Sue Hartley, professor of ecology at the University of Sussex is thrilled to report that plant scientists (i.e. fauna who study flora rather than flora who study something else) have found that plants can recognise what is attacking them and adapt their behaviour accordingly. She reckons this will be important. I reckon it foretells the evolution of triffids. I need to clarify that my problem is not with those who like nothing better than to tuck into a cabbage (not a euphemism, that boy at the back), but those who destroy the environment with chemicals. She also says that we need to work out how to maintain crop yields in the face of a changing climate. Good point, Sue, no other bugger has thought of that, have they?
Simon Singh who is not even a professor, not even at the University of Slighty Obscure on Severn, is excited that we have seen a planet outside of this solar system for the first time, but is unclear as exactly ‘how’ we saw it. I have checked, I just took a peek through the curtains, and even though there is a clear sky and a full moon, I can’t see this planet of which he speaks. He does say “Viewing another planet (albeit at infrared frequencies) was an extraordinary moment, because it made the idea of extraterrestrial life more concrete. This particular planet is probably too inhospitable to harbour life.” In other words, even though we can see it, (probably only if our name is Simon Singh), that’s all we can do. We can look at it. Simon, lovey, there are more than enough bloody things to look at already. I have not seen half of the things on the electric internet, and I’ve been sitting at this screen since quarter past seven. In fact, all Simon really has to say is that there’s a very good chance of intelligent life out there in the universe. I think, Simon, that we have caught you unprepared, haven’t we? The heading for your section should be “Will This Do?”. And what, pray, do you mean by 'harbour life' - not entirely free from ambiguity, is it?
Lord Rees - Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society. Is in agreement with Simon, and is all excited about the discovery that lots of stars have planets. I think the Torygraph must have contacted him whilst he was quietly getting pissed in the “Pipette and Micrometer”, probably with Simon Singh, if this is the best he could come up with. What, in the name of buggery, does an Astronomer Royal do? Is he on call in case Prince Andrew sees some light outside his bedroom window that he can’t recognise? Does he have to telephone Liz once a fortnight to report that Saturn is maintaining the correct orbit? I wonder if there is a Cynic Royal and how much it pays. I could do that. (Drifting off topic a bit here – just caught the end of Spinal Tap on the electric television).
Paddy Moore (still apparently alive) has got all het up about the discovery of bacteria on Mars. (Rog, do you want to do something about unhygienic chocolate bars?) saying how marvellous it is that life will appear just about anyplace that is capable of supporting it. To me, this just shows that life is totally indiscriminate, as witnessed by it managing to allow Patrick Moore and his loony cronies to exist.