The Null Device
Human oddity: A survey on the food cravings of pregnant women has revealed some bizarre ones. These include burnt matchsticks and gym shoes, as well as more conventional foodstuffs such as custard-covered beetroot and coffee granules on crumpets. Scientists are still uncertain of what causes these cravings.
The decline and fall of Western civilisation (an ongoing saga): British costume-drama producer Ismael Merchant complains that English good manners are no more, and that the country has been taken over by a "lower class" obsessed with football and making money. For this sad state of affairs, Merchant puts some of the blame on the Internet and computers:
"What made a person civilised in the past is reading, writing and the art of conversation. Now that has all changed. Human relations now are established with laptops, not with other human beings, which makes for a very boring film - unless you have someone springing up out of the laptop to murder someone else.
Of course, reading only works to impart civilisation if the materials read are printed on paper and bound in a book (a leather-bound volume of imposing antiquity, mind you, not one of those proletarian paperbacks), and preferably if the author is prestigiously long-dead.
That's pretty cool... Melbourne City Council is installing an array of solar cells on the roofs of the Queen Victoria Market. This array will feed electricity into the power grid, generating 1700 megawatt hours a year. With any luck, the idea will catch on and electricity generation will become more decentralised and thus efficient and reliable.
Was Shakespeare a pothead? A researcher in South Africa believes so, and is looking to analyse the contents of Shakespeare's clay pipes to test the hypothesis.
Looking for a new job? ASIO, the Australian spy agency, is recruiting.
If a man in a pinstripe suit with a carnation in his buttonhole sidles up by your side on a park bench and mutters, "The weather in Dubrovnik is mild for the time of year", you'll know you're in with a chance. If an unsigned post-card arrives with the message that Uncle Wang's bicycle may be collected from the repair shop, you've cracked the short list. In which case, you should stand in front of Shearing the Rams at the National Gallery at exactly 11:27am on the third Wednesday of the month, holding the torn label from a packet of Ti-nee-tips tea.
Unintended consequences: The recipient of a pioneering hand transplant, it turns out, is having trouble affording the expensive anti-rejection drugs required to keep the hand. The surgeon involved has appealed to the drug companies to offer him the drugs free of charge. (Aside: this is the same patient who recently complained that he does not feel that the hand is his own and wants it removed. Sounds a bit like a curious twist on body dysmorphic disorder, only in this case the hand wasn't originally his.)