Monday, April 30, 2007

Fascinating Invention No. 11 - The Jet Pack

I am fantastically excited by the jet-pack! The idea started in the 1920s with a comic strip hero called Buck Rogers but his jet pack was more of a jet belt so he could jump about a bit and wave in an exciting way. By the time you get to James Bond and 'Thunderball' jet packs were worn on the back and involved a suit and tie. They used jets of gas to make the hero swoosh about.

Real jet packs were also really thought about during the second world war. The Germans eveloped the Himmelsturmer (Skystormer) This was so German soldiers could cross minefields, barbed wire and raging rivers. It was probably a great deal more interesting than going round things or using a bridge.
The American army got very excited about the whole thing and in 1969 Bell Aerosystems developed the actual jump belt. A pilot called Robert Courter flew about 100 metres in a circle as high as 7 metres at 45 miles per hour which is excellent but also a bit useless. The jet pack was a good idea but too mad and too difficult to spend a load of money on.

Problems with the jet pack:

-flight time is very short
-it is quite dangerous to actually strap jet propellant near to your body
-if the jet propellant did something nasty like explode the hero pilot would not be high enough to use a parachute and would land on the ground very fast, resulting in strawberry jam
-very difficult to fly anywhere other than up, maybe firefighters could use them for high tech cat rescuing.

So, apart from rescuing cats, you can use the jet pack like they do at Rocket Man, where you can hire somebody to leap in the air to make people buy stuff. The other place to really use it is in space. In space less thrust is needed because there is no gravity. NASA has emergency rocket packs which mean that if an astronaut falls out of his module or some evil space villain throws him out or maybe he has to carefully manouvre himself about in space in order to foil a plot to blow up the earth, then he can use his rocket pack or Manned Maneuvering Unit.

This is all very well but of course, the only true rocket man is Buzz Aldrin

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Ground Will Make Your Pancreas Ache

The pancreas was discovered by Herophilus (335-280 BC), a Greek surgeon but he did not bother to call it anything. A few hundred years later, Ruphos, another Greek anatomist, gave the pancreas its name. 'Pancreas' comes from the Greek pan, "all", and kreas, "flesh" which sounds as disgusting as it looks, like something bad from Dr Who.

Because I think it is Dexter bashing at the front door, I open it. Aunt Caroline (102) is sort of floating on the doorstep and The Unspeakable Cousins are pulling up Mum's daffodils. I think I scream but I cannot be sure because I am suddenly enveloped in purple dress and perfume and bosom.
I can just about hear my cousin Jaspar (9) say, 'I'm hungry!' and then everything starts to go black.
When I come round, I am lying in the garden and my other cousin Skye (4) is looking down on me. She has her bad fairy outfit on and a sparkly tiara jammed into her fluffy white hair. She pokes me with a silver wand.
'Get up,' she orders, 'the ground will make your pancreas ache.'
I cannot think of anything to say to this, apart from, "what is a pancreas?" but I do not say this because she is just a baby-child and should not know what a pancreas is before me and anyway she has gone into the house. I think very carefully about running away but I think for too long. Dad appears in the doorway and hisses. 'What are you doing lying about? Your cousins are here!' As though I was just dozing on the pancreas-ache-making ground and must have missed them. He hauls me to my feet and looks about him as though more aunts and cousins are going to spring out of bushes at any second. He is nervous - he'll start blaming me for stuff any moment. I can see Dexter weaving down the road on his new new bike. I want to warn him about the danger but all my trainee spymaker training is lost in the pain of Dad's Vulcan death grip.
His beard bristles. 'Why didn't you warn me they were coming? I'm in the middle of some teeth sorting and I've still got to mount Baden-Powell's molar...she'll want me to look at their teeth again...'
'I did not know they were coming until they were here,' I explain but it is no good.
He is ranting now about children and teeth and I just hope that Dexter has the sense to run away. At the doorway to hell, I hear the thumps and screeches that tell me Jaspar has found our cat, Serbena; daffodils lie strewn along the hallway; Aunt Caroline's laugh is billowing through the house.
Dad's grip tightens. 'Why did you pick all those daffodils, Wilfred?'
'We'll stay until the moon rises high in the sky, darling!' I hear Aunt Caroline say in her sing-song mystical sort of voice.
Dad's face is purple.
'Hello - what's up?' Dexter appears with his Bad Boyz cycle helmet on. It makes him look like a fat alien.
'And why is he here as well?' Dad shrieks. He points his finger at me. 'I blame you for this, Wilfred.' He stomps off into the kitchen.
Dexter shrugs. 'Problem?' he asks.
'You could say that,' I reply.
I think I can feel my pancreas beginning to ache.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Here is my Holiday Report

Here is my holiday report:
We went to London, mostly to get away from my Aunt Caroline and The Unspeakable Cousins. My Aunt is madder than a wet cat and that is pretty mad. We are still traumatised from the last visit (more later). For now here is the best bit.

