P&J Column for 10.11.14

A month’s a long time in politics. A few weeks ago, Alex Salmond was ‘the Man’; now he’s the Guy.

Ron Cluny, Official Council Spokesman

It is a matter of public record that we of Aberdeen City Council have, at times, had a difficult working relationship with Alex Salmond. We have taken exception to his overbearing personality, questioned his method of funding local authorities and sought to ban him from Council property in order to prevent, what we considered to be, cheap political stunts. I do not expect to receive a Christmas card from Big Eck. But I was nevertheless disgusted when I learned that an effigy of the First Minister had been blown up on Bonfire Night in Lewes, East Sussex, despite assurances that this would not happen. I say this because it showed a fundamental lack of respect for one of the giants of the modern political scene; because even the most petty-minded of us would realise that now is not the time for derision and division as between the constituent parts of this United Kingdom; but mainly because, had we known they were going to go ahead after all, we’d have commandeered the Crematorium bus, got the banqueting department to knock us up a picnic and driven down to Lewes to see it ourselves. Grainy video footage on YouTube is just nae the same.

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

As a scientist, I’m always being asked questions such as “is stem cell research ethical?” and “could you design an algorithm to show if there is anyone qualified to conduct a judicial inquiry who is not pally with Leon Brittan?” But as a scientist who teaches, I’m forever asking questions such as “seriously, has anyone done any of the reading?”, and receiving mute passive-aggression in response.

On Friday, however, following publication of research by the University of Aberdeen showing that IQ improves with each successive generation, my Foundations of Science class was livelier than usual. I received a flurry of questions along the lines of, “If younger generations are clever than older ones, why do I have to do what my Dad says?” I had hardly begun to answer when another bright spark rose and asked, “Haud on! We’re a’ younger than you. If we’re a’ cleverer than you, fit wye do we hiv to listen to fit you say!?” A specious argument if ever I heard one, and one that I had only just started to correct when the entire class fell upon me, shoved a pair of socks in my mouth locked me in the gas-cupboard.

Impressively, however, even with their tutor incapacitated, they continued to thirst for knowledge, carrying out a range of experiments of their own creation. The discovery that shatterproof glass beakers are not, in fact, shatterproof, when dropped from more than 6 feet was interesting, and repeating the experiment over and over until all had been destroyed showed a commendable, if expensive, dedication to scientific method. The class’s attempt to create cold-temperature nuclear fusion using nothing more than a can of diet coke and a pack of mentos showed imagination, even if it ended in predictable failure. Their final experiment – “see how long a scientist can survive without food and water in a gas cupboard with a pair of socks lodged in his mouth” – would not have received clearance from the Institute’s Research Ethics Committee, and raises one final, all important question; could someone come and let me out please

View from the midden – rural affairs with MTV (Meikle Wartle Television) presenter Jock Alexander

Weel, it’s been an entomological wik in the village. This wik the story fit caught my een wis the plight of top pop songstress Katie Melua. Efter hearing a rustling sound in her heed, she went tae the doctors and found that a spider had set up hame in her lug. Noo, I couldna help but notice the tone of the reporting of her misfortune was fairly hysterical, and nae doot maist of you wid consider a beastie nesting in yer napper a bittie gadsy. Weel, we country fowk are clearly made of sterner stuff than yon willowy pop stars. I couldnae see fit aa the fuss wiz aboot. Fan ye live amongst fairm animals, yer used tae haein creepy-crawlies aboot the place. They perform a valuable service, lik catching files and pollinating the crops. Aside fae that, fit hairm’s a wee spider? Mony’s the tics and fleas I’ve skited aff masel’ efter a long day in the fields. Fowk still spik with fondness aboot yon time Feel Moira sneezed and three foggy-bummers come shooting oot her neb. I’m sure I hiv ingested my fair share an’ aa, especially as I tend tae sleep with my moo open. So let’s hae nae mair horror stories aboot crawly beasties, they’re all a part of the circle of life. Closest tae nature oot of the hale village is Skittery Wullie. He’s spent mony a year with fit can only be described as a teeming menagerie of slaters, forkies and hornygollachs aboot his person. He’s managed tae train them up tae clean his beard, remove his ear wax and fetch and carry his roll-ups and tobacco. But nothing touches his pairty-piece, fan he maks them run in one ear and oot the other. Fit could be mair natural nor that? Cheerio!