By Gareth Edwards

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Better Olympics, Business Rats, and the End of Everything

More answers to your questions about the universe from the blog that answers your questions about the universe.

Peggy Tryton asked Nature or nurture?
In other words is our character determined by our genes, or by our environment? Many efforts have been made to resolve this most fundamental question. Notable among these was the 1923 Nature versus Nurture football match on Tooting Common, London. The Nature team took an early lead with their instinctive ball skills, but by the second half the superior training and fitness of the Nurture team looked likely to produce an equaliser when HG Wells ran onto the pitch and bit the referee and the match was abandoned. By 1975 methods were more sophisticated when Professor Batsen D Belfroi took ten infant laboratory rats and swapped them with ten human babies. The babies were kept in warm and comfortable conditions with regular water and exercise and all the nuts and seeds they could fit in their cheeks while the rats were brought up by pushy middle class human families who then used their contacts to get them jobs in management. The rats went on to work with some success for a variety of high-profile firms including Lehmann Brothers, News International and Barclays but in the end they resigned in disgust at the corporate culture. The babies grew up to start a lucrative muesli and rope-gnawing business. Asked what induced him to undertake such a grotesque experiment Belfroi said – “I blame society, or else I guess that’s just what I’m like.”

Invisible ManWhy are so many pages intentionally left bank?
Those are all the unwritten rules.

Fran How come one never stubs a toe or bangs one's funny bone in private?

I think this is just you. More than that I think this is your superpower. Before you go all sulky and say “What a rubbish superpower! Why can’t I fly, or pick up metal with my brain, or go green and super-strong when I’m cross?” please consider the feelings of the vast majority of the rest of us who have no superpower at all, stop complaining, and work out how you are going to use your gift to fight crime.

fatboyfat Why don’t we all fly off the world as it spins?
No thanks. I’ve just had a big lunch.

Nance What sports are under review for consideration in the next Olympic games?
The International Olympic Committee is currently debating this. The current candidates are -
1)    Beach darts
2)    Post-Modern Pentathlon
3)    Synchronised Enjoying a Beer, a Smoke and a Car.
4)    Mushroom
Of these, Beach darts offers the televisual magic of athletes in bikinis, with the caveat that the athletes are all middle-aged alcoholics. Post-modern Pentathlon presents the exciting spectacle of super-fit men and women competing to deconstruct literary texts with only a pair of swimming trunks, a singlet, a pistol, a sword and an unfamiliar horse. But the hotly tipped favourite is Synchronised Enjoying a Beer, a Smoke and a Car, which while not really a sport is a hell of a sponsorship opportunity. Mushroom made it onto the list after some confusion over the committee’s late-night pizza order.

anotherartstudent When will the world end and why is repeatedly flicking a light switch so much fun?
Consider the Big Bang, when all of a sudden there was this universe. The universe has been going on for a while now, but one day it will stop, and then there won’t be a universe. Many physicists think the end will be in10 billion years or so when the universe collapses back into a singularity. Some believe that this might spark another big bang, and thus another universe and so on. Universe. No universe. Universe. No Universe. On and on, for ever. Is there a purpose behind all this? I refer you to the second half of your question.

I’ll leave it there, but do keep the questions coming as those ten billion years will be gone before you know it and it would be good to get the current universe explained before it ceases to exist and we have to start this blog all over again.


  1. anotherartstudent29 July 2012 at 14:09

    Why is a raven like a writing desk?

  2. Why did time seem to pass more slowly when I was a kid?

  3. What is the proper way to cook oatmeal?

  4. Why doesn't anyone make a 700mm x 800mm shower tray with a left handed waste? Is there a chirality about shower trays I'm not getting or is it, as we've long suspected, a global conspiracy?

  5. What is the proper etiquette for modern hat wearing? For instance, should I remove my hat on entering a store, can it be laid on a table or chair?

  6. (from my 6-year-old) Are Santa and God real?