Liam Dodd: In the Pursuit of Knowledge

by Audioworm

An old hack in a new environment, Liam hopes to bring his burning passion to Wizzley.

A series of labels can be applied to me: Scientist, Atheist, Student, Physicist, Cyber Activist, Gamer, Rational Sceptic, Debater, Motorhead and Amateur Herpetologist.

There is more depth to me than these labels however. I'm a 4th year student at Swansea University currently doing my Masters in Physics, while attempting to run the University's Debating Society, and Swansea's branch of AHS Students.

I've been on the internet for over half my life, and have assimilated my culture to the net. I own a boa constrictor, and I have developed a worrying obsession for motorsports.

Liam and his Boa Constrictor, Tinkerbell
Liam and his Boa Constrictor, Tinkerbell

Raised by the Internet

Moulded by it, shaped by it. By the time I saw broadband I was already a man...

One of my earliest memories is of playing 'Magic Boy' on my PC, and soon afterwards discovering that the little icon titled 'Internet Explorer' took me to places I could never have imagined. Granted, that back then it was Space Jam and Neopets, but the seed was sown for what would become a huge part of my life.

The internet pulls very tightly on two major desires of mine, the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge, and the ability to build communities with like minded people. I cannot even imagine a time where a question or query could not be (at least partially) verified by a quick Google search. I was a veracious reader as a child anyway (Horrible Histories were a personal favourite as a child) so this whole new area where I could discover and learn more and more was obviously appealing. 

It was only in the early 2000's that I became hooked with the discovery of 4chan. This was at a time when the knowledge of its existence was relatively rare, and it was a beautiful mixture of anarchy, chaos and humour that I still know and love. Back then it was smaller and, if I recall correctly, had far fewer boards, but the core essence was still there. I remember seeing the 'Rules of Internet' starting to become engrained in our culture, and missed the significance of them as a mere eleven year old. 

I barely appreciated the gravitas of what was going on, and what 4chan, /b/, and Anons would eventually come to represent, but the frivolity of the time meant I don't think I would have believed anyone informing me of its future significance.

Since those early days I've moved around between communities like a virus. I've occupied various IRCs, been a part of a cornucopia of forums, and embraced the emergence of various social network. I jumped to Twitter just as it started to go global (and stopped being based off of phones), and became consumed by Dailybooth (I now retired site where users posted an image, usually of themselves, and a small blog about their day). I reluctantly joined Facebook and hold a love-hate relationship with Tumblr.

Through the internet I hold friendships that are extremely dear to me, but never would have happened without the great equaliser. Online friendships are an experience that some cannot understand, but those that build them know how important and solid these friendships can become.

My Current Reading List

A mixture of psychological thrillers, popular science and poli-economics
House of LeavesQED: The Strange Theory of Light and ...The State in Capitalist Society: The ...

Physicist, Scientist, Rationalist

The trials and tribulations of an MSc

I'm currently studying towards my Masters in Physics at Swansea University. Despite Swansea's relative size and obscurity the Physics department hits well above its weight. With one of the best QCD (Quantum Chromodynamics) Lattice groups in Europe, as well as one of the leading scientists at CERN's ALPHA project, it provides a quality but relaxed environment. 

I've always loved science. It's not always been physics but science has always been something that I have been amazed by. Dinosaurs were my first love as a child, and space followed a few years later. While I may have been enamoured by history, I was always drawn back to the scientific method, and its continual, incremental climb towards a more accurate description of the Universe, and all constituents within.

It wasn't until my GCSE's when I gained an amazing physics teacher that I was really drawn in to understanding the world around me as a physicist. This was extended through to my A Levels where, ignoring a foolish side track into Medicine, I became more and more impassioned with physics. I know hope to go study Physics for at least the next five years, with aspirations to complete a PhD in the United States. I hope to pursue research in Cosmology, but so many areas of physics spark my interest. I've actually already expressed my scientific knowledge on the site before, when I helped Jo Harrington write her article on the Little Ice Age.

The obsessive fascination with physics, and science as a whole, lead to the mixing up of my 'religious' beliefs. I have been an atheist as long as I can remember, I do remember thinking there may be a higher being, but I never actually committed to the idea. I found the whole escapade a little foolish and silly. I was unaware people actually followed the Bible until I was nearly ten. I was raised in a 'culturally Christian, practically atheist' household so was unaware of how else it could be done.

The change was focused more around how I represented or justified said beliefs. I was an apatheist beforehand, not believing in any higher beings because it was the default view and I didn't care about it, but becoming aware of the discrimination, and attacks on science made me switch up to a more antitheistic stance. I became riled up about the indoctrination of children, the repression of knowledge (Creationism trying to assert itself), the subjugation of women, homosexuals and anyone outside the privileged groups. Over my years I have become significantly more antagonistic. Taking stances attacking the very concept of faith, the illegitimacy of asking 'Can you be good with G-d', and taking shots at blasphemy and implicit respect. 

I hold the stance 'I'm not a nasty person, I just try to be correct, and that seems to offend people'. My style of presentation is often very brash, objective and to the point, with little care for offence caused. This has won me great admiration, as well as much hate and scorn. In my day to day life I just try to be a nice person, and those around me would rarely say otherwise.

