Tag Archives: science

2091. A warning to the Argentinosaurus

When Dong White, Professor of Entomology at the university, was asked a simple question he went into contortions. The question, asked by a student, was simply, “Why do most species of bees have stripes?” Suddenly Dong White realized the answer to a question he had been pursuing all his intellectual life. Stripes on bees had evolved during, and even possibly predating, the Age of the Dinosaurs. Stripes acted as a warning to the Argentinosaurus, and other long-necked dinosaurs, not to come and pinch honey from the bees’ nests. If they did pinch, they would get stung.

These days, of course, stripes on bees are a hang-over from those days. Today, only giraffes could reach a bees’ nest high in a tree, but giraffes don’t eat honey.

Professor Dong White wrote a lengthy article on his insight and sent it to Scientific America for consideration. He had had other entomological papers published before. Why do bees have stripes? was sure to be a winner.

The magazine was kind enough to return the Professor’s paper. But scribbled at the top were the words: What a load of crap.

2089. Gertrude, Professor of Philosophy

Gertrude had spent her adulthood thinking. Since early teens she had been interested in philosophy, and several doctorates later she found a job teaching at a university. She worked her way up the ladder and it didn’t take long before she was queen of the roost.

But did she rule with an iron fist! Many thoughts and philosophical insights were banned from her department. Some things are plain wrong, she said, and will not be tolerated. Socrates to start with; his name is not to be mentioned.  And indeed such sinful thoughts were not tolerated. Several lecturers lost their jobs. A number of bright students failed. We’re not here to mollycoddle notions of wrongness, she said. Those who don’t agree cannot be defined as philosophers. Philosophy exists to move the world forward in a very specific way.

The university, at her behest, banned Romeo and Juliet for sexism, Othello and The Merchant of Venice for racism, all opera sung by systemically racist Whites – except of course for Verdi’s Otello and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly if the lead parts were sung by Blacks and Asians. The university’s History Department made an attempt to win her favour. Would she lecture in History? She knew how to create facts more amenable to contemporary thought. Likewise, the School of Medicine wanted her to devise a curriculum that stuck to a Science that advanced social justice.

Anyway, one day, while walking from the staff cafeteria to the staff recreation room, she dropped dead. As Mrs. Smith of 24 Shirley Crescent in the suburbs observed: Is there a God or is there a God?

1738. Calamitous culinary concoction

Candy was both an enthusiastic gardener and an enthusiastic cook. She would usually manage to squeeze both hobbies in, at least for a short time, after a long day’s work at the Department of Scientific Research. Years ago she had graduated as an industrial chemist specializing in developing antidotes to ricin. Ricin is a deadly powder that is processed from castor oil plant seeds. The smallest few grains can be fatal. These days Candy had a more mundane task; she works on developing greater flexibility in plastics.

Thirty-seven years ago Candy had married her school sweetheart. The marriage was ongoing. Candy and Herbie had five children and eight grandchildren. They attributed their healthy family to a healthy lifestyle. For example, they never used salt when cooking, although sometimes Candy added a little salt from the salt shaker to her meal once dished up.

(If Candy is the only one using salt, how the heck is the story-teller going to get her to poison her husband with homemade ricin manufactured from her home-grown castor oil plants? She’ll end up poisoning herself.)

Anyway, an opportunity came for Candy to attend a Science Convention in a distant city. She prepared an evening meal for the five days she was away and stored it, each labelled with the day of the week, in the freezer. That way Herbie could come home and simply microwave his dinner. Of course, she prepared far, far too much food. And Candy sprinkled each meal with a liberal dose of homemade ricin processed from her home-grown castor oil plants. Sadly, he should be dead by the time she came back home. After all, she had proof that he had had a torrid affair with Annie, the woman who came once a week to do the washing and ironing. Not to mention Dolores the accountant, and Pam the dentist. Oh, and Sybil the barmaid at the local pub.

And Mitzie…

The affairs aside, Herbie was a great family man, and on the first evening, relieved that his wife wasn’t home to hound him, took all five meals out of the freezer and invited his five children and eight grandchildren to a hearty feast.

1467. Lead pencils

When Frankie Wilder sat up in bed, suddenly, and from a deep coma, and said “Plumbago! Goodness! It’s so simple” it threw the scientific community into a tizz. These were the last words uttered by the famous scientist. Clearly, in his last moments he had conceived something profound that had possibly been staring us in the face all along. Plumbago was the answer. What was the question?

