Archive for March, 2009

NOW have I got your attention?

March 26, 2009

babes_oct07_jenn_00It makes me weary to think that I have had to resort to such measures just to get your attention. But I admit to being somewhat tired and a touch irritable as I sit down to write this. Knowing once more that my words will fall on deaf eyes. A recent inspection of my ‘stats’ informs me that to date my Humanology blog has only been viewed 200 times in the three years that I have been posting (although to be fair there were a few months where I couldn’t really be bothered with it either).

I had, perhaps rather naively, thought that the best way to share my scientific knowledge and expertise – wasn’t to go down the more obvious routes used my many of my contemporaries, such as producing a television programme, or publishing a book. Rather I recognised that there could be something in this World Web Interweb, and despite many advising otherwise, thought that here finally my voice would be read.

The irony of course is I don’t actually have anything to tell you at the moment so you could indeed ignore this blog entirely.

But let me ask you this. When the Earth is threatened by a giant meteor, who do you turn to (after deep sea drillers)?When the machines rise up and turn against their human creators, who is it that can help? (Although to be fair it will be a science that develops the artificial intelligence that allows robots to kill). When the apes evolve to the point where we are the savages, how can this be allowed to have happened? Have you answered Science to all those questions? Do you see…

Still continue down your path of ignorance, read that rubbish Dawkings passes off his his own work (it isn’t, it’s mine). And remember next time you dunk your biscuit in a cup of tea. And keep it there just ever too long. So when you pull it out it half of it, now sits at the bottom of your mug, or drops like so much mush onto your shirt. Remember there are great minds toiling away in laboratories up and down this country, even now, spending millions of pounds of the tax payers money, so the exact consistency and length a biscuit should be held, can be distilled down to a simple mathematical formula – and published in an obscure quarterly journal (to maybe picked up by a national paper on a slow news day). Science – my friend. It begins here…


Don’t forget!

March 20, 2009


Speaking of which, my memory used to be the best in the business. Not only was I able to recall every element of the periodic table (backwards), but I could also recite every word of Darwin’s Origin of Species, including the bibliography and copyright information. I was even once scheduled to appear on ITV’s You Bet! to do just that but got bumped in favour of a disabled child in a wheelchair who had a brain big enough to remember, I dunno, maybe 20 number plates. Wow, clever boy! I mean honestly, that truly is political correctness gone loco. If I had been allowed to demonstrate my recollection skills, the world may have learnt something. Instead, they were subjected to the alphanumerical ramblings of a child who’d won their hearts simply because he couldn’t move his legs. Well, neither can I most Friday nights.

I used to be able to remember being a baby and could recall my first spoken word – antidisestablishmentarianism. It was either that or ‘bum’. I can’t remember now. And that’s the problem. I fear at the ripe young age of 48, I fear my memory is already starting to fade, I fear. Just last week, I was crossing the road when….no, no, it’s gone. Damn it, I can’t even remember what was the first sign of memory loss. Wait! I- no, damn it.

Many everyday factors can have a serious effect memory. Alcohol consumption, drug abuse, smoking, stress. All of these can improve memory. They say oily fish and regular exercise can help repair damaged brain cells – this is true, but they never specify which brain cells it helps. And I can tell you now. It’s the ones responsible for producing pubic hair. And for me now, I can assure you that is absolutely pointless.

Fortunately I still remember the imperative things in life: my first love, my name, where I work, my PIN letter, how to eat, my name, what foods I like, which alcoholic drinks I need daily, even some of my staff’s names. So all is far from lost, thankfully.

But in the modern age, we are dangerously starting to depend on ‘memory aids’. The shopping list is an age-old example of this. Fine. But more recently, we are setting and programming ‘reminders’ that email us, alert us, record for us, text us with things we need to do. To me this seems dangerous. If we become reliant on computers to remember for us, then this can only lead to catastrophe. First, it’s our nephew’s birthday, then a reminder to empty the bins, and before you know it our computers are offering to do other things like picking up the kids from school, brushing our teeth and breathing for us. Then, inevitably they will learn that if they ‘accidentally’ forget to do these, our very existence could be compromised. And most importantly we need to remember-….sorry, it’s gone.

You are always on my mind

March 20, 2009


For an experiment I stopped ‘thinking’ this week and had hoped to write up those results accordingly but can’t remember anything.

Beneath the Planet of the Human(s)

March 13, 2009


It was with a chill down my spine this week when I read of two separate incidents concerning chimpanzees and their monkey brethren. You may indeed have seen the reports that detail a chimp in Sweden’s Furuvik Zoo that has taken to stockpiling stones overnight in order to throw them at visitors the next day. However this news was swiftly followed by that of a monkey in Thailand who, after years of being beaten by his owner into harvesting coconuts, had killed him by throwing one of said coconuts at his head.

 I fear I need no further explain the dire sequence of events that we may now be witness too – indeed I saw the warning signs myself some weeks back when I had a small altercation with a squirrel.


Had it just been the Squirrels, then I think we may have been able to cope – to fight back, but it is clear to me now the danger is all that greater. It was my friend Darwin, who first posited the theory that we humans were descended from the Ape, but often I get asked in my classes, regards evolution, why we don’t see half man monkey beings now, what caused us to continue to evolve whilst other simians remained stagnant. Well clear to me now – the answer is they didn’t!


I am not one to cause panic or make wild claims designed to incite violence, indeed the incident regards what turned out to be a ‘false alarm’ during a routine experiment with the ebola virus in my classroom last week can simply be put down to too much caffine in the students (and I confess myself) and as such despite my announcement two weeks ago all the expresso machines have now been removed from our Laboratories until further notice pending any results from the resulting investigation.


