Stan the Statistician <<Last | Next>> | Current Stan | Archive Stan
Work in the media? Struggle with statistics? Stan's irreverent (and often irrelevant) review of the latest media reports, news and gossip may not help at all... Stan the Statistician

Stan # 25: Space Travel 19 July 1999

A German social worker named in court as Heinrich K, has been fined £680 (a little over $1,000) for beating up a policeman in a dispute over a parking ticket in Frankfurt. Heinrich is a youth worker who teaches non-violence.

An 87 year old Swedish driver took a wrong turn on a trip to the florist and ended up 155 miles away in Norway. The pensioner got lost in Gothenburg but kept going until he was stopped by police for careless driving. His car was impounded.

A Belgian physicist has said that space travellers might one day be carried around the Universe by Star Trek style warp drives. It is only two years since researchers dismissed the idea because the techniques involved would require more energy than is available in the whole Universe (which would kind of put a damper on things). The idea had been that spacecraft would be able to warp space so that it shrinks ahead of the vessel and expands behind it, enabling the likes of the USS Enterprise to boldly go faster than the speed of light. Readers of my page know, light is slowing down anyway so maybe we should wait until it reaches about 50 miles per hour and then this should be easy to exceed even in the family car. Now Chris Van Den Broeck, of the Catholic University of Leuvan, has produced a different mathematical model for high speed travel - bubbles of space with a large internal volume but small surface area. "You can have regions of space that appear small from the outside, but have huge internal volumes", says Van Den Broeck. Fans of Doctor Who might recognise this concept from the Tardis, a large time travelling machine contained in a small police telephone box. According to New Scientist, only small amounts of energy are needed to create these space bubbles. Unfortunately the technique requires negative energy, which nobody knows how to create, though some friends of mine are always complaining that they seem to have lots of this in the office. I think it comes from the consumption of large quantities of alcohol the night before. Perhaps Mr Van Den Broeck would let me have 5% royalties for my solution.

Italian Members of Parliament have scrapped more than 100 minor offences. Italians are now free to duel, insult the dead, insult their flag, and offer to write a student's thesis without fear of punishment, though I would caution against a sudden rush of blood to the head. Trying all these at once could prove dangerous.

Scientists have finally solved one of mankind's most intractable problems: why can't women read maps? Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry in London (England) used magnetic resonance imaging to look at the brain in action, and discovered that the area of a woman's brain that deals with spatial work, such as differentiating between left and right, is not fully active even when faced with spatial tasks. "The first clues are coming out that there are big differences between women's and men's brains," said Tonmoy Sharman, who led the research. This was described by John Cleese in Fawlty Towers as having a degree in stating the bleeding obvious.

A robber who held up a German post office was arrested after the clerk demanded to see the gunman's ID card. In return for seeing the card, routinely demanded by German officials, the robber was given a small amount of money. He fled leaving the ID card and was arrested later.

Fire engines heading towards a fire just outside the Massachusetts town of Westfield were held up for several minutes at a turnpike when the toll collector insisted on charging each driver.

Musicians are a strange lot at the best of times, and music teachers even stranger, so it came as no surprise to hear from one, a tale about another, recently deceased. For her grand exit, the teacher (the deceased one) had requested that the song, We'll Meet Again should be played at her funeral - which is a nice way of saying, "take that smirk off your face boy, it'll be your turn soon". The instructions were to play this song twice, the first during the service and the second time as the coffin slowly disappeared behind the curtain. However, due to a slight, 'technical problem', the tape was not rewound properly after the first playing so that the coffin went into the flames to the strains of, 'Goodbyee', a comedy song made famous by Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore. Readers who know this ditty, may like to sing it quietly to themselves to savour the flavour.

My esoteric and diverse interests in all aspects of the human condition bring me into contact with all sorts of folk. Last week I was told that there is one word in the English language which cannot be rhymed. Any ideas? Answer on my next desk top.

Nearly 80 women in Rochdale (England) received letters warning them that they could have multiple sexual infections and should see a doctor. Bury and Rochdale Health Authority apologised for the error which they blamed on a computer fault. There was no explanation of what the error was though. Having recently visited Rochdale (I do try to get out from time to time), maybe the error was that the figure should have been 800.

Check in again at my desk soon!

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