A wise old dog, a bit arthritic – not Feedback’s Tinder bio, but Peter Holness’s description of his companion Arby, who is getting a bit long in the canines. To lessen the pains of age, a “less sceptical” member of Peter’s family bought Arby a collar that incorporates a “powerful bipolar magnet”.
Enquiring with members of the customer services department of the company concerned about the possibility of a monopolar version, Peter was informed that one wasn’t available. They weren’t sure why, but it was possibly due to “Brexit-related supply issues”.
Feedback has been following the search for a magnetic north without a south, or vice versa, with interest for some years. Physicists hunting the elusive magnetic monopole within the Large Hadron Collider or inside exotic solids, take note: your quarry may be languishing in a warehouse in Felixstowe, or caught in a snarl-up on the approach to the port of Dover.
Due diligence on the preceding leads us to a breakthrough in our own quest for eternal youth, as we land on the website of Bioflow magnetic collars. Bioflow’s products, we learn, work via a “Central Reverse Polarity field – a strong, multi-directional force of magnetism. Unlike standard and competitor’s magnets, Bioflow’s Central Reverse Polarity magnet has three poles.”
Strong stuff. We don’t wonder that “when blood passes under this multi-directional field, cells experience an agitating effect”. If readers should detect a certain jumpiness in our prose this week, for once it isn’t the office coffee – we can’t get this darn thing off.
Social media site for the short of attention Twitter was lightly smouldering last week as US thin-sliced frozen steaks manufacturer The Steak-Umm Company reignited a long-standing beef, of uncertain provenance, it has with pronouncements made by the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Responding to Tyson’s tweet (“The good thing about Science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it”), the company’s official account reacted first with a succinct “log off bro”, followed 5 minutes later by a clarificatory tweet: “nope. science itself isn’t “true” it’s a constantly refining process used to uncover truths based in material reality and that process is still full of misteaks. neil just posts ridiculous sound bites like this for clout and he has no respect for epistemology”.
Which, as far as the meat of the matter goes, isn’t wrong. As Twitter user David Vienna put it: “We have reached the point in our collective human evolution at which I nod in agreement with a sandwich meat company as they take a swipe at a celebrated astrophysicist.”
To this day, Feedback much treasures an enraged letter sent by a reader following our publication of an article by University of Warwick mathematics professor Ian Stewart, on the mathematics of electoral systems, in the run-up to the 2010 UK general election (1 May 2010, p 28). How dare we, it asked, be giving a party-political platform to the Conservative candidate for the constituency of Milton Keynes South?
That turned out to be the subtly variant Iain Stewart. Since then, however, we have taken it as a vaguely amusing axiom that all instances of the same name map to the same person. Thus physicist Brian Cox, for instance, has led a busy life not just as a keyboard player for the band D:Ream, but also as the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter on film, while goalkeeping for Huddersfield Town.
So we were tickled to see, while rummaging around in the arXiv preprint server for something we had mislaid, the publication list attributed to David Politzer, co-winner of the 2004 Nobel prize in physics for his work on the theory of quantum chromodynamics – 14 papers on the physics of the banjo.
Except, chuckling self-satisfiedly, we then discovered a webpage hosted by the California Insititute of Technology with links both to “Banjo Physics 411” and a public lecture delivered in Stockholm in 2004 “as per the will of Alfred Nobel”. So, as far as our theorem goes, QED. Or perhaps in Politzer’s case, QCD. That’s a physics joke.
Last week, The Sun newspaper invented a newly perplexing way of measuring things (Feedbacks passim), Adrian Bell notes: the exactly equivalent explicatory unit. It reported the birth of a very large baby boy, “almost 24 inches long, that’s two footlong Subway sandwiches for perspective”.
That said, Feedback remembers Subway once responding to a customer complaint about an 11-inch “Footlong” by asserting that the name was “not intended to be a measurement of length”. Suffice it to say: it was a big baby.
Many thanks to the readers who responded retrocausally to our item mentioning language not being about rules, but efficient communication (17 April) by pointing out our solecism in ending an item with “Over and out” (3 April). In radio comms, “Over” invites a response, while “out” is a contradictory indication that communication has ended. We apologise for any confusion. Out and over.
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