A tale in a teacup.

I was sitting with a customer at the Admiral Storage Facility, preparing to partake of a cup of tea, when my visitor noted that I was stirring the beverage and asked why.

I looked at him curiously. “Why,” I asked, “are you asking me why?”

“Well,” he replied, “you are forever publishing those little stories on your blog about oddball events, and I thought you might be conducting one of your experiments to see if the tea cools down when you stir it.”

“I would imagine it does,” I replied, and was dismayed when I noticed the esteemed gent looking at me curiously.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

I clearly looked puzzled because he went on, “Are you sure that stirring your tea makes it cooler rather than makes it hotter?”

“Why would it make the tea hotter?” I asked becoming both suspicious and perplexed.

“Because you are putting energy into the tea by stirring it,” he said. “The faster the speed the hotter the obect.”

I thought on this for a moment before countering with, “But surely in moving the tea around I am exposing more of the liquid to the cooler air above the surface and that will take the temperature down.”

“However,” my visitor countered, “the faster an object moves the hotter it gets.”

We sat and looked at the cup of tea for a long while, each recognising an impasse when it leaped up and hit us in the face.

“Why don’t you take the spoon in and out of the tea?” my visitor asked at last. “The tea must be hotter than the spoon, so the heat moves from the tea to the spoon.  You take the spoon out and it cools down, so you can then put the spoon back in and repeat the trick.”

“Without stirring?” I asked.

“You can stir it if you like,” he said.

I looked at him curiously.  “But if I stir the tea, am I not putting energy into the tea, which then should become hotter?”

“I think you’d have to stir it so far to achieve that,” my customer said, “that as a result of the stirring the liquid will go over the top of the sides of the cup.”

“That would cool it,” I said.

“And make a mess,” he replied. “You’d be better off pouring it into the saucer and letting it cool before slurping it up and annoying everyone near you but giving much delight to small boys who have undoubtedly been told off for doing that at home.”

“Is there anything else I can do?” I wondered.

“Just leave it to cool down,” he replied.

“Then why do we have spoons?” I asked.

“To stir in the sugar,” he said.

“Not to cool down the tea?” I queried

“No.”

I looked at him again for a long moment before venturing to change the subject. “What do you do for a living?” I asked.

“I am a scientist,” he replied. “A physicist.”

“And what are you studying?”

“My colleagues and I are in a team that is about to see a black hole for the first time.”

I nodded, trying to give the impression that I was seriously impressed

“And what will you do if you can’t see it?” I asked, “on account of it being black.”

After that there seemed to be little left to say, and he took his leave.  I watched him carefully as he departed in case there was any shaking of the head going on as if to suggest I was not of sound mind.  But no, he was nodding.

I felt rather pleased about that and made a cup of tea by way of celebration.

Why I am forced to admit that it is just possible that at least one urban myth is true

It is noticeable that in the last few years most politicians have ceased bothering to argue with points of view they don’t like.  In the past their technique was to blather in a way that meant that by the time the speaker got to the end of their sentence the listener had not only got no idea what the start of the sentence was about, but had probably also lost the will to live.

But now it seems, in the spirit of enhanced humanity, politicians are moving away from this destructive model of boring their listeners into submission, and instead simply dismiss anything they don’t like as fake news.

Of course this can have unfortunate consequences, as when whole communities refuse to pay their tax bills on the grounds that the demands were simply “fake news” from a source they didn’t recognise.  But by and large it seems to work.

And indeed this propensity for fake news now seems to have gone further with websites that proclaim that Australia doesn’t exist, and that the kangeroo is such a ludicrously impossible animal that it has to be a hoax.

More worrying (at least for those of us in Europe) is that this trend is extending outwards (presumably via a flat earth), and it is now being announced that Finland doesn’t exist either.  And although it is not clear what the rationale behind the disappearance of Australia is, with Finland it appears to be the notion that the country was invented in order to create additional fishing quotas for Swedish fishermen.

(Although there is also a view that it was also to aid the export of sushi to Japan from Russia.  However I lost the will to live halfway through that part of the tale so I may have missed something en route.)

Brazilians have a story like this as well, although with a twist.  They don’t deny the remote state of Acre exists, but do insist that it is populated by dinosaurs.  And (rather perversely I feel) Starbucks cafes.

Of course such tales are not new.  In Germany they have for years had the story that the city of Bielefeld does not exist, but has been created for nefarious reasons by the state authorities – reasons that will not become clear any time soon.

To prove their point the theorists ask three questions:

  1. Do you know anybody from Bielefeld?
  2. Have you ever been to Bielefeld?
  3. Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?

Anybody claiming to answer yes to any of these questions is considered to be in on the conspiracy.  Personally I am awaiting an English version of the theory in relation to Rutland.

But such theories can go either way of course.  In the above cases places don’t exist, but equally non-existent places or things can crop up.  For example I am sure that any time soon President Trump will declare that the wall along the Mexican border has been built, and anyone posting a picture showing it hasn’t will be said to have been posting a picture of somewhere that was not on the border.

However there is another way around this – and it has been with us for a long time.  It came about with Tennessee Williams’ play El Camino Real in which he invented a dead end town surrounded by desert with only occasional ways of reaching the outside world – ways that often vanish.

Camino Real has a storyline that is generally described by theatre goers as illogical and impossible, and focuses on the point that there is no plot, because ultimately all these people and all their situations are irrelevant to anything else (which in itself is ironic because the play closed on Broadway after just 60 shows).  The NY Times called it “a strange and disturbing drama.”  Surreal pop and rock songs such as “Hotel California” and “Desolation Row” make reference to it.

Now there are people who apparently spend a lot of their lives driving around the desert trying to find Camino Real – another irony since in the story it is the people who are there who want to leave but can’t.

Of course creating or dismissing actual places involves playing with reality on a huge scale.  But for modern day fake newsers there is another approach.  TC Energy Design has created a new form of glass vases that use the structural physic of geometry to restructure any water put in the vase in order to reshape the liquid and enhance the taste.  Also the newly shaped water does you good.

This is necessary because “sending water through straight pipes and sharp right angle bends robs water of its natural life force.”

Since cryptosporidium is one of the natural life forces within water I’m all for robbing water of its natural life force, so I don’t think I will be buying this new case.  And I shall continue to visit friends in Australia from time to time.  I am also happy to believe Acre exists but does not contain any living dinosaurs.

But… there is always a but. Having tried to negotiate my way around a part of London via the South Circular Road recently I am willing to consider that Camino Real is a real place after all.  It is just north of Surrey.

Storage on the other hand is never a problem. You place things in Admiral’s facility, leave them there, return and find they are still there.  Reality rules.  It’s rather re-assuring.