WHAT DOES THE DOCTOR THINK THIS MONTH?
Dr Ian treads gently round the blue bells, advises on how to get rid of Junk Mail and warns of the junk in space.
CONUNDRUM OF THE MONTH: Why is it impossible to fold in half a rectangular piece of paper, of any area and thickness, more than 8 or 9 times? (If you don't believe me, try it!). The answer is quite simple, really. The folding becomes more difficult once the length of the paper becomes comparable to its thickness. Each fold reduces the original length by half but doubles the thickness. So, after 9 folds, the length has become 2 to the power 9 or 512 times shorter than the original sheet, while the thickness has increased by the same factor. So, to achieve 9 folds, we would need to start with a sheet the length of which is 512 X 512 = 260,000 times its thickness. Using tissue paper, you might get away with a strip 30ft long. Let's try it with ordinary A4 copier paper of 80gsm quality. This paper has a length about 3,000 times its thickness. Theoretically, six folds should be the limit - I cannot get beyond 4.
THE UNMENTIONABLES: As discussed previously, Management has told me to stop banging on about bluebells. I have concurred with her wishes, mostly because the bluebells are out of sight and more-or-less out of mind at present. Of course, I am aware that the little beggars are busy underground at present, forming new bulbs and gathering their energies for the Spring onslaught, the next phase in their attempt to take over the world! I have studiously ignored the newspaper adverts offering to sell me hundreds of bluebell bulbs for the price of a 'bus fare and, apart from talking to those patients who love to discuss bluebells with me, I have kept really quiet about them. I even bought a very large and beautiful picture of a blue bell wood, painted by Glenda Burton of Northwold. So, "what happened?" I hear you ask. Head office was lying in bed, reading a magazine, the way you do, when she suddenly told me about a bluebell perfume (WHAT?!) which was advertised. "What's it called?" I asked "Thug" or "Rank" springing to mind.
Now, my sense of smell is quite good and I have never ever detected a scent from bluebells. Perhaps those of you who have frolicked in bluebell woods will choose to differ with me. The advertising is quite amazing "The ultimate perfumer's challenge - only Penhaligon has captured the delicate spring freshness of the much-loved woodland flower in such sweet definition and depth. Our body lotion has a high perfume content which leaves the skin smooth, fragrant and moisturised" It is possible to purchase "fragranced drawer sachets - perfect to add a delightful bluebell fragrance to your drawers and clothes" . Why on earth would anyone wish to walk around smelling of bluebells? It is also possible to purchase bluebell fragrance oils to scent unscented hair products or to use in a burner so that your whole house can smell of bluebells. I am speechless - it's the stuff of which nightmares are made. I promise not to mention the subject again until the Spring.
FED UP WITH JUNK MAIL AND O870 NUMBERS? About 80,000 tons of junk mail end up in landfill each year (letsrecycle.com) producing lots of methane as it degrades. To produce each ton of junk mail takes 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 390 gallons of oil, even though 95% of paper used in junk mail is recycled (Waste Watch Wales). Last year, the Post office delivered 5 billion items of addressed junk mail and another 3.3 billion unaddressed items. To remove your name from 95% of direct mail lists, contact the Mailing Preference Service at mpsonline.org.uk. To avoid unaddressed junk mail from the Royal Mail, Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for your address to be taken off the register. If you need to contact a company or a utility, go to the website saynoto0870.com where you will be able to find normal rate land line numbers.
JUNK IN SPACE: Earth is ringed by hundreds of thousands of junk items, including old rockets, satellites, motors, nuts, bolts and old instruments from defunct spacecraft.. There are over 500 working spacecraft, over 7,500 tennis ball sized object and about a million pieces of debris in space (NASA figures). NASA claims that a 1mm chip of paint which travels at 22,000mph would hit a spacecraft with the force of a .22 calibre bullet travelling at 1,190mph. In 1983, a fleck of paint from an old spacecraft gouged a pit in the windscreen of the space shuttle Challenger and, in 2006, Atlantis returned home with a hole punched in a radiator. NASA is already tracking 13,000 of the largest items to ensure that they do not hit the International Space Station. The first man-made object to leave our solar system was the Pioneer spacecraft in 1974, now drifting for eternity in space. Who on earth do we earthlings think we are? Not content with trashing our own planet, we are depositing all the above junk in space.
NEXT MONTH: I am fed up with all the financial doom and gloom and next month's article will be near Christmas so I am preparing an amusing article to do with air travel. It should cheer us all up a bit.
Best wishes to you all