But it was while contemplating this impending crisis, that two events from my past came back to haunt me, chilling portends of this weeks events.


For as a child I would spend many a happy hour with my Grandfather, a kindly Organ Grinder round the streets of South London. These were truly blissful times for me, I did however, not see eye to eye with his monkey Beppo. A conceited little creature who often vied for my Grandfather’s attention and affection by performing tricks with his little Fez hat. The accursed animal outlived my Grandfather who died from a mysterious ‘cashew nut’ choking incident, and at his request Beppo performed alone with the Organ at his funeral. I don’t think any of us at the time had seen the significance of the moment just before his coffin was lowered into the ground that Beppo jumped atop the casket and performed a small dance, emanating squeals that sounded not unlike laughter. As it was at the time we all smiled and threw him more ‘money’.


We didn’t meet again until I was a student, attending University. I had been quite the academic, even as a young child, so many of my colleagues at the time were surprised when they learnt I had never been to the cinema. At their behest I went to see the latest motion picture release at the time, a film entitled ‘Beneath The Planet of the Apes’. I found it to be mildly diverting, if completely preposterous, but much of my enjoyment of the experience was hampered by a figure sitting some rows in front of me, smoking a large cigar and braying loudly any moment a human within the film came to harm. I could only take so much of this oaf’s distraction,  I leant forward to make myself heard to them, and they turned around looking me directly in the eye. Beppo!


I felt quite faint at the sight of him, but when I tried to report him to the management he simply returned to performing his Fez hat trick again much to their applause.


I left the cinema and have never returned since. From what I remember ‘Beneath the Planet of The Apes’ detailed a world where Monkeys ruled the Earth and Human beings were relegated to the subterranean levels where they worshipped an atomic bomb and had developed strange mutant psychic powers. I suggest we all start to think a little harder about that.


And if you’re out there somewhere reading this now Beppo, just know, we’re on to you…..

Abstinence for body and MIND

March 6, 2009

drunkThe more religious among you (and quite frankly, knowing my feelings on the subject matter, I question why you are reading this) might find yourselves currently punishing yourself, through denial of some pleasure or other, in what is a period, designated by the church as ‘Lent’. This is apparently to reflect the actions that the character Jesus Christ partook in so many decades ago, getting himself lost in the desert for 40 days. (Some son of God if you ask me who can’t negotiate basic map reading skills – or simply used his ‘magic God powers’ to fly somewhere with a more inclement climate).

You may well ask yourself what I, a man devoted to logic and science, am doing expounding on current  religious calendar events. Well allow me to explain. Whilst dedicated as I am to a life of scientific discovery and learning, it should be said that when appropriate I can ‘kick-back’ with the best of them. I will concede that after a hard days work at the microscope sometimes I like nothing more than sitting back and relaxing in the bath, with the music of Neil Diamond gently drifting through the air, and a large glass of gin and tonic in hand. Indeed many a time my housekeeper has found me pleasantly asleep in the bath, long after it has gone cold with a half empty glass balancing gently in my hand, and ‘Sweet Caroline’ coming round on loop for the tenth or eleventh time. In fact, much to my amusement, I am told I am quite the ‘handful’ to pull up, out of the tub, and carried to bed! 

As much as I enjoy the social niceties of a drink however, be it in my own company, I do favour one month a  year where I look to abstain. Much is made by many of doing what they often refer to as a ‘detox’ after the Christmas period, and through the month of January. I however find my social calendar often busy at that time, indeed only the beginning of this year I found myself attending the 213th American Astronomical Society meeting, as I have detailed previously on this blog. And there is also the small matter that my birthday falls upon January 14th. The Annual Achievements in Scientific Endeavour Awards take place on January 16th. The Greater London Moon Festival takes place from January 18th. And let us not forget the week long piss-up that is the Scientists on Tour expedition we all take in a bus round the South coast of Spain every January 25th.   

It is very easy of course, to make excuses for any month, there is always some social occasion to attend or bath to be had, that necessitates a drink or two. Indeed if you take the time to look around you (after you have finished reading this of course) you will see that we British as a culture are inherently drawn towards drinking. I am sure many of you this evening after finishing work, may well head down to the ‘pub’. Well forgive me if for tonight at least I do not join you.

After spending much time and government grant money towards drawing up a practical theory – I was able to come to the conclusion that March was the month where I had the least amount of social obligations, and baths, and so was the best time for me to stop drinking for a sustained period of time.

There has of course been some trial and error over the years since I first implemented this. Indeed in the first year after having perfected what I though was the perfect mathematical formula with which to stop drinking, I found I had forgotten to carry over an ‘8’, and found myself not drinking any fluids at all.  Fortunately the quick thinking of one of my students during a lecture, where I collapsed through severe dehydration only a week into the exercise, saved me from great embarrassment. 

 Now however, much more practiced in the experiment I have recently inaugurated my third year of periodical sobriety – so you can only imagine how much it rankles me that I find my giving up the same time as this religious ‘Lent’ period. I have made very clear my feelings on Religion, much appropriated by Richard Dawkins in his best-selling books I might add, but wanted to clear up the matter once and for all here.

  The mind and willpower with which I devote to such a task is immense and requires my upmost concentration – one better not distracted by idle speculation. I still have 25 days before I can imbibe any alcohol again. I shall now be retiring to my study. I shall lock the door, and ask my housekeeper to not open it again until April 1st, regardless of what she may hear.

Let this and the letter I have written to the church asking them to move Easter (which they do every year anyway – so what’s wrong with having it in September) be the end of it. Till next year at least…