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Absurdities and anachronisms on TV

The new ITV series Primeval, about dinosaurs coming through a time warp in the Forest of Dean, had its fair share of absurdities but the one I particularly liked occurred when the Professor went through the time warp himself in quest of his wife, who had disappeared eight years previously.

He and his paratroop companion soon came across a half-buried skeleton.

"Is it your wife?" the paratrooper asked.

The professor ran his fingers quickly along the tips of the vertebral spines, which was pretty much all of the bones that could be seen.

"No, it's a man," he replied.

Given that it is impossible to sex a skeleton from an inspection of the vertebrae I thought his confidence was rather misplaced.

Even the usually impeccable Foyle's War let us down in the plausibility department. No one in that period would have said "it was down to Grace"; they would have said "it was thanks to Grace".

Bishop Tom Butler

The news is pretty depressing these days so thanks to Bishop Tom Butler for providing a bit of much-needed light relief. The mental picture of the Bishop sitting in the back of a car. throwing toys about and saying "I'm the Bishop of Southwark and this is what I do" is surely irresistible.

Impersonating a terracotta warrior

The story that came out yesterday about a German art student who pretended to be one of the terracotta warriors in Xian, China reminded me of a time many years ago when I went to Madame Tussaud's with my father. We descended to the Chamber of Horrors, where my father went into a dark corner and stood there motionless, staring ahead of him. He was a tall dark man, wearing a hat and holding a furled umbrella.

Before long a small group of visitors stood in front of him, peering at his feet as they looked in vain for a plaque explaining who he was. At that moment he suddenly walked away, pursued by horrified screams.

Catharsis and the corpus callosum

I saw the BBCTV programme Watchdog yesterday. It included an item on an organization called Catharsis, which allegedly cures all kinds of diseases at considerable cost. They showed a quick flash of a list of diseases treated by Catharsis. Along with the expected herpes, AIDS, and cancer I caught a glimpse of Corpus Callosum. This is interesting, because the corpus callosum is actually a large bundle of nerve fibres that forms the main connection between the two halves of the brain.

Dinosaurs in Noah's Ark and other matters

More information about the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs, among other fascinating material, can be found at Answers in Genesis. You can take a virtual walk through the museum, which contains, among other gems, a picture of T. rex, a terrifying monster released by Adam's sin.

I was also interested to find an article on this site about the Shroud of Turin. It concludes the Shroud is a fake, but not for the reasons you might expect: the problem is that it doesn't correspond to what the Bible tells us.

A medical misunderstanding

Not too many laughs in the medical journals as a rule, but I enjoyed this from the BMJ for 17 December, p.1456. Sathesha Nayak, an anatomy lecturer at a medical college in Manipal, India, told the students to make an incision, cut the skin and throw it upwards, and then find the structures beneath. A little later he heard a commotion at one of the dissecting tables, and found that one of the students had indeed cut the skin and thrown it up in the air, and it had fallen on another student's head.

Seen on TV

I happened to glimpse a film on TV yesterday called Ocean's Eleven, made in 1960. One of the characters went to a doctor who told him he had lung cancer. The doctor had the man's chest x-ray on the viewer. Which was fine, except that it was upside down.

Mornington Crescent as Zen koan

In his book about Iris Murdoch A.N. Wilson says that this highly intelligent woman asked him, quite seriously, what the rules of the game called "Mornington Crescent" were.

For anyone who doesn't know, the game figures in an anarchic BBC comedy programme called "I'm sorry, I haven't a clue". The participants compete by naming various Underground stations in a pseudo-meaningful sequence until someone says "Mornington Crescent" and wins. The "point" of the game, of course, is that there is no point. Iris Murdoch enjoyed the show but had been unable to figure out what the rules of the game were.

It has struck me that "Mornington Crescent" is a perfect example of a Zen koan. Koans are used in the Rinzai sect of Zen to shock the monks into Satori (enlightenment) by asking insoluble conundrums such as:

Q. Does a dog have the Buddha nature?
A. Mu.

Have any listeners gained Satori by listening to "Mornington Crescent"?

Was the Universe created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Have a look Bobby Henderson’s delightful Open Letter to the Kansas School Board, pointing out that there are multiple theories of intelligent design, not just one, and requesting that the Board will give due weight to the belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Henderson requests that “this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories” [creationism and evolution]. There is a discussion forum and two friendly letters from members of the Kansas state board.

Selling your house the paranormal way

Today's issue of "The Independent" contains, in its Property pull-out, an article by Robert Nurden which (apparently seriously) advises people whose house is slow to sell that the problem may be that it is jinxed. This may be due to spirits or to "geopathic stress".

The signs that indicate the presence of said stress are:

1. Ant and wasp nests

2. Cats being attracted to the garden

3. Poor sleep, illness and constant tiredness

4. Relationship breakdown

5. House stuck on the market for ages

To remove geopathic stress an "expert" can dowse with two copper rods, after which the careful application of "earth acupuncture needles" allows the neutralization of the negative energy.

So now you know.

I don¿t know if this piece was included tongue-in-cheek, but even if it was, no doubt a number of gullible readers will take it seriously and spend money on this nonsense. Irrationality and superstition are rife enough already without being encouraged in this way. Is "The Independent" going to include an astrology column next? Time to decamp if so.