P&J Column 1.10.15


How can they have flowing water on Mars? I can’t even get a mobile phone signal at Clinterty.

Professor Hector J Schlenk, Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, I’m always being asked questions such as ‘What is the shape of the universe?’, ‘Will retina scans replace Chip and Pin payments?’ and ‘Are you actually going to buy that magazine, sir?’ But recently, people have been asking me all about water on Mars.   “Well”, I advise, “I don’t know about water, but I love them deep fried in batter!” And then we laugh, both at my witty verbiage and my increased risk of simultaneously contracting type 2 diabetes and obesity-related heart disease.

They are referring, of course, to the amazing discovery of evidence of water flowing on the red planet. NASA, having examined images sent back from the ‘Curiosity’ rover have identified black, salty tidemarks on the side of a canyon, which makes me wonder whether or not Mrs Professor Schlenk might be working for them as an image analyst. She can always detect when I’ve had a bath and failed to clean it properly.

The saltiness detected by space probes is what confirms that these images do indeed show the residue of flowing water, as the salt is what allows the liquid to flow in low temperatures. This is the same scientific phenomenon which allows us to clear icy paths and also explains why Margaritas go down so easily.

Should you wish to ‘taste the difference’ between our own Earth water and Martian water, simply fill a glass from the tap, then top it up with grit from one of those yellow boxes at the roadside. Swirl it all together and if you’ve done it right it should have the consistency of a rice crispie cake.

What NASA believe is that the water flows down the edges of craters and canyons during the Martian summer, when temperatures reach a rather chilly -23oC. All of this is heartening for 3 reasons. Firstly, it suggests the possibility that microbial life might yet be found on Mars (finally answering David Bowie’s 1971 poser in the affirmative); secondly it might be feasible for a manned mission to Mars to access a renewable water supply; and thirdly, because it shows that you need only travel 54 million kilometres to find somewhere with a worse summer than Aberdeen.

Tanya Souter, Lifestyle Correspondent

You might hiv seen in the papers the ither day that hunners of students wiz involved in a “lock-in” at the Bon-Accord and St Nicholas Centre in Aiberdeen! I used to ging oot wi’ a student, years back, but the only lock-ins he iver took me to wiz at the Reed Lion! Apparently it wiz a special offer event, far they get generous discounts in a range of stores. Well, fan I heard that I naturally tried to swick my wye in. I flashed my rent card, and telt them I wis a post graduate at the University of Life, on a bursary fae the School of Hard Knocks. ‘Oh aye’ says the boy on the door ‘Fit are ye reading?’ Quick as a flash I says, ‘Take A Break’, but he wizna fooled. I asks him, “Fit wye do ye gie them a special discount night?” He says, ‘They’re students, they need a discount cos they dinna hae much disposable income.” So I says, “I’m a single mum wi’ three kids living in a Cooncil hoose – I dinna hae muckle disposable income either.” And he says, “Aye – but you dinna hae access to yer daddy’s credit card.” I wiz totally raging. I’ve written to the manager demanding a similar lock-in for folks fa earn less than the living wage. And I tell ye – I’m dead serious aboot it. If I dinna get a positive answer, I’m going to start shoplifting somewye else.

Cava Kenny Cordiner, the football columnist who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘unethical’

When I seen the other day that Jack Warner had been banned for life from all football-related activities, I felt dead sorrow for him. I always thought his biology of the Dons was very good. I reckon he’s just been made an escape coat. I bet it’s because he’s from Maud. My pal Dunter Duncan was from there, and he was forever getting red-carded by refs, sometimes for things that was not even not totally deserved. Just because someone’s leg’s been broke in two places does not mean it was a foul. But that’s what you get when you get refs who have never played the game. Or who had to give it up early because they got their legs broke.