Saturday, 21 May 2016

Ahoy hoy!

This week I was honoured to make my first appearance on Radio 4's comedy warhorse Just A Minute, now in its astonishing 75th series, and which I've listened to and enjoyed all my life. It was enormous fun, and the regulars were very kind to me.

Here it is on iPlayer , for the next three weeks or so.  


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Lines imagined to be written by Galileo Galilei upon demonstrating that, contrary to Aristotelian thought, the ratio of gravitational mass to inertial mass is essentially unity.

Whether they're large or
Whether they're small
Has no effect on
The rate that things fall.

But whether you choose
To accept this or not'll
Depend on your faith
In that fool Aristotle.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The A, of course, stands for 'avoid thinking of envelopes'.

Like everyone else, I used to confuse the words 'stationery', meaning materials to do with writing; and 'stationary', meaning not in motion. And like many people, I now tell them apart with the mnemonic that the E in 'stationery' stands for 'envelopes'. 

But it only today occurred to me to wonder why two words with such different meanings should be so similar. So, I looked it up... and it turns out that the first stationers, in the Middle Ages, were scribes and paper merchants given licences, typically by universities or law courts, to ply their trade from permanent booths- or stations- as opposed to their competitors, who were itinerant peddlars.

So, pleasingly: stationers sell stationery because their stations were stationary. 

I thought you'd like to know.