By Gareth Edwards

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mainly Robots and Belly-Fat

As Professor Brian Cox may have mentioned, the universe is full of things to wonder at. Some of these are pulsars, black holes and the volcanoes of the ice moons of Saturn, and he’s happy to go on about these at some length. But Cox is curiously silent on some of the other incredible sources of wonder, like why cats don’t have thumbs; custard; and where they keep the plum sauce in the supermarket. This blog is an attempt to redress that imbalance by answering every possible question in the universe, and not just the ones about quasars and nebulas.

What is the one weird old tip that will help me lose belly fat?
My Great Uncle Emlyn, a keen Methodist, had a job in Smithfield meat market collecting unwanted offcuts to deliver to the tallow chandler. One day while taking some pork trimmings to Walthamstow a strange old man with home-made shoes told him to wager a shilling on Velvet Kipper to place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Although he had never gambled before Uncle Emlyn felt strangely drawn to enter the bookies to place a bet. He won seventeen shillings and sixpence! However, in his excitement my uncle completely forgot the bag containing twenty-two pounds of belly fat. Exactly the same thing could work for you. Except I suppose we’ve gone decimal, so it won’t.

What happens if you disobey the OPEN THIS SIDE instruction on the carton of cream?
That depends on the extent of your disobedience. If you open the cream on the other side your enjoyment of the cream may even be enhanced by a feeling of breaking a taboo. However if you were to open the cream on the bottom the net result would be cream on the floor and you could become an object of self-loathing, spousal loathing or feline adoration depending on your living arrangements. Should you defy the carton’s edict by not opening the cream at all, the sense of victory over authority would be cancelled out by dry apple crumble, which is a well-documented isotope of misery.

When shouldn't you not use a double negative?
You can’t use them too often, nor should you.

Why do I need to know my waiter's name?
A lot of waiters are students on their gap year or young men from Bulgaria pretending to be Italian, and these are generally harmless. But you can never rule out the possibility that your server for the evening might be a sinister goblin intent on taking your first born if you cannot guess his name, so it’s sensible to head this problem off at the pass by learning your waiter’s name at the outset. Also it’s safest never to order the skeins of gold.

Why haven't we developed robots to bring us stuff from the fridge?
The problem here is that while going to the fridge to get stuff is a wearisome chore it is nothing compared to the wearisome chore of developing a robot. Frankly until we have a robot-developing robot I can’t see us developing a robot.
Meanwhile my children have successfully developed an alternative solution by using two previously intelligent creative adult human beings they found in their own home and destroying their capacity for independent thought with a relentless onslaught of high-pitched demands. Now the pitiful creatures stumble from fridge to cooker to table trapped in a never-ending cycle of toil and gin.

That’s all for now, but do keep on wondering about the universe. 

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Trolls, toothpaste and the meaning of life

More answers to your questions from the only blog that is under the impression that it can talk authoritatively about pretty much everything in the universe. OK, not the only one. 

How do they put the stripes in toothpaste?
The stripes occur naturally in toothpaste in much the same way that geological strata are formed. Essentially the immense pressure inside a squeezed tube of toothpaste generates colossal heat and this causes some of the toothpaste to change its molecular composition. This results in stripes, or to use the correct term, “seams” running through the toothpaste.  The process happens in all toothpaste but is really only noticeable when it causes the distinctive red colouring.  The phenomenon can be observed naturally in the Great Toothpaste Shales of Saskatchewan, revered by the Inuit as “Sig Naltu”, or “Great Striped Giver of Minty Confidence”  

Is Islington fair?
It all depends on what you mean by Islington. Does the question refer to a) the London Borough of Islington? Or to b) the well-known card game where player one is dealt four cards face down and the remaining cards are placed in a pile face up in “the pool”. Player two then shouts “Islington” and punches player one in the face and takes their shoes. If a) I’d say more strawberry blond. If b) it depends on what you mean by “punches player one in the face and takes their shoes.”

Is life meaningless?
Not in everyday usage, but if you say it over and over again life will eventually become meaningless. This is also true of spoon, polo-pony and lartipond. Curiously, the reverse is true of cumberkew.

Why do trolls spend so much time hanging around bridges? Why are they so grumpy?
When bridges first became popular in Olden Times there was no obvious way for bridge builders to recoup their investment and so trolls were employed to shout “Who’s that walking over my bridge” in a frightening manner at travellers and then collect a small fee. The system worked well and these Troll Bridges became common,   and over time the trolls made comfortable homes for themselves under the arches or even built small dwellings for themselves known as Troll Booths. However, frequent bridge users came to resent the trolls for their slap-dash customer service skills and in the end a health and safety incident involving some unsupervised billygoats was seized on by critics who demanded the trolls be properly trained. Sadly the trolls struggled with the phrase “We recognise you have a choice of bridges, thank you for choosing this one!” and their attempts to fill in a Risk Assessment form describing measures to minimise goat attack were laughable. Soon the trolls became resentful and shunned human contact, until their effectiveness as revenue collectors was hopelessly compromised and the system was abandoned.

Where are my glasses?
There. On the chest of drawers…. No, under the magazine. Under the…. Well they were there earlier…. I’m TRYING to help….  No, I didn’t put them in the chair…. Well clearly if I’d known they were there I wouldn’t have sat on them…. Are they? Good. They made you look like a mental owl.

So it's probably best to leave it there. Do keep the questions coming and be more tolerant of trolls where appropriate.