We went to the wondrous Science Museum and I am now stuffed full of important spying knowledge. I still have my plastic security card and it has a magnetic strip and everything. So, now it is true that I am officially a trainee Spymaker agent; even though it says I only have temporary security clearance and my supercomputer rating is untested (not true, I actually scored 82% on my data retrieval from the supercomputer which is a lot better than Dad who scored a rubbish 23% and Mum who was having a coffee in the cafe, so gets -0%). My official spy number is 007, no not really, that was a joke, it is 2237. I am therefore only 2230 plastic security cards away from having a licence to kill people.
My trainee Spymaker agent card says "Carry this Agent ID with you at all times. Never let it out of your sight". This is all very well but I do not have a pocket in my pyjamas and even if I did, I'm not sure I would be able to use it because then my ID card would be out of my sight and who knows what might happen.

Anyway, this is how becoming a spy works:
a. recruitment - practice getting embarrassing information about people at home and school e.g. go through the drawers in Mrs Trundle's office to find exotic hodliday brochures which she will try and pass off as 'edcuational exchange visits'. Then pass this info on to anybody willing to pay for it, e.g Mrs Trundle. That is a good start OR you can check out the MI5 and MI6 websites (which is a bit more boring) -are you cunning and resourceful? Can you spot a liar? Can you rumage around in rubbish and find non-smelly important stuff. If so, you are either dead right for a spy or you are my cat, Serena (that's not right, she likes smelly). - this makes a spy's life easier. Frankly it makes anyone's life easier. Who needs school when you can absorb information through a chip under your skin designed to let you suck up important but boring lessons like, 'The Romans at Homes' or 'The Water Cycle - let's learn!'. Or you could use a micro air vehicle, an insect spy (I knew that one) or leave intelligent water just lying around ready to absorb your enemy's fingerprints or get your face scanned in a facial recognition system so that no door (except ordinary ones with locks and keys) is closed to you. My favourite is the super-powered spy leg and I have to tell you about this in more detail later, so do not run away (ha ha).
d. mission - it's up to you really but here are mine. e.g. find out what Mrs Next-Door is up to with all that concrete; find a way of keeping Aunt Caroline from ever visiting again; solve forever the mysteries of alien crop circles (wait, I think I have done that).

Anyway, the holiday was too short and now it is back to the prison of school and it is vegetable medley tonight.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Fascinating Eggy Facts for Easter

The largest egg in the world is an ostrich egg and this can measure up to 20cm in length and 15cm round. It probably has the strongest shell in the world and if 4 of me and 2 of Dexter could stand on it (bit tricky) it would not even crack. Also, the ostrich egg would take the longest to boil at about 40 minutes to make it a dippy soldier egg (soft-boiled)and not one of those disappointing bouncy-yolk eggs (hard-boiled).

On the subject of eating eggs, the most bouncy-yolk eggs eaten in one go is 14 in 58 seconds and the most dippy soldier eggs eaten in one go is 32 in 78 seconds.

The most eggs laid by one bird is 361 in 364 days. The was a Black Orpington called Princess Te Kawan. Crazy name, crazy chicken.

Fascinating Eggy Tradition

Grandpa Jack is a great one for 'jarping' and he taught me. This is a bit like playing conkers but using eggs. So you get your dippy-soldier eggs on Easter morning and you say to your neighbour at the breakfast table,
'I say, Happy Easter and all that and how about a bit of jarping?'
And hopefully your neighbour is a bit none the wiser and says,
'Of course, you go first,' because he does not know how to do it. So you can have first bash at his egg which is important because the winner is the one who pulverises the other egg into tiny eggy pieces. My record is 5 eggs in 10 seconds. Eggtastic.
Jarping can get pretty messy.

Funny Eggy Jokes

Q. What kind of egg lives by the sea?
A. An egg shell.
(Dexter told me that one, it is not brilliant but it does involve an egg)

Q. What did the eggs do when the traffic lights turned green?
A. Egg-celerate.

Q. How do monsters like their eggs?
A. Terri-fried.

Q. How did the egg get up the mountain?
A. It scrambled up.

Q. Who wrote Great Eggspectations?
A. Charles Chickens.

And last but not least my Fascinating Eggy Invention

Simon Rhymes, thought up the idea for the Bulb Egg Maker while studying project design at Bournemouth University. He experimented with more than 600 eggs and now says he can now produce a perfect boiled egg in six minutes.

He uses high-powered halogen bulbs to cook the egg before slicing the top off and dipping his toast soldiers in.

Maybe you could just stick an egg under a light bulb for half an hour and it will cook but then it would not look like it was going to be transported across time and space in that fantastic glowing egg chamber.

I want one.