“Post-truth” was the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016 and is my favoured genre; before then it was “fake-news”. This section is for those who are daft enough to enjoy this kind of nonsense and smart enough to see it for what it is.
Warning: strong language, references to sex, philosophy, science and politics. No animals were harmed in the writing of these posts.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed this afternoon that he is planning to build a wall along the entire US-Canadian border and that he is asking Donald Trump to pay for it.
A senior source close to the PM has leaked that this plan predates the COVID-19 outbreak and that the pandemic has simply provided a good opportunity to announce it.
When questioned off the record as to whether the wall was intended to stem the flow of corona virus victims across the border, he was heard to reply “and the rest!”. He went on to say that America has always treated Canada as a second class nation and that it was time show them otherwise. President Trump has yet to comment on the plan.
A paper published this week by the Department of Comparative Linguistics at the University of Melbourne, Australia reports that out of a sample of 150,000 native English speakers from around world excluding North America, only 5% were able to reliably identify a Canadian accent. Of the remaining 95%, only 12% said they actually cared. Creating a border wall will cause accents to diverge and help Canadians to be distinguished from their southern neighbours. Mr Trudeau said he would prefer it if everybody spoke French. In another study, researchers concluded that most people couldn’t tell the difference between a French accent and a French Canadian one. He said he didn’t think a wall would fix that one so easily (also off the record).
Diamonds are forever but ozone is a girl’s best friend
Inventor and entrepreneur Carl Nicholson has revealed details of a new technology which promises to revolutionise the way we combat both global warming and ozone layer depletion in one device. Called RAM for “Reverse Armageddon Machine”, the device extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it into diamonds and ozone using solar energy alone. The massively negative carbon footprint of the prototype is mooted to be forty kilograms of carbon removed per megawatt-hour of solar energy, producing four million dollars worth of industrial quality diamonds and over a hundred kilogrammes of eighty percent pure ozone (the other twenty percent being oxygen) every day.
This highly guarded secret will be made public when trials finish next year and he applies for worldwide patents. In the meantime Nicholson says he is working on refinements which will allow the percentage of ozone to be varied from zero to one hundred percent. Sources close to him also suggest that he is on the verge of using the device to produce gem quality diamonds. He won’t comment on this, but it is understood at the moment that this is a much slower and less cost-effective process. He says he is more interested in a deal with the airlines to deliver ozone to depleted areas of the planet and is prepared to use some of the profits from the diamonds to achieve this. He is already in talks with Richard Branston of Maiden Atlantic and Michael O’Flaherty of Bryan Air.
So, is this the philosopher’s stone or the cold fusion of global warming? We asked a few top people in the field what they knew and thought about Nicholson’s claims for RAM. Scientists at MIT, Oregon were sceptical. They say they’ve been working on a similar device, but the ozone yield is much lower and they haven’t been able to produce diamonds at all. They doubt it is possible to create the pressures needed to produce diamonds using the kind of technology the RAM team describes. They are also doubtful about the performance of the catalysts used to convert oxygen to ozone and vice versa. Professor Alan Bentall, of the Cambridge School of Mines said “This is a load of hype to raise the share price before selling out to some diamond mining company.” and went on to add “On the other hand, if there is anything in it [RAM] then it is a serious threat to the diamond industry and worth a great deal of money. I don’t think he [Carl Nicholson] knows the kind of people he is dealing with.” The jury is still out on what Nicholson will do if the technology actually works, but now the Pandora’s box is well and truly open it is only a matter of time before something serious happens.
British Airways crews at the Brighton i360 are demanding parity with their short-haul flight colleagues. “Not only do they get paid more than us, they get more perks, such as foreign travel and discount flights.” said a spokesperson at an emergency meeting convened by the conciliation service ACAS.
Crews are threatening to stop operations with a full complement of “passengers” aloft and leave them there till management agrees to further talks. One senior BA executive was overheard saying “If they think they’ve got us over a barrel by stranding fifty people in an oversize cock ring 160m off the ground they can f*ck right off.” The CEO was unavailable for comment.
The Lord looked upon the land and was pleased with what He saw. It was the Sabbath and the people were resting and giving thanks for all that He had given them. Then He saw a sign saying “Be awesome today!” and was angered by it.
He decided in His infinite wisdom that, although it was the Sabbath, it was time to teach the people a lesson: that the word “awesome” is an awesome word and not to be taken lightly. So He visited upon the earth seven plagues in seven days, the like of which had never been seen. When He was finished and the last of the plagues was gone, He looked down upon the devastation and was pleased with what He saw.
