P&J Column 12.10.17

Google say their earphones translate any language, anywhere. Nae tae be contermashious, but they’d hae a sair fecht in Turra.

Professor Hector J Schlenk; Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for the public engagement in Science

As a scientist, people are often asking me tough questions like “Should a multimillion pound housing development at Rubislaw Quarry be built?” and “Is it still Europe’s biggest man-made hole, or is that now Union Street?” However, this week I have been turned away from local matters by the latest scientific breakthrough by the boffins at Google, who have built a pair of headphones that can translate foreign languages in real time. Notwithstanding the fact that by calling them ‘Pixel Buds’ they have invented something that sounds like a hi-tech method of ear wax removal; Google appear to have created a real-world equivalent of the Babel Fish from Douglas Adams’ seminal Science Fiction masterwork ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. Other examples of Adams’ 1970’s sci-fi predictions becoming actual technology include the e-book, voice–controlled computers and Marvin the Paranoid Android, a permanently depressed robot, which tellingly presaged our current Prime Minister.

Stunningly, the Pixel Bud earphones both translate and enable you to speak in foreign languages, and at a launch event this week, they enabled an English speaker to converse with someone from Sweden. Of course, no technology is perfect at launch and there are some slight niggles. For one, they’re only compatible with Android phones, and so notwithstanding the exorbitant cost of their handsets, and dogmatic brand loyalty, the 500-million iPhone users worldwide will miss out. Sorry, I was meant to be identifying drawbacks, wasn’t I?

The Pixel Bud earphones will apparently support 40 languages, and I for one am desperately hoping the software will be up to the task of including Doric. This will make my weekly shopping trip to Turriff far less traumatic. If not, I propose an ‘add-on’ app for the earphones which will facilitate translation into the local dialect. At the moment my own add-on is a little unwieldy, involving, as it does, plugging the Pixel Buds into the hearing aide of my Auntie Jessie, who will “live translate” as long as the hard wired connection is maintained. Users should therefore ensure that they don’t walk too fast for her to keep up. She’s marvelous but she is under the doctor with her legs. We will have look into minaturisation in due course, but as matters stand she’s only 4 foot 11 so it’s hard to see where we go from here. In terms of the business model, the application itself is free, with each translation paid for by an ‘in-app purchase’ of pandrops.

Cava Kenny Cordiner; the football pundit who’s paddling in the gene pool

Oh me is woe! Scotland’s dream of getting humped in the World Cup playoffs lies in tatters after a 2-2 draw in Slovenia saw us blown out of the water at the final hurdle. It all looked so good when Griffo put us in front, but 2 goals from set-pieces from one of the Slovenly subs ensured that in 2018 the Tartan Army will not be disgracing Russia with their presents.

Of course, Scotland gaffer Gordon Strachan is an old pal of old Kenny’s, we go way back to my playing days at Pittodrie, and whatever you thinks about his tic-tacs, he could really play the face off of the beautiful game. Football is all about ball control; and that wee ginger nut’s was some of the best controlled balls I ever seen. I know as well as what anyone else does how much Gordon will be hurting over us crashing out of the competition so ignoramously. But when he blamed genetics for Scotland’s failure, even I had to raise an eyelid.

Gordo reckons we don’t have the height or bulk to deal with our opponents these days, which, coming from a wee toot like him just sounds like sour grapes. The problem with Gogsy’s claim is that he never done his research. He says we was the second smallest team in Europe, but if he’d checked who was smallest (Spain) and third smallest (Portugal) he’d have realised that there’s a lot of truth in the old saying “if you is good enough, you is tall enough”. And vice verruca, putting big lads in the team is no guarantee of success. Duncan Ferguson was 6 foot 4, but he never helped us to a major tournament. Mostly because he was in jail.

Anyway, Strachan’s suggestion for how to improve our chances of qualifying for future tournaments was to get big men together with big women and “see what we get”. Now I’m no expert on geology, but I know Scottish football and what it doesn’t not need right now is more big babies.