang about the steps for a while, gathering together any fellow science geeks, regulars and readers of Pharyngula, and then take a brief tour of the museum. Afterwards, we’ll depart for some local pub. If you’d rather skip the dry old bones stage of the festivities, you could meet us at the steps at 4pm, because that’s when we’ll find a nearby watering hole for the wet work.

After a few hours in the pub, we might go looking for food…you’re welcome to hang with us all that time, too. We can stretch out the festivities for as long as people are willing to talk.

*He denies being a nerd.


  1. says

    Only two hours in the Natural History Museum? Based on my experiences, that’s impossible. And if it isn’t, it’s certainly disrespectful…

  2. Martin Christensen says

    But you forget that PZ is an American. My experience with American tourists is that they can take in the entirety of a small country such as my own (Denmark) in but a few days. Surely a mere museum shouldn’t take more than two hours! :-)


  3. Robin Levett says

    Only two hours in the Natural History Museum? Based on my experiences, that’s impossible. And if it isn’t, it’s certainly disrespectful…

    I’m sure that with Larry and PZ tagteaming on the talking they can keep us going for more than 2 hours per gallery, let alone for the whole museum…

    PZ – is Downe on the Sunday still on? Give me a call (email me if Larry didn’t give you my numbers – I’ve emailed Larry separately).

  4. says

    Hmmm. I am passing through London this weekend on the way to visit my family. Stop off to converse with fellow geeks, or keep moving to join the familial doting over new nephew? Decisions, decisions….

  5. says

    Hi PZ,

    We spoke on the phone Friday! i can highly reccomend a nice little Chinese / Japanese bistro on the corner opposite the exit to South Ken station. And as a Pink Floyd fan i can pass on a supeb piece of trivia for you…… The running footsteps in the background of ‘On the Run’ were recorded in the tunnel that runs for the station to the NHM.

    Pink Floyd and Darwinian history rolled into one!

    I have flagged a few colleagues at the NHM to your invitation, hopefully one or two will join you.


  6. says

    I might pop up to London to see y’all on Saturday. If you are looking for watering holes, may I suggest that you take the Tube or bus round to High Street Kensington. There are a large number of pubs in Kensington Church Street and on and around the High Street. There’s also some good grub nearby – the Thai Terrence Restaurant, 14 Wright’s Lane, W8 6TF (turn left out of High Street Ken tube, turn left, it’s about half way down the street). For drinking, I’d suggest the Builders Arms – which is about fifteen minutes walk from the Natural History Museum – it’s in Kensington Court Place.

    If you are looking for places to drink, has a comprehensive list with reviews.

    If you want to see university-land, look up Gower Street. UCL, as you may know, was the first secular university in Britain (they allowed atheists, Catholics, non-Anglicans and other heretics to study and, to this day, have a very science-oriented curriculum) – it’s founders moulded it to the vision of Jeremy Bentham. Gower Street was also where Darwin had his home in London. In the same place, the Darwin Building now sits, and inside is the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. G.S. is also where the offices of the British Humanist Assoc. are located. Senate House, the library of the University of London, is an interesting place – they used it as the backdrop for the “Ministry of Love” when they made the TV version of 1984.

  7. Corkscrew says

    Crap, I have a driving test that day. Murphy’s Law of event scheduling strikes again.

  8. says

    If there’s any interest in UCL I would be happy to be a guide, but it’s pretty quiet on the weekend. (I work in the aforementioned Darwin Building, which is also the name of my blog that I never bother with.) There are plenty of pubs in South Kensington, FWIW. (And to be honest, you could replace “South Kensington” with pretty much any other London area and the statement would be equally true. I’ve yet to see any pub-free zones in London.)

  9. MReap says

    If you have any Led Zeppelin tendencies check out Melbury Road off of Kensington High Street. Jimmy Page lives at 29 Melbury Rd in Tower House. The house was built by William Burges and is a great example of Victorian “castle” style.

  10. says

    Gah has a point. Last time I visited the Darwin Centre, I looked at the various squids and other tentacled, invertebrate things and thought “P.Z. should see this!”

    Also, I’ve heard the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons (the Hunterian) is worth a look.

  11. says

    That’s the Natural History Museum? What a magnificent building. Googling for it links me immediately to an architectural slideshow, which further enhances my appreciation. It reminds me very strongly of a cathedral — but one that tries to inspire us with truth and science rather than fables. According to the architectural site, the columns are meant to evoke the geological forms of natural basalt pillars, such as those at Fingal’s Cave (remind ID advocates: basalt pillars themselves struck early humans as artificial — they saw design in the Giant’s Causeway!), while the building itself is extensively decorated with plant and animal forms divided among living and extinct species.

    I love scientific and academic buildings like this. Modern architectural styles disdain elaborate ornament — their profligacy seems to my amateur eye to be in unusual angles and curves on the large scale, Gehry-esque forms, impressive works of engineering. But the intricate tessellations of designs on this building’s terra-cotta facade, varied by single panels carved with examples of the subject matter exhibited inside, tie form to function with a triumph of art assisting science.

