Eleven years ago at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences

When the two Cambridge math departments moved from Mill Lane to the CMS, the mathematical physicists and a few pure mathematicians were the pioneers, sent in January 2000 to test conditions in the first component of the complex to be “inhabitable,” Pavilion B.

I was one of the DPMMS members sent out to the new site. I remember that we used to get great emails from the long-suffering building manager about the hazards we were facing, but I’d forgotten just how great they were. I think I forwarded this introductory one (from 3rd January 2000) to my mother:

 
This is to warn you that very little at CMS is working as it should yet, also there are a few 'features' you should be aware of.

Some of the swipe cards do not work.

Some of the office keys are missing.

The swipe-controlled doors are not programmed properly. The internal doors should be open during normal office hours but most of them aren't - you have to use your card to get about inside the building, so keep it on you all the time. Some of the doors emit an alarm when opened.

Some of the electrically-controlled windows do not work. A few are stuck open (including one in my room). The ones that do work do so very slowly indeed - this may be a permanent feature.

The blinds do not work at all. Some are up and some are down - all have been disabled by the builders pending further work.

Some of the lights cannot be switched off in the normal way.

Some of the offices do not have any power.

The Building Management System computer does not seem to be working.

Despite much cleaning, there is a great deal of dust everywhere. Before loading your bookshelves and desks, please wipe them clean - I have suitable cleaning stuff to lend you in room 1 in the basement and shall also leave some for you on the worktops in the common rooms. Our own two cleaners start work tomorrow at CMS full time.

Flavia machines have not yet been installed but kettles (and supplies hopefully) are available in the common rooms.

Fridges have not yet been installed in the common rooms. The only fridge available for use is in Professor Hawking's office. Since he is away for several weeks, I'm sure it will be OK to use it temporarily it BUT SEE NOTE BELOW.

NOTE THESE SAFETY HAZARDS
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The lock to Professor Hawking's office has an unfortunate feature - it is possible for anyone but him to be locked inside as there is no manual unlocking mechanism. The door is currently unlocked and should not lock itself, but......... Take great care if going into this office - prop open the door. I shall be requesting a manual mechanism.

You should note that drinking water is ONLY available from the cold side of the mixer taps in the Common rooms on the first and second floor, the Part 3 room and Professor Hawking's office. All other water supplies in the building are supplied from tanks and are not intended for drinking, even if boiled. I'm told this was as specified but will be investigating the possibility of further supplies.

Very tall people should beware the the door-locking mechanisms on some of the standard-height doors protrude such that they present a hazard to those who are very tall. I'm initially told this can't be corrected but will keep on trying. There are a couple of other hazards for the very tall, but these have been highlighted with hazard tape and will be rectified as soon as possible.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The good news is that the entrance from the Isaac Newton Institute is now open for use at all times, but please do not enter the building outside normal office hours until you are informed that it is OK to do so, which we hope to be able to do as soon as possible, pending correction of the some of the faults above.

The other good news is that some of our own covered bike racks are already complete so you can secure your bikes closer to the building and you do not need to use the uncovered bike racks at INI. No bikes will be allowed inside the building.

Looking forward to working with you all at CMS from tomorrow - Happy New Year

Phone number at CMS was meant to be (7)66820 but it's 66920 - not sure for how long.
 

Aerial photograph of the site of the new Centre for Mathematical Sciences taken in December 1999 by Dr Barry Uscinski; from http://www.cms.cam.ac.uk/about/history/images/air9.jpg.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Eleven years ago at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences

  1. Qwerty

    I remembered this from Hawking’s assistant:

    Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2000 15:00:03 +0000
    From: kjs34
    To: H.J.Bennett
    Cc: cms-all
    Subject: MESSAGE FROM PROFESSOR HAWKING

    The lights on the path go out at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. as is required by
    the planning permission. I give warning that I will sue the University for
    millions if I have an accident in my wheelchair because I cannot see where
    I am going. It will be a pretty lame excuse to say that the premier
    mathematics department in the country couldn’t reset their computer at the
    end of British Summer Time.

    Stephen Hawking

  2. Groundling

    I don’t remember whether we had emails about it, but what I recall is that all the electrics in the building, including the elevators (so good luck, if you were stuck between floors), were controlled by ‘the man from Doncaster’.

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