John Walker's Electronic House

by on Jun.07, 2005, under The Rest

Today’s post is going to be very scientific. If you are weak (perhaps with a fragile heart, or a lady) you might need to prepare a small fan with which to waft your delicate face.

I have discovered a way that means spending every waking moment playing World of Warcraft can be a means to learnings.

The wonderful BBC are wonderful for about eight trillion different reasons at the moment. Pay your license fee with relish. Jonty, pay our license fee at all. If I catch anyone complaining about it, I will come to your house and fill all your shoes with wasp eggs. One of the many reasons for this wonderfulnessity(ment) is their awesome Listen Again archive for Radio 4 (and indeed, all their other major radio stations). Hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours of programmes are available to stream (or download if you are a l33t haxx0r like me). And this includes an astonishing amount of wonderful science programming.

Five Numbers - BBC

I was first alerted to this joy by the lovely Neil Mohr, who linked me to the programme “Five Numbers”, a superb series of five fifteen minute investigations into a particular number (0, pi, 1.618, i, and infinity). Having devoured this, I moved naturally onto “Another Five Numbers” (4, 7, 2^13,466,917 -1, 74% and 23 billion – that selection just looks so fantastic entirely without explanation). And from there, to everything else they have that didn’t look boring.

So while running about WoW, desperately trying to get to level 40 so I can have my steed, I’ve been dipping into this ‘chive once again. I would like to present the two best things I’ve learned recently:

The Material World - BBC

Ants commit suicide. But not out of choice. There is a type of parasitic fluke that infests ants. It crawls into their ant brains and starts to control its behaviour. When ants would normally go to bed at dusk (the comments here may not necessarily reflect the quality of the presentation of the programming), the parasite causes the ant to go outdoors instead. It then makes the ant climb a blade of grass, and then bit really hard into the tip and not let go. (I picture this being a bit like when the Ghostbusters team controlled the Statue of Liberty from the inside of her head). Bunny rabbits then bound along, eating grass as they go, and thus consume the poor Derren-Brown-victim-a-like ant along with the blade it’s gripped to. And this is how that cunning little parasite gets to its desired destination – the inside of rabbits. Goodness knows what it does there – perhaps it makes the bunny go and graffiti the walls of angry farmers’ farmhouses, in order to continue its climb of the food chain.

The Kiss - BBC

The other thing is the best thing ever: Kissing is good for you. Every ml of saliva, you see, contains one hundred million bacteria. But not evil bacteria that make your kitchen grow a thick green film, but the good kind, perhaps a cousin of those that apparently live in expensive yogurt. So when you smooch, you exchange these bacteria with your chosen subject, and they receive a few billion of your finest microscopic defenders. And indeed you theirs. On the assumption that the person you snog is not disease-ridden or covered in open sores, you are fortifying one another against the cruelties of the harsh, harsh world.

Hoorah for science!

9 Comments for this entry

  • Bobsy

    I hate this awful buzzword* “friendly bacteria”. It’s just such pretentious middle-class bullshit. There is no bacteria that wants to be your friend. You will never be called up by an amoeba on a Sunday afternoon for a chat. There’s just bacteria. Sometimes, as a race, we persecute it for no reason than what it is. Ethnic cleansing for micro-organisms. And what’s left over, we call our friends.

    Bloody human race.


  • Muletears

    “Pay your license fee with relish… If I catch anyone complaining about it, I will come to your house and fill all your shoes with wasp eggs.”

    The BBC might be wonderful but the present licence system stinks to high-heaven. A poll tax collected by an unscrupulous and largely unnaccountable external agency. A poll tax that leads to the prosecution and imprisonment of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. A poll tax publicised with intimidatory, fear-inducing advertisements…

    Roll on the day when the beeb is funded through income tax.

  • Grill

    That said new pick-up lines galore. “Anyone fancy a fortifying snog?” Now I just need to find someone to immunise…

  • bob_arctor

    Material world on nanotubes was most excellent. The radio science is so much better than the TV science. I wish someone in TV would think : “Hey maybe our audience are not retards who loath depth and have not even a GCSE grounding in science!”

  • Tim R

    Perhaps, one day, in the digital world they could offer two programmes simultaneously, one for the uninitiated or imbecilic and one for smart alecs. Which means I agree with bob, really.

  • John

    There’s nothing smart about Alec.

  • Tim R

    Scruffy Alecs? Or is that a smart-aleccy thing to say?

  • bob_arctor

    How does one download the stream?

    I getright opened the listen again link and went into the folder but I don’t know which one to do!

  • John

    There is a somewhat unsubtle hyperlink at a key moment : )