January 29, 2012


Here we go again. Another headline warning of “Siberian Conditions” hitting us in the next few weeks.

Let’s just remember back to the beginning of November. The headlines ran along the lines of “BIG SIBERIAN FREEZE TO HIT BRITAIN”. The so-called “experts” confidently predicted a bitterly cold December with thermometers falling at least as low as -15C. They warned that snow could “…hit the country even earlier than last year.” And others added that “…temperatures could plunge as low or even lower this winter.”

The prognostication for December and January were even worse…. Basically, we would all be frozen to death by now. Of course, it didn’t happen. In fact, it’s shaping up to be the mildest winter since records began over a century ago.

Having made a “prediction” like that, and got it so badly wrong, you would think that these forecasters would hang their heads in shame, padlock the door to their weather stations, and never return. But, no, last week, they were once again grabbing the headlines with their predictions of icebergs floating along the Union Canal, warning: “BRITAIN SET FOR MONTH-LONG SIBERIAN FREEZE”.

Time to put a stop to it all, I think.

And that was why I was delighted to learn that in South Africa weather forecasters have been warned they could face fines and even jail for issuing incorrect weather predictions. The new law has been implemented to prevent panic and economic damage as a result of false predictions. First time offenders could face a four or five-year sentence and a £400,000 fine, while repeat offenders face a maximum of 10 years or an £800,000 fine.

You see, the Merchants of Doom who have had us all out stocking up on tinned foods, rocksalt, and snow shovels are not employed by the Met Office. They are characters who work from their garden sheds and base their predictions on tides and solar flares. I suspect they also use the entrails of chickens and tea-leaves.

So, causing widespread panic, and having our councils spend a fortune preparing for horrendous weather conditions that just aren’t going to happen should cost them dear.

A huge fine or imprisonment? Sounds reasonable.



January 22, 2012


When is a petrol station not a petrol station?

Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? And it very nearly is – except it’s not funny.

A garage is not a garage – when it’s a shop. Of course, I understand that petrol stations have to turn a profit. But, come on. These days the sale of fuel has become secondary, which is a real pain for those who just want to drive in, fill up, pay, then zoom away and get on with their daily business.

Increasingly, you go to pay for your fuel, only to find yourself at the back of a mile-long queue of people clutching shopping baskets overflowing with groceries. There you stand, for what seems like hours, while their baskets are unloaded and scanned: toilet roll, cat food, soft drinks, bread, sweets, milk…

But there’s more. While you stand there waiting to hand over your £20 note for fuel, the clot at the front decides he wants to place his lottery numbers – for the whole street. And pay by debit card. Perhaps even redeem his loyalty card.

It’s a petrol station, for Pete’s sake!

Want to top up your gas credit? No problem. Want to top up your electricity? No problem. Want to top up your tank? Go to the back of the queue, and then wait. And wait.

Here’s a thought. Those old enough to remember will have driven onto petrol garage forecourts and run over a long black cable that rang a bell somewhere. A wee man in overalls would sidle up to your window, and ask how much fuel you wanted. He would then fill your tank, take your cash and come back with the change.

If you’re younger than 50-years of age, you won’t believe it.

So, if garages want to turn a bigger profit, try this: engage the services of several young lads whose job is to offer that wonderful old-fashioned service. Rather than regard the cars on your forecourt as a secondary source of revenue, start seeing them as customers. Customers you can attract to return on a regular basis.

I, for one, would drive miles out of my way for that level of service.

Anything to avoid the snaking queue of people who see the petrol station as a grocery store.

Drew McAdam


January 15, 2012


Take a wander around any bookshop and you are certain to stumble upon a section dedicated to “Popular Science”. There are thousands of these books available online, too. Now, yes, some are bought because people are genuinely interested in a particular subject. But let’s be brutally honest here: these books are read by many just so they can impress their non-nerd friends.

Pathetic, that is.

Many individuals devoid of interpersonal skills use the smattering of knowledge gleamed from such books in the same way they used to blow milk out their nose at school; to impress the “in crowd” and perhaps find acceptance.

Titles of such books include “30-second Theories” which attempts to cover all of science in 50 snippets. Useful for nerds to learn factoids they can introduce into conversations to make themselves look bright. Well, brighter than you at any rate.

Or how about a “See Spot Run” explanation of Quantum Mechanics, or the Beano exploration of “Hidden Reality” which looks at parallel universes. Or there is “Deep Simplicity” which covers Chaos Theory in 156 pages of big type.

Know what this reminds me of? Do you remember the “Bluff Your Way” series of books?

For example “Bluffers Guide to Opera” and “Bluff Your Way in Wine”, which was a way of learning a lot in 30-minutes and then screwing with the opera and wine snobs. Perhaps today’s publishers should be more honest and give the books appropriate titles. “Bluff Your Way in Quantum Mechanics and make your friends look stupid.” Or “The Bluffers Guide to String Theory – impress your family”.

Yes, it seems that Popular Science is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll. And that’s depressing, because Rock ‘n’ Roll was about fun. Popular Science is about misfits impressing their friends and making themselves look hyper-intelligent, while making everybody else look like chumps.

However, if you want a factoid about quantum weirdness, here’s my gift to you. The Big Bang theory suggests that there was a moment in time when every atom in the universe was condensed into a singularity. This, in turn, means everything in the entire universe is entangled at a quantum level. There is even a school of scientific thought claiming that quantum entanglement proves there is no such thing as space – rather, it is an illusion created by our flawed perceptions. We are all one… and the hippies were right.

Now, just memorise the above information, and go impress your friends. (But, no, you’re not that much of a saddo, are you?)

Drew McAdam