“Pause and ask yourself where would you rather be right now?” says an email with a tad too much upwards inflection for Feedback’s taste, sent on by reader Barry Cash. We do, coming to the pandemic-weary conclusion “anywhere”.
This answer is apparently correct, as it also embraces the British crown dependency of Jersey. “This season, we’re celebrating all things edible and home-grown, so read on and discover a flavour of Jersey,” the email from that island’s tourist board burbles on. A brief discussion of the merits of Jersey Royal potatoes and freshly caught local seafood follows, before things take an unexpected turn. “Still hungry?”, we read, and then, “WIN a fresh pat picked from our local fields.”
The “limited-edition Jersey Cow Pat Face Mask” is the first of its kind, we are informed. “Not only does our iconic breed produce high quality legen-dairy milk, but their fresh pats can also do wonders for our skin.”
We are reassured that it is solely for external use, at least, and a faecal facial would certainly be one step up and sideways from the historically favoured asses’ milk.
Sadly, due diligence reveals that the cow pat face mask’s ingredients, while organic, aren’t quite as organic as that, consisting mainly of marketing material for an April Fool. Following recent discussions of alternative skincare products (13 March), we will be sticking to our favoured hydrogenated water.
Divided by language
To see where the world is headed, you must only look at its changing use of language. If your toes curled at that “headed”, you are likely two things: an irrational pedant who can’t accept that language isn’t about rules, but about efficient communication; and a British-influenced strain of that species intent on decrying Elizabethan coinages as newfangled Americanisms.
Feedback is both these things. But following the principle that a problem shared is a problem doubled – do the math – we are delighted to discover the distaste cuts both ways.
Under the subheading “Britishisms update”, the latest “Style and Substance” column of The Wall Street Journal contains the stern self-chastisement that “Phrases from British English continue to creep in to our copy. Maybe not as badly as we [sic] were doing at one point, but it is still worth policing.”
The details of their discomfiture need not concern us, sufficient to say, whatever – their bad. For readers wondering what any of this has to do with science, the answer is very little, apart from our perennial interest in self-referential logic. We are intrigued to see whether our ever-vigilant subeditors are duty bound to change Americanisms that appear in an item about Americanisms, or whether they accept it just is what it is, period.
The language of science, of course, leaves less room for competing interpretations. This is why we are pleased to confirm that we categorically were intending to introduce the concept of four-dimensional urban hyperspace when we asserted that “on average, the UK’s towns and cities have as much nectar available for pollinating insects per square hectare as farmland and even nature reserves and parks” (27 March, p51).
Well, perhaps not – but what a fine way to reduce humanity’s ever-growing footprint on the sadly approximately two-dimensional surface of the planet that would be.
On a similar theme of regrettable impossibilities, Wayne Cadman writes from Sydney, Australia, that the owner’s manual of his Peugeot car advises that its adaptive cruise control “cannot exceed the limits of the laws of physics”.
Although on consideration, perhaps not so regrettable: quite apart from the untested effects, say, of warp speed on human physiology, a general problem with perpetual motion machines would presumably be bringing them to a sudden halt in an unexpected traffic situation.
Not so old
Trying, he says, to alleviate the covid-19-induced symptoms of cabin fever, Mike Stevenson reports himself to have been “wistfully surfing” the New Scientist Discovery Tours pages. “If I was interested in the ancient caves of Northern Spain, I could ‘step back in time to see how our ancestors lived with New Scientist writers’,” he reports.
With such vast age comes the huge wisdom that infuses these pages, Mike, although you will have to learn to live with the sometimes palaeolithic personal hygiene.
It isn’t given to us to mark the passing of every reader, but it feels appropriate to commemorate one in the public eye who championed many, often unfashionable, causes dear to, New Scientist hearts, from nature conservation to the general importance of science and technology.
On this magazine’s first birthday in November 1957, Prince Philip wrote a personally signed note to its editor Percy Cudlipp expressing his desire that it should survive and thrive for many more. He was also an occasional contributor to the magazine, most recently writing in 2015 on how great engineers can improve the world. He was a forceful advocate, and will be sadly missed.
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