Four hours of lectures are rewarded by the world’s most bizarre fruit

I am in Malaysia for a school for Malaysian PhD students and postdocs. I have given four hours of lectures on modelling how crystals form. That is a lot – about 200 slides to prepare. That was hard work, but teaching really helps your understanding. Generally if you understand something you can, hopefully, explain it but if you try to explain something without understanding it you soon run into trouble.

As I prepared the slides I realised that I did not understand some things as well as I maybe thought I did. So preparing them helped me understand. Of course I hope that the Malaysian students and postdocs also benefited. They had a relatively diverse range of backgrounds, so I tried to emphasise some generally useful ideas and tools. I tried to make the course so that all of them could learn a few tools and ideas, even if their PhD involved studying something far removed from crystallisation.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Malaysia. I have been made very welcome. It is also good to get a bit of sun in November, something that is hard to do in the UK. And this afternoon, I was treated to the world’s whackiest fruit: the durian, by my ex-PhD student Azura and her husband. One of the durians is shown above.

When you buy it, is a large (20 cm or more) spiky green ball that smells quite unpleasant. Fruits usually smell lovely. Not the durian. Allegedly you can be fined for carrying them on Singaporean public transport.

When you break them open, there are about 5 pith-surrounded compartments, each with a large seed or seeds, covered with what looks like custard (you can see a ‘custard’-covered seed in the picture). You eat the custard. This is mild, creamy and lovely – in bizarre contrast to the smelly spiky green ball that contains them. If you are in this part of the world, I recommend you try them, but if you have car and buy them, do what Azura’s husband Azmi did, and roll the windows down.