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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Great British Write Off

Following the overdue departure of The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4  the BBC lost no time in approaching me to devise a suitable replacement to fill the gap in its weekday evening schedule. I decided it was an opportunity to raise the cultural standards at the ailing broadcaster, which have long been in decline, and developed a proposal for a literary contest- The Great British Write Off. The concept was an organic development of  my recent ideas for live writing festivals and The Literary Games, and will 'come as no surprise' to the thousands of cliché  loving fans of my blog.
National treasure Alan Bennet has agreed to fill the Mary Berry role, coaching a cohort of hopefuls through a series of gruelling televised literary exercises. The Paul Hollywood role is still open, as my exasperated production team has yet to find a literary Scouser (winces at cheapness of joke made at expense of home town).

The details of the exercises are still being worked out, but are expected to include:

  • Short verse forms, including the limerick, the sonnet, and the haiku. Contestants will be free to choose their own subject.
  • Three-act plays, for an ensemble of at least five players, based on themes nominated by the judges.
  • Query letters, to be judged by a panel of celebrity literary agents.
  • Full length novels, based on the most popular themes identified by a public vote.

The blue ribband event will be that most exacting and jewel like of all literary forms, the spontaneously created short humorous piece of no more than four hundred words. It is perhaps the most sensitive of all literary tests.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Molecular architecture

Since a team under my direction first produced Buckminsterfullerene--a spherical molecule in which sixty atoms of carbon are arranged in a geodesic shape reminiscent of the domes of architect Buckminster Fuller--my crack researchers have discovered other wondrous arrangements of carbon atoms that showcase the endless inventiveness of mother nature.

Sirnormanfosterene is a gherkin-shaped arrangement of 928 carbon atoms found naturally in soot.

Renzopianoene is a tall molecule with a tapering square cross-section containing 2048 atoms of carbon. It does not occur naturally on Earth, as far as we know, and was created in my laboratories using laser deposition interferometry techniques.

However, the most remarkable carbon molecule we have encountered is bovishomesene,  a collection of fourteen atoms forming a cube surmounted by a triangular prism. Particularly strong co-valent bonds between p-shell electrons in the atoms at the 'gable' of the prism creates a stunning mock-Tudor effect. When Bovishomesene  molecules are amassed in significant quantities they assume a pseudo-crystalline formation known as an 'e-state', which mimics the principles of Penrose tiling with an extremely high packing density. Sadly, Bovishomesene molecules- or 'bovvy boxes' as they are known in my labs- are of little practical use, as they decay naturally over a period of ten to twenty years.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Kardashian-Hawking Inequality

Found in a dustbin in New York, what appears to be the transcript of an interview between a ‘famous celebrity’ KK and  theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

KK- You’re really famous, right, for inventing black holes. Black’s really cool, but couldn’t you have them in other colours, like a gold hole?
SH- No.
KK- That’s such a shame, Sweetness. I was thinking that since they absorb everything you could make a really cool make-up removal pad by impregnating a sponge with lots of tiny black holes, but if the sponge was covered in black dots it might look dirty.
SH- The tiny black holes would absorb the sponge too.
KK- But we could use a really stiff sponge, right? I was wondering how heavy a tiny black hole would be.
SH-The radius of a black hole is proportional to the square root of its mass. A black-hole with a mass equivalent to the sun has a radius of about 13.6 kilometres, so if we wanted mini black holes to pepper a pad for make-up removal purposes—let’s make them 0.136 millimetres to  keep the mathematics easy—then they would be one ten millionth of the diameter of a one-solar-mass black hole, so their mass would be around one three thousandth of a solar mass, or around six hundred million, million, million, million tons.
KK- Hmmm… that sounds a bit too heavy. But they wouldn’t be burning hot like the Sun?
SH- No, the surface temperature of a small black hole is around 0.0000000001 of a degree above absolute zero.
KK- That’s really cool. Presumably that explains why they are called black-holes, right? The Hawking radiation given off at that temperature would have a frequency of… let me see (pauses to perform mental arithmetic) about 1500hz, millions of times less than that of visible light?
SH- Yes.
KK- I wrote a rap song for you to listen to while you do your experiments on black holes, to help you concentrate. I’ll sing it for you. (Leaps to feet, strikes nearby tuning fork against chassis of the Professor’s mobility scooter, and hums a note)

He let's his voice box do the talking
And we all know him as Stephen Hawking
He’s rightly famous across the nation
For discov’rin Hawking radiation
He became more famous by and by
For analysin’ Swartzchild radii
And for showing the likes of you and me
How to calculate black hole entropy
And one thing we like that’s really ace
Are the worm holes he’s found deep in space
No wonder his eyes are tired and bleary
From nights spent tackling quantum theory
When you see his conclusions on a graph
They make the Higgs Boson look really naff
I think he’s so very wise
He should have won a Nobel Prize
Some say he’s a bit of a miser
For have such a cheap old synthesiser
That gives him that distinctive voice
But we know really it’s a fashion choice
He could have a new one that would make him
Sound more like lovely sexy Kim
But I could think of nothing worse
Than talking about the universe
So hats off to clever clogs Stephen Hawking
Who’s days and nights of blackboard chalking
Have helped us understand our place
In the continuum we call space

Did you like it?

SH- There shouldn't be an apostrophe in let's. I don’t do experiments. I’m a theoretical physicist.
KK - Didn’t you discover the Higgs Boson then?
SH (resentfully)- No.
KK – Is there going to be a Stephen Hawking Boson?