P&J Column for 2.6.14

What’s so exciting about a self-drive car from Google? Mitchell’s were doing them years ago.

PROFESSOR HECTOR SCHLENK, Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science.

As a scientist, I often find myself exploring important questions like, does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bed-post overnight? Is the desire to punch Justin Bieber innate, or learned behaviour? And why don’t nice girls dig a guy in safety glasses? Most recently, however, people have been asking me about vehicles which are Autonomous. To which I reply that they are the goodies, the Decepticons are the baddies, and my favourite is Optimus Prime. Then I laugh, uproariously, in a way that I am told is “A little bit psycho.”

There is no doubt, though, that the driverless car represents as great a leap forward in transportation as the wheel, the steam engine or the Sinclair C5. A car that drives itself! Just think of the possibilities that this opens up for human development, assuming, of course, that we don’t have to continually turn it off and then on again to restore its link to the Internet.

In a robot car, all of the mental effort previously used to keep a vehicle on the road and not colliding with things can be devoted to other pursuits. This would allow the erstwhile driver to be freed up to engage in other in-car activities, such as eating, mooning other road users and playing a full role in family bickering sessions. It will also lead to the end of the phenomenon of the “designated driver”; removing, at a stroke, one of the few socially acceptable reasons for not taking a drink and thus leading, inevitably, to increased levels of alcohol use.

Isn’t scientific progress marvellous?

J. FERGUS LAMONT, Arts critic and author of ‘Angus the Bull – The Wilderness Years’

Connoisseurs of the arts, such as myself, are oft to be found on the hunt for something fresh and innovative. In these days of cultural homogenization one struggles to find a performance or installation that deviates even slightly from the norm.

But on Friday evening I set out to soak up the sights and sounds of the city, and what sights and sounds they were!  As I neared Holburn Junction, a street-theatre troupe alighted from the Number 23 bus and proceeded to stage an impromptu production both thought-provoking and inspiring.

They entered, onto Albyn place, bedecked in two piece costumes of man-made fabric, decorated with stripes and swooshes, evoking the potential of the individual, but counterpointed with trousers tucked into their socks lending them an air of the comical naïf. A sense of mystery was created by simple but effective props; blue plastic bags containing unidentifiable liquids.  Then the performance commenced.  The liquid was imbibed swiftly and liberally, in a clear nod to humankind’s unquenchable thirst for meaning.  And then, symbolic of how easily we can become sickened by our consumer society, the actors promptly vomited the liquid all about them.  Bravo!  How I adore visceral theatre!

When, finally, the vomiting ceased, the troupe headed forthwith to the entryway to one of Aberdeen’s popular nightspots, doubtless with a mind to performing for a larger crowd. However, the doorman denied them ingress, presumably believing that the subtlety of this particular brand of theatre would be wasted on the philistines within. Sadly, he may have been correct.

One of the players, in homage to the famous Chicago ‘Bang Bang’ theatre group, bravely attempted to include the audience in the piece, asking questions such as ‘Fits yer problem, min?’ and “Are ye winting a hiding?” Regrettably, his efforts were in vain.  Aberdeen audiences are depressingly unwilling to engage. I alone stepped forward. “Fit are ye looking at?” he enquired of me, ‘The finest piece of spontaneous street-theatre I have ever witnessed’, I said. And then he took his bow; a bow so swift and forceful that his forehead broke my spectacles.

I wept.

View from the Midden – rural affairs with MTV (Meiklewartle Television) presenter JOCK ALEXANDER.

It’s been a futuristic wikend in the village. Sat oot in the pub’s packed Beer Gairden – or ‘Roof’, as it is itherwise kent. Auld Ned, widely considered the village technology whizz, on account of his ownership of baith a DAB radio and a Soda Stream, wiz saying that boffins in the far-aff metropolis of Dundee have invented a tractor beam. I couldnae see fit the fuss wiz aboot, my tractor his twa beams fit I switch on faniver it gets dark. Then he explained that fit they’d invented wiz the sort of tractor beam that they hiv in Star Trek. ‘It will’, he said, ‘enable them tae attract fowk tae Dundee’.

Like mony fowk in this pairt of the world, I firmly believe that we can dae onything Dundee can dae, so I resolved tae create a tractor beam of my ain.

Weel, efter a hot efterneen doon in the intimmers of my Massey Ferguson all I’d managed tae create was a strong feeling that I should hiv uncoupled the trailer full of mineer afore I stairted my experiments. I didnae manage tae attract onything but flys, but with a sharny fug clinging tae my dungers, I did successfully repel ab’dy else out of the Beer Garden, so I could get back up there and enjoy the remainder of my wikend in peace. Cheerio!