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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

COLUMN: Fabian's world

Crystal gazing

Never overestimate the public’s ignorance of science, somebody once said. Perhaps it was me. A strange and startling art work in the form of a council flat in South London totally covered in copper sulphate crystals – walls, ceiling everything – has been attracting 200 people a day.

It was made by waterproofing a ground-floor derelict council flat and pouring 75 000 litres of copper sulphate solution through a trapdoor in the flat above it. An odd thing to do, and even odder to think one day: “That’s what I’ll do this summer. Never mind the sea-side. I’ll just pour some copper sulphate into a flat.” But that’s just an aside.

There was a bath in the flat that got filled with the crystals, but is less full now because of the public’s desire to sit in it and simulate bathing and break a few crystals off to take home. And they have been licking the walls too.

Of course people always lick the walls when they come into a derelict flat. It’s an old Cockney custom. You expect it. But you might expect them to hesitate at a wall covered in copper sulphate crystals.

Ah well. I have a plan to cover the walls of my flat in cow dung next year. You’re all invited.

Maths and cells

Recent TV programmes about maths and cells share the same desperate desire to amuse the viewer. Discoveries in Germany, Italy and USA for instance, must be accompanied by music and images of the country; accordions for France, flags for America and even fat women in bikinis for Italy. Imagine discussing and illustrating the Fibonacci series without a bikini in sight. Impossible.

One stumbling step

It appears that the famous “One small step for man…” might have had its origins in a Brit, Mr Peach, working for Nasa at the time of the Apollo launch; says he thought of it first and passed it along the line until it got through to Armstrong. Peach’s boss at the time doesn’t believe him and wonders sceptically why he waited 40 years to make his claim.

Even so I began to muse about what other phrases other first men or women to step on the moon might have come up with…

Silvio Berlusconi: Come out my little Bambalina and have your picture taken with Uncle Silvio.

Paris Hilton: Oooh lovely! Tons of free face powder.

Neil Kinnock: Well I won’t bore you with a long speech on this historic occasion, but I must first pay tribute to those giants of the Labour Party – Nye Bevan, Clem Atlee, Keir Hardy - without whom we would never have made it here let alone into Westminster. And while I’m at it, let me also point out… Just a moment. I say there. Can you spare me another cylinder of oxygen down here? Anyway, as I was saying…
George W Bush: This is what Iraq should look like when I’ve finished.

Bibi Natanyahu: First of all I must put up a big fence.

Lady Thatcher: Am I still in Grantham?

Prince Charles: This is what happens if you let nano-particles out of the lab.

President Ahmandinejad: I refuse to step on this surface. This is not the Moon; it is a large balloon designed by the Americans to be popped over my country to spread swine flu over honest citizens.
Sir Alan Sugar: If you can’t sell this thing by tomorrow, you're fired.

Pope: Sorry about that, Galileo.