By Gareth Edwards

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Cold Calling, Cahoots and Quantum Cats

More answers to your questions about the universe from the blog that knows everything except the meaning of failure. And we can easily look that up.

Peggy Tryton
 asked How does one get out of cahoots?

As is well known, a cahoot is a cross between a coracle and a boot, and is used for hunting waterfowl. Originally cahoots were worn one on each foot but in 1637 Charles I introduced the detested Cahoot Tax, forcing two hunters to work together in a single pair of cahoots. Catching coots in shared cahoots is even harder than it sounds and it required an almost superhuman level of synchronized stealth, hence the expression “to be in cahoots with someone”. Made of wicker and tarred leather, cahoots are easily removed with a cahoot horn or if you don’t have one, any other kind of tarred basket horn would do.

Nance asked Why do cats catch and release mice before they finally dispatch them, and leave them as "gifts" on the kitchen floor (or inside my shoes)?
When Ernst Schrödinger devised his famous experiment to illustrate the paradoxes of quantum mechanics the scientific cat community was outraged, for in spite of the extreme dangers she had undergone during the experiment, Schrödinger’s cat Mitzi was not given co-authorship of the work and her name didn’t even appear in the title. Bitter at this snub she set up her own research institute to continue her pioneering work on animals in ambiguous states. What you have been witnessing is a cat physicist attempting to place a mouse in a quantum superposition where it is simultaneously dead and alive: in your shoe and not in your shoe; and a lovely gift and a ghastly emblem of murine mortality. The experiment is known as Mitzi’s Mouse.

Sthen0 asked When will galoshes come back into fashion?
If you could see my feet right now you would know that they never went away. They keep the mud off my purple cowboy boots and give me somewhere to tuck in my tartan loon pants.

said I receive 2 or 3 calls a day inviting me to change my phone company, improve my credit, or take a cruise. I'm wondering why companies employ these callers if most people hang up. What is the ratio of "successful" calls to hang-ups?

These calls are in fact all 100% successful, but their aim is not what you think. We live in a world full of dazzling, extravagant, ubiquitous choice and our society encourages us to revel in it. Research shows that when asked to distinguish between 47 ever-so-slightly different mobile phone packages chimpanzees became angry, depressed or in some cases bewildered to death. In the same way human brains are poorly equipped to deal with current levels of choice. That’s why in 1981 a group of philanthropists formed the Perfectly Fine Foundation, dedicated to putting people off choice and helping them to be content with what they have. This is done by ringing domestic phone numbers at the least convenient time and pretending to sell pointless new broadband bundles and complicated electricity packages in the most irritating manner possible, thus reminding you how little you really care about stuff like this. The PFF is not without its critics, and there have been many attempts to phone them and beg them to change their approach. However the Foundation say that they are happy with their current method and in any case it’s not a convenient time to talk.

Invisible Man 
asked Why bother?

Because bothering gets results. To use a purely hypothetical example, say you were a four-year old boy who wanted a biscuit but your dad had said you couldn’t have one. At this point you could either leave your dad alone to write his important blog, or you could choose to repeat the demand over and over and over again for EVER! Interestingly as the amount of bothering your dad tends towards infinity the likelihood of a biscuit increases to what bakery statisticians call “Biscuit Event Certainty”.

That’s all for now as I have to go and buy some biscuits. But do keep the questions coming in and we’ll get all of the rest everything explained in next to no time, always assuming that “next to no time” means much the same thing as “never”.


  1. Once again, my urgent questions have been answered scientifically by your team of experts and all is a little more clear in the world. I hope Prof. Mitzi's pursuit of tenure (and the perfect spot to nap) is realized soon.

  2. anotherartstudent14 July 2012 at 23:49

    When will the world end and why is repeatedly flicking a light switch so much fun. :)

    1. anotherartstudent14 July 2012 at 23:51

      opps forgot the '?' at the end

  3. Why are so many pages left intentionally blank?

  4. What sports are under review for consideration in the Olympic games?

  5. I recall that Princess Anne once participated as an equestrian in the Olympics. Are there any notable celebrities (not usually known for their athletics) expected to compete in the Olympics?