The greatest scientific minds of the day grappled with the problem. What was plumbago the solution to? All knew it was simply graphite used in “lead” pencils. Why didn’t he say graphite? Why plumbago? Why? Why? Why?

Several professors wrote long scholarly articles that were published in science magazines. One student devoted his Ph.D. dissertation to the event. It was important because Frankie Wilder was the scientist of the century. Was he not the one who discovered how to instantaneously get to the other side of the universe in a warpal-sponge? Did he not enable palaeontologists to go back in time and photograph dinosaurs? Was he not the one to expose Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as being a load of twaddle? And now it was plumbago. What secrets did the lead pencil hold?

Frankie’s widow was worn to a frazzle. Every aspiring scientist wanted to interview her. What had Frankie been doing before he went into a coma? Were his reported last words exactly as reported? Did she have any inkling as to what he may have meant?

Quite frankly, Frankie’s widow had had enough. The next person who came along she confessed the whole shebang. That plant with the delicate blue flower is called plumbago. It was Frankie’s favourite flower. He wanted it on his coffin. He thought it such a pretty plant.

It wasn’t true of course, but it shut everyone up.

1425. Research

Mrs Maisie Gilliver was a wonder. She was addicted to genealogy; not just hers, but everyone else’s as well. She had discovered that the more information she uploaded onto genealogical sites, the more free research time was allotted to her. She searched the internet and copied other’s family trees at will and then placed the information on other genealogical sites.

Mrs Maisie Gilliver was marvellously flexible, for example, Great Aunt Sylvia kept on having babies for a good decade after her death; three siblings were born within four months of one another; Uncle Harold played the church organ every Sunday for eleven years without missing a Sunday and in between Sundays he traversed the world in his sailing ship.

Mrs Maisie Gilliver thought she was being helpful. In fact, she completely stuffed up the chances of other researches finding useful and accurate information on the internet. It had been junked out.

Mrs Maisie Gilliver’s next project is to upload recipes…

And hints to stay healthy…

And history…

And science…


1201. Priceless

When Bernice took the photograph of her son she had no idea that in forty years’ time it would be used on the ten dollar bill. It was just an ordinary photo. It was black and white and taken with a Brownie Box Camera. She had taken the film to the pharmacist to get it developed and printed. The rest is history.

When her son’s image first appeared on the ten dollar bill, Bernice had to get a bigger handbag. Not because she had more money. Of course she didn’t have more money. It’s just that she didn’t like to fold the paper money in half. That would be like putting a crease in her son’s photo. Sometimes she even ironed some crumpled bank notes to make them look nice.

Of course after her son’s death his fame spread like wild fire. He was his country’s most famous scientist. In fact his formula


had not only ousted Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but had made Einstein look like a bumbling idiot.

So when the truth came out that Bernice’s son during his life was the leading light in a pornographic ring, it was a great shock to everyone. People were reluctant to put the image of the famous scientist into their trouser pockets – neither front nor back.

The image on the ten dollar note was changed to a happy scene from Mary Poppins, and the old bank notes were destroyed.

These days any ten dollar bill with the porno-propagator’s image, if found, is priceless.

1120. New horizons

(This is the second of the Science Fiction stories to commemorate Science Fiction Day. Science Fiction Day is celebrated each year on Isaac Asimov’s birthday: January 2nd. Ok ok – haven’t you heard of a Time Warp?)

Many years elapsed after the Earthlings’ first failed attempt to populate the cosmos. But now technology had advanced. What used, on average, to take six generations to get from Earth to a habitable planet, now took only minus-a-few-days. The secret lay in the discovery of minus-time; not moving forward in time, but moving in another time dimension.

Anyway, that is irrelevant. Twenty Earthlings had been specially chosen to begin spreading human genes across the universe. In fact, a particularly friendly planet of aliens had especially invited the Earthlings to “Come! Populate our greatly under populated planet! We need more scientists!”

These aliens were of a highly advanced and intelligent character; brilliant scientists themselves, and at peace with all!

The twenty Earthlings chosen were selected carefully by the leaders of Earth. They were to be scientists of course, utterly objective in their search for truth; open-minded; unsuperstitious and not at all religiously irrational. In other words, they would fit in beautifully with the superior qualities of their alien hosts.

The Earthlings landed. The head alien came forward to greet them. “Welcome!” he said. “Welcome! Are you saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved.”