Professor Hector Schlenk, Senior Researcher at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science
As a scientist, I am often asked difficult questions, such as “Can rainbow steps improve the city’s wellbeing?”, “When we hear that a space rocket has failed to launch and fallen back to earth, why do we instinctively duck?” and “If a BMW 730 with a Provost inside it is paid for by the Common Good Fund, does that mean that everyone in the city will eventually get a shottie?”.
However, I have been avoiding all such queries as I am currently sitting inside awaiting today’s predicted deluge, where a month’s worth of rainfall is predicted to fall in a couple of hours, the north-east is on flood alert, local roadworks on the A90 have been postponed, the Met Office has issued a thunderstorm warning, and lazy people who can’t be bothered power-washing the seagull sharn off their cars have parked them out on the street and hoped the elements will do the job for them.
Of course, thanks to the peculiar temporal laws of newspaper production, these events will have already happened when you read these words, though I am in fact writing them two days earlier, and they haven’t happened yet. In fact, it looks quite sunny at the moment.
This means the thunder, lightning and heavy rain is currently in a quantum state – Schrodinger’s Storm, if you like – and it is currently impossible to know if it will occur as the meteorologists have predicted, or if it’ll just end up being a bit foggy instead, as happened yesterday.
In such circumstances, people are right to be concerned about the increasing levels of precipitation, caused by increased evaporation, which is in turn caused by the effects of man-made greenhouse gases.
However, while the increase in rain is a cause for concern, rain itself should be celebrated. I like to stand on the street corner with my umbrella during a downpour and lecture the passersby on the fascinating scientific basis of heavy rain and thunderstorms.
What we complain about as “rain” is simply part of the process of sun-heated moisture in the air falling to earth, eventually ending up back in the sea before evaporating back into the air again for the whole process to repeat.
Just think of it like a hamster continually running round and round its wheel, if the water cycle is the continuous turning of the little wheel, and the hamster itself is a large ball of thermonuclear hot plasma that enables the cycle to keep going.
Even more fascinating is the science behind lightning strikes, where a mix of positive and negative charges grow large enough for an electrical discharge to occur between the clouds and anything that sticks up from the ground, like trees, mountains and lecturing scientists holding umbrellas.
Think of it as a much larger scale version of what happens when you rub a balloon against your head, if the balloon is the Earth and the hair is the planet’s atmosphere.
I find this phenomenon particularly fascinating as the hair I have left sticks up like that anyway, which is why local children keep asking me “far’s yer balloon?”.
I usually retort “Far’s yer spirit of scientific curiosity?” whereupon they start to kick me on the knees, which pleases me as this is an example of Newton’s Third Law (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction).
Truly, science is everywhere if we only look for it. Though we probably shouldn’t look for it outdoors while there’s the risk of flooding, thunderstorms, or agitated children.
Shelley Shingles, Entertainment correspondent and Miss Fetteresso 1983
Oh. Em. Actual. G! It’s not often that a bit of showbiz news makes you totes excited and totes nostalgic at the same time, but this week’s announcement of a long overdue TV reboot has had me in a reverie!
I’m talking, of course, about the return of Supermarket Sweep! There have been many pretenders to the throne since it was taken off the air in 2001, but no show has ever matched the perfect chemistry of low-budget, low-value prizes and low-brow questions.
I wonder if it will be updated for the modern era? Will they have self-scan checkouts? And will you lose £10 for every “unexpected item in bagging area”? Will they have those handy price tags on the shelves that help you compare the value of your goods? (like Prosecco coming in at 53p per 100ml – score!) Will they have a greeter? Will contestants be expected to take in their own plastic bags to carry away their prizes?
Of course, Supermarket Sweep was made famous by its delectable host, the late great Dale Winton. That’s big shoes to fill. But who better to fill them than the bronzed coiffured stallion that is Rylan?
Me and Rylan go way back. I first met him when he was standing in for Pip Schofield on This Morning and I was one of the football kit models in the fashion bit, wearing Chelsea’s away kit.
We were backstage in the green room and I asked him to sign my shirt, preferably with his phone number, LOL! He said to me, “Sorry love, I play for the other team”. Wise words, from a true gent.