Hitchens and Fry vs. the Catholic Church

Stephen Fry and the late Christopher Hitchens take on the Catholic Church and analyse its immorality and damage.

My time as a Debater

After three years on the British circuit, you begin to pick up very specific habits and behaviours

As I may have alluded to earlier, I am a little confrontational. I enjoy a good argument or debate. I like to be challenged on my own views, and to challenge others on theirs, but also to allow the audience of such event to be exposed to new ideas as well. It allows a much greater knowledge of why you hold the views you hold when you have to defend to all of their logical extremes.

British Parliamentary Debating (the name of the style used) doesn't allow to just defend your own views, at least in any competitive settings. The process of a competition leads to a lot of frantic head scratching and band wagon-ing of ideas you thought of as you stood up to deliver your speech. You are given 15 minutes to prepare speeches for a topic you may have no prior knowledge about, for a side or position you may vehemently oppose. No matter where you may personally side with the argument you have to defend the position allotted to you.

It trains a huge amount of confidence in your own ability to hold a coherent and logical train of thought. You end up with a broad knowledge of ideas and theories across many fields and specialisations. Being a scientist in a hobby mostly undertaken by humanities students my expertise never comes up as a topic. Instead I have to learn about economics, philosophy, international relations, politics and gender theory (just to name a few). It is a fantastic experience given quite how much you learn and develop as a person. 

If you are doing it right, you will have at least one major change to your belief system, if not many significant ones. 

Debating has nurtured a love and appreciation of the way society works, and the supreme complexity of the inherent inter-connectedness of everyone.

An Aspiring Petrolhead.

A newly discovered passion for Formula 1 has spread like a parasite

One of my close friends at University is the son of a Formula1 fanatic, and at the end of last year I happened to catch the final race of the 2012 Season. The race was phenomenal. On the first corner one of the drivers fighting for the World Championship was involved in a huge collision, and it looked it would all be over, but he managed to drive a half broken car from the back of the pack to 6th, securing enough points to win the Championship. The rest of the race was thrilling, high risk overtakes, aggressive driving and the conditions of the track causing Nico Hulkenberg to lose traction and take out Lewis Hamilton's McLaren. 

The whole event sparked a new found enthusiasm in me. I've always loved speed, cars and high adrenaline activities, and I had found a way to combine them all. Taking the race alongside the strategy (tyre management, sector timings, DRS and KERS) just fascinates me. I dedicate hours each race weekend to watching all three practise sessions, the Qualifying and the race, as well as the GP2 and 3 if I have time. 

Nico Hulkenberg's 2013 Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg's 2013 Sauber

Snakes and Herpotology

My gorgeous pet Boa Constrictor 'Tinkerbell'

At the beginning of the year I decided I wanted a pet snake, and after an obsessive amount of research I purchased my first snake. Tinkerbell is currently over 6ft in length (nearing 7ft) and has a little more growing or so to do, as she will max out at about 10ft. 

She's not the only reptile in the house, as my housemate owns a Mexican Kingsnake and a Crested Gecko so for the last two years I have been exposed to reptiles every day. With such long term exposure you get used to a lot of the tricks of the trade, and tips that people don't think about needing to know. 

I hope to share my passion for snakes with Wizzley, as I hope to grow my collection to include some Reticulated and Burmese pythons over the coming years. My current dream is to own a lovely striped Retic that I will carefully feed and monitor to ensure it gets to a good size (16ft+) while remaining slim and lean.


My gorgeous Red-Tail Boa
Tinkerbell when I first bought her
Tinkerbell when I first bought her
Breaking Bad: Walter vs. Jesse
Breaking Bad: Walter vs. Jesse

TV and Film

The background hum makes me feel less alone...

Like most of my generation I consume a huge amount of media which includes TV and film. Most of my video content comes in the form of YouTube, where I can tailor my experience to include or exclude exactly what I want. This includes a lot of video game and atheist content, but extends over news and music.

My taste in TV and Film is varied, but I have a pretty consistent base. Sci-Fi, drama, action, crime, and comedy make up my non-fiction, with a huge spread of documentaries making up the rest of my viewing. I am the kind of person who watches shows in a massive run, and consider that the ideal viewing experience. Dexter, Breaking Bad and The Wire top the list of my favourite shows, though Hannibal and Bates Motel are making a good impact on the list.

Updated: 06/14/2013, Audioworm
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EliasZanetti on 06/14/2013

Nice introduction Liam and welcome to wizzley.

sandyspider on 06/13/2013

I can't get over Tinkerbell here. Interesting share.

Audioworm on 06/13/2013

Unfortunately no, cohabitation between snakes of the same species is not at all advised, so putting much smaller snakes with a large boa is never going to end well. I'd probably get a vivarium to put above her as it allows them to have underfloor heating.

lobobrandon on 06/13/2013

Hahaha!! Would Lex and Luthor would stay along with tinkerbell?

Audioworm on 06/13/2013

Thanks, and I think I will give all my reptiles cute and innocent names. Except if I get a breeding pair of albinos (of any species), they'd have to be called Lex and Luthor.

JoHarrington on 06/13/2013

It still kills me that you named your boa constrictor Tinkerbell. LOL Welcome to Wizzley, Liam. This is going to be fun!

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