For openers, no, I don't ski. If you had ever seen me, you would understand - I embody gracelessness and occasionally bashing into walls that I should, quite frankly, have seen coming. To me, skiing has fallen into the category of "sports that will likely lead to death". I've always imagined that, should I decide to try to ski, I'd end up like that little white bloke in the Pink Panther cartoons, either smashed into a tree or stuck into the side of a glacier by my skis, at which point the ice would melt and I would fall into a yawning crevasse. In fact, I used to work for a company whose quondam president narrowly escaped permanent paralysis after a skiing accident – which is unusual when the nearest proper mountains are ten hours' drive distant.
Many of you will no doubt be familiar with the writing of Richard Dawkins. To me, he represents all that is best in scientists and science writing. Most recently, I've been reading Climbing Mount Improbable, in which he presents the metaphor of the seemingly impassable mountain, looming high above the potential climber, but with a gentle slope to reach the same heights when approached from the other side, as a method by which to understand evolutionary theory. While I read Professor Dawkins' books with interest and median comprehension, I often feel as though I'm skimming over a breathtaking mental landscape, flashing this way and that, gleaning an idea here, a concept there, cresting another piece of a bigger puzzle just before executing a neat turn and dodging an inconveniently placed tree… So when I was thinking about titles, I thought about the way in which I read, and it seemed most analogous to the apparently effortless motion of a skier travelling cross-country, therefore "Skiing Mount Improbable" it was to be.
So as far as that goes, it is also meant in the very best of good fun. I pictured that rugged but not impassable rock slope that served as the depiction of