    (I know, I know, Universities have capital budgets, and concerns about maintenance and energy efficiency. I just wanted to express my opinion of the building. And hey — I’ve never visited the National Cathedral, but I deeply enjoyed my visit to the Library of Congress. If we can draw a tourist or dilettante to the realization that there’s something uplifting and aesthetically satisfying in a branch of science, that’s the best I think we could ask of architecture, and it’s something to consider when designing such a building.)

  12. G. Tingey says

    VERY unlikely that I can make it.
    WAlk a little way (about 3/4 mile) to…
    The Star, Belgrave Mews West – just behind the German embassy.

    Been in the Good Beer Guide for EVERY edition …….

  13. Scott Hatfield says

    I….am…..totally…..jealous. I’m experiencing an unprecedented combination of beer envy and natural history envy. Totally….envious. (sigh)…SH

  14. Dave Hone says

    William, there’s a good reason the NHm in London looks like a cathedral – its supposed to! Richard Owen (a creationist)had it designed so that it acted as a church of creation (more or less). He wanted it to reflect the feeling people had in great churches but applied to nature.

    Fortunately, it stands up as a terriffic building and the archietecture is frankly incredible. I was lucky enough to work there for two years, and it genuinely gives you a boost going into work on a wet Monday morning to see it as you go in!

  15. Roger Stanyard says

    I’ll be there. We’ve set up over the last three months an operation called the British Centre for Science Education (Lenny Flanks is involved amongst many) and have just got a montion tabled in Parliament to stop the teaching of creation in science lessons.

    Roger Stanyard

  16. Nix says

    I’ll be there. I virtually grew up in that museum but I haven’t been there for fifteen years or more. I’ll probably be grinning like an idiot from the sheer nostalgia…

  17. Nix says

    The NHM is an amazing building with a frankly ugly modernist lump on the side: that’s the geology wing (that used to be the Geological Museum before it got borged by its big sister).

    Oh, and look at the fossil in the park at the front as well :) it’s probably still there.

  18. Dave Godfrey says

    Feck! I hate having to work weekends- I won’t be able to make it. Despite having worked as a volunteer at the NHM since before the Darwin Centre opened I still haven’t taken the tour.

    The former Geological Museum (previously the “Museum of Practical Geology”) is behind the ugly modernist lump. The ugly modernist lump is the Palaeontology Department. All that’s left of the fossil park is the fossil tree and a set of footprints.

    I was always very proud of UCL, my alma mater being the first non-denominational university in England. “Godless of Gower Street” it was known as.

  19. poke says

    The Natural History Museum is basically a big toy shop now. If you don’t have kids, you can do it in 30 minutes.

  20. G. Tingey says

    Alternative pub, also been in the Good Beer Guide for a v. long time:
    The Anglesea Arms, Selwood Terrace.
    Go back to S. Ken station, turn half-right into Brompton Road, go SW alon that for 250metres, left into Onslow Gardens.
    The Pub is on the left, where the road turns itself into Selwood TErrace.

    Both the Anglesea and the Star do evening food.
    Alternatively, there is “Daquise” in the station block.
    Been doing good Polish food for 40+ years now …..

  21. says

    Ack, can’t make it. Post again if you plan to be in Edinburgh later though!


    p.s. The British Museum is also tremendous. The Enlightenment room is a must-view for any rationalist/secularist…

  22. says

    That’s odd. the Star is also going to be the venue for a John M (Mike) Ford memorial meeting later.

    But if you want to eat around South Ken, you have to go really to Daquise, near the tube, a Polish retaurant almost unchanged since about 1960. Really lovely. Old-fashioned, nice food, good beer, cheap…

    Then there’s the Polish Hearth Club, out of hwich I was nearly thrown many years ago when my guest offered in a very loud voice to assasinate the Pope.

  23. says

    Ah, just down the roa (but I won’t be joining you, I’m afraid – I will be visiting some galleries)

    When in the Nat History museum (the walkway to it is a bit dingy) do examine the architecture of the building, the walls and columns are decorated with loads of creatures, reptiles in the dino exhibits, monkeys and the like in the great hall and so on….

    The British Museum is my favourite London Museum – the Rosetta Stone is worth seeing if you’re into that sort of thing.

  24. says

    When I was last in London (1999!) I went to the Museum of Science and Industry which was pretty good. There was an exhibit of Klein bottles and the like, which I found remarkable.

  25. guthrie says

    For once, I would like to be in London, but am instead up in Central Scotland. You’ll have to have a conference or something in Scotland, that would be better for us northerners.

  26. Nix says

    `I’ll be there’, he says. Then the flu hits. Damn it.

    Have a nice time, everyone (else) :)

  27. SEF says

    It looks like I missed all the potential fun while not keeping tabs on PZ for several days. Typical.

    PS The NHM really was much better in the past. It has suffered from the same lowering of standards as has been inflicted upon the rest of the country.

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