One is of some significance, and the other is just a weird one from Alabama, and when you read it you’ll understand why I said ‘Where else?’ when I read it a couple of days ago.

First up, a French cockup, which should surprise nobody either. Over 125 years ago the kilogram was defined as an SI unit based on a cylinder of platinum/iridium alloy. Strictly the kilogram is the unit of mass, as I’m sure you all know, but one way of keeping an eye on things is weight, which is effectively a proxy marker for mass, though it falls apart in deep space. Incidentally does anybody else find it odd that a unit can be a kilo-anything? Kilo meant 1000 when I was at school. Any road up, the cylinder is losing weight, perhaps as a result of degassing of the alloy since it was cast.

It may not seem to matter if the standard kilo is not what it was, but indirectly it affects your electric bill, which is calculated using Watts, which are calculated using the kilo. Right now the loss is such it’s not going to make much difference at, say, the butcher’s, since the jovial bloke in the apron will have his thumb on the scales anyway.

Cunningly, the French seem to have got round this problem of their own making. They’re developing the International Prototype Kilogram, which (bear with me here) will be based on Planck’s constant, which is reliable as the speed of light in a vacuum. However (bear with me again) in order to do the sums, they have to involve Avogadro’s number, which is about 6.002 x 1023 . However, about isn’t good enough. Some boffins in Turin, working with the incompetent French, have now got this nailed down to 6.02214082 (11) x 1023 where the figure in brackets, not parentheses since we’re talking sums here, represents the uncertainty of the last two digits. That’s fearsomely accurate, but I suspect the propellorheads don’t have much of a social life and may well never have had sex.

Which brings us neatly to Alabama. Mrs Jonathan Medley figured her old man was having an affair, so set up a secret camera to keep an eye on things. She was sort of right. Captured on film was Mr Smedley cheerfully rogering his wife’s shih tzu dog, which somewhat appropriately is called Buster.

When faced with the damning evidence, Mr Smedley coughed, claiming it was revenge for the fact that his wife paid more attention to the dog than she did to him. Given his personal habits, that’s not much of a surprise, is it?

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