Then He saw a man praying on his knees, the man who had written the sign. And he said
“Forgive me Lord for what I have done, but I didn’t mean that kind of awesome”.
And the Lord replied
“There is only one kind of awesome and now you have seen an example of it. Go and tell the people what you have seen and let that be an end to it.”
Thus was the rightful meaning of the word “awesome” restored.
“There’s a caterpillar on my letttuce!” These were the words uttered by angry farmer Kevin Giles (58) on seeing his neighbour, Lance Fielding (29), a builder, driving his CAT across the field of lettuce.
He had just lost a planning application to gain access to the main road via an old farm track and is appealing the decision. Meanwhile, the plucky builder has found his own way to the busy A27 near Alciston, East Sussex.
In the run-up to Christmas we will be reviewing a whole range of stocking fillers for readers to chew over before dipping their hands into their pockets and doing their bit to combat the recession. This week we review two popular cameras at the ends of the range: the Tweetie Pie 5.5 Terapixel hand-held camera from Penchan and NASA’s in-orbit astronomical camera known as the “Hubble Space Telescope”.
We did a poll of readers and asked them what their preferences were for a digital camera and what they thought they could afford to buy a loved one this Christmas. Readers’ concerns focussed (ha ha) mainly on the following aspects:
• Performance • Quality • Ease of use • Documentation • Reliability & Guarantees • Cost & Availability
It’s not just the resolution of the CCD array chip in the focal plane; it’s a whole raft of technologies, conditions and facilities which make the Hubble telescope infinitely superior to the Tweetie Pie. Taking lenses, stability, atmospheric distortion, light pollution, electronic noise reduction and subsequent image processing facilities into account, there really is no comparison between the two cameras and we have to give the Hubble a well deserved five billion stars and the Tweetie Pie a poultry (ho ho) one star.
Given the harsh conditions the Hubble has to endure (especially during launch aboard the now retired Space Shuttle) and the almost unlimited funds available, it is no surprise that the quality of workmanship, materials, manufacture and testing of the Hubble are second to none. The Daffey Duck comes in a poor second here with its Barbie-doll artwork and its cheap plastic controls. Once again, we must give most of the points to the Hubble.
Ease of Use.
Despite its high specification and wide appeal, the Hubble Space Telescope is remarkably difficult to use and, worse still, difficult to get access to. Because of the stringent safety and security regulations, it is almost impossible for the average person to get authorisation to use the instrument, let alone navigate the maze of procedures needed to operate it. Even when all these hurdles have been surmounted, the pictures have to be transmitted to terrestrial ground stations and decoded, which is both expensive and time consuming. The Tweetie Pie on the other hand has no such restrictions and comes with a fully automated “dummies” mode for beginners and a USB plug’n’play adaptor. Five stars to Penchan, nil to NASA.
There are no public data on the Hubble documentation, but it is estimated there are over 200,000 pages of specifications and test results and approximately 12,000 procedures. The Penchan Huey and Dewey comes with a 25 page user manual and a handy pocket-sized guide for use in the field. Again, full marks to Penchan, nul points to NASA.
Reliability & Warrantees.
It is well known that the Hubble suffered flaws in the main optics, problems with gyroscopes and the breakdown of some of its specialised instruments. These were repaired in four shuttle missions at a cost of around a billion dollars (630 million pounds). There were no warranties and the mission was uninsurable. The Tweetie Pie has a five year guarantee and can be serviced at your local camera dealer.
Cost & Availability.
The Hubble Space Telescope programme cost approximately 2.2 billion dollars by the launch date and a further billion on repairs. It is not for sale, but can be hired for approximately £2,000 an hour, plus a further cost of £200 per gigabit of downlinked & processed data. The Tweetie Pie costs £45 from Amazon, with an extra £12 for a carrying case and USB connector.
The Hubble Space Telescope is not for the beginner or the faint-hearted. Those wishing to display largesse at Christmas should realise they may be giving their loved one the biggest headache of their life (remember, no more shuttle missions!). We suggest that, unless they are an established astronomer with an international reputation, you should either buy them a small terrestrial telescope starter kit (see next week’s review) or get them the Penchan Tweetie Pie. But please bear in mind: those hoping to take Hubble quality pictures of far-off galaxies with the digital Daffey in their Christmas stocking are set to be disappointed. Our final word on the matter is:
British Telecom has finally shown some empathy after thirty-one year old brunette Tracy Goodman’s “superfast” broadband was found to be only 20 Mb/s instead of the 120 Mb/s touted in the telecom giant’s marketing campaign . BT engineers in York apologised for the poor performance and said the promised bandwidth would be delivered “quicker than it takes to understand our terms and conditions”. Good luck with that one, Trace.