Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Trials and tribulations

You will recall the basic premise of my new theory. Time, I thought, to put some evidential weight behind it.

Lacking a well-equipped laboratory for detailed cytological and histological work, I pondered what I could achieve within the limitations of a three-bed semi. Perhaps a good first step would be to do some groundwork on the gross physical structures of the meaculpa oblongata and the male genitalia - we could start with the comparative masses of the two, I thought. Elementary stuff, yes, but necessary to a rigorous analysis.

I wandered into the study, where Mrs QO was browsing contentedly on the computer, and asked her if I could borrow her meaculpa oblongata for some tests. Well, I hesitate to say this, but her reaction was far from scholarly, and I draw a benevolent curtain over the detail of her remarks. Perhaps she was using the organ in question at the time.

Nothing daunted, it seemed that progress could be made by ascertaining the mass of my... um... well, my side of the equation, as it were. I considered how to do this. The kitchen scales were clearly out of the question, as all the weights are imperial, and that's so like, you know, yesterday? I pondered the hand-held luggage scale we have, but didn't like the look of the hook. Fortunately it then occurred to me that the human body is mostly water, apart from a few crunchy bits. It therefore followed that if I immersed the... er... test subjects in water, and noted the volume of water thus displaced, a good approximate value would easily be obtained. Simples. Yes, yes, the density of water is non-linear relative to temperature, but that can be allowed for with a bit of appropriate adjustment.

No more than ten minutes later I had a satisfactory test rig in the kitchen, comprised of a couple of chairs, the table, and a bowl of warm water. I removed the appropriate clothing, assumed a position not unlike one doing press-ups over the bowl, and commenced my observations. The thought crossed my mind that Archimedes would be proud (if, perhaps, a little startled).

It remains unclear whether the physical position or the temperature of the water were the important factors, but I very quickly became aware, once the test subjects were fully immersed, of a major increasing variable becoming apparent. While not unpleasant, I was conscious that my data would have to allow for this, and it occurred to me that perhaps the temperature of the water was more of an issue than I had first thought.

I therefore re-rigged the experiment with a bowl of iced water. (Fortunately Mrs QO takes all her drinks 'on the rocks' apart from her bedtime absinthe, so there is always plenty of ice to hand.)

I lowered my test subjects into the bowl. My surprise was overwhelming! Not only did the previous major increasing variable reverse rapidly in magnitude, but I noted two new variables, both diminishing equally rapidly, and indeed in both cases tending to zero!!

I admit it was deeply unscientific, but I uttered a stifled yelp at the thought of the adjustments I was going to have to make to my results to allow for the variables going in opposite directions. There was also a reflexive physical reaction which - if I recall - involved the bowl getting off the table, but I took no further notes on that point.

Later on, while I was towelling vigorously and writing up my notes, I decided that I would have to express the results as a range, even if the higher values seemed somewhat unlikely (he said modestly). It was at that point that Mrs QO came in, evidently in a somewhat agitated state. She enquired (in rather sharp language) whether I was not the tiniest bit worried that the kitchen had been two inches deep in water, and was I not at all guilty that she'd had to clear it all up. I'm still not clear what she was driving at, but when she's calmed down I will gently point out that we don't use 'inches' any more.

I must apologise for publishing such incomplete results, but I assure you of my desire for intellectual rigour (I look at Google and Wikipedia) and will keep you abreast of my further investigations.

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