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Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Fabian's world

Daylight saving exacerbates global warming

Don’t you wish you were the editor of the Arkansas and Democrat Gazette You could really make your mark in that paper. Consider the editorial it ran at the end of March.

“You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. In fact I understand it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person because as you know, daylight saving times started a month early this year. You’d think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have had on our climate. Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat.”

Man beats dinosaurs in race for vegeburger

The reason why dinosaurs died out is becoming clear now, following the implications offered by the new Creation Museum in Kentucky. It appears that both they and Man and Woman were created on the same day (Saturday), and the dinosaurs were vegetarian, otherwise they would have eaten Adam and Eve. So the race was on for the flora.

These animals weighed hundreds of tons or tonnes, whichever is the larger, and there was fierce competition for fruit and vegetables especially after Eve had eaten all the apples, and flora had only started growing five days previously. This was no problem for Man who could eat hamburgers. McDonald's was created on the eighth day, so Man and Woman had to make do with doughnuts for just one day. But McDonald's didn’t come up with vegeburgers until about 2002, by which time it was too late for the dinosaurs; despite a copious intake of chips and salad, there just wasn’t enough bulk to keep the poor creatures going.

That is the lesson of creationism; vegetarianism leads to extinction. Eat five portions of meat a day.

How do they know that?

Many years ago I was at a press conference held by Mrs Thatcher when she was Minister of Education and one brave journo (not me) said to her: “Some people would call you stubborn, Mrs Thatcher.”

She replied; “Name one.”

I covered my head in my briefcase with embarrassment for nearly two years afterwards, but it taught me that fatuous observations have their limits. So what about this headline from the BBC website “Camels' milk could hit UK shelves”? Not particularly fatuous although it conjures up some bizarre images, particularly if it were frozen. No, the real fatuity is in the caption to a camel’s mugshot. It says; “Camel’s milk is thought of as nectar in many Arab countries.”

How do they know that?

Can you imagine a reporter (maybe the same one who spoke to Mrs T if he’s not dead by now) trotting round Saudi Arabia or Egypt asking camel herders what they thought of camels' milk. Suppose one of them were patient enough to reply to this daft question. Can you imagine him smacking his lips and saying “It’s just as good as nectar”? Coca Cola more like.

Bring on the horses

I’ve always been a man for the unit of horsepower; it’s so much more evocative than the metric equivalent. No disrespect to Mr Watt, but I don’t even know what he looks like, so I can’t form any image of him pulling a cart or pushing a train. But everyone knows what a horse looks like. Even the French, with their icy cold logic towards metric units have (or had) a cheval vapeur, and what could be more evocative than that?

These thoughts were prompted when I went to a recital recently at the Royal Albert Hall where the recently refurbished organ was the main instrument. I wondered about the volume of air that must be forced through those large pipes at high velocity and how quickly the air valves would need to be operated. Open a valve too quickly when it’s under pressure it and it starts a minor earth tremor. But slow isn’t an option for an organ. And even if you do open it quickly you still might have wait five or six seconds for the final chord while compressors labour away trying to get up enough vapeur to excite the pipes. The conductor meanwhile standing frozen with his baton raised waiting for a signal from the organist. So somehow they’ve solved this problem at the Albert Hall.

One usually unreliable source told me that the compressors were driven by a 500 hp motor. Being the gullible chap that I am, I believed him. It seemed quite plausible, and I spent a bit of the time during the concert working out how, in the event of an extended power cut, one could organize five hundred horses to work the bellows.

Trying hard to look as if I were absorbed by the music, I was imagining how all the listeners in the stalls would have to be replaced by horses and their drivers, and how much hay they would have to consume before a concert. We could accommodate the hay and water and perhaps and on-duty farrier in the physics department of Imperial College, which is conveniently close, and stable the horses in the college car park.

Or maybe we could draft in people serving community orders to man or women the bellows. How about Paris Hilton? She’s in a pious mood at the moment.