Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered the other day that some pointyhead has worked out how long a snowflake takes to reach the ground. I read it was between 45 and 60 minutes. I wasn’t convinced, since I couldn’t see how the hell you can track a snowflake in a snowstorm. Surely GoogleEarth doesn’t track this stuff? In the UK, prisoners who are electronically tagged and released into the wild again don’t suffer this scrutiny. I therefore did a bit of poking about. I found the calculations used.

Snowclouds are at about 10,000 feet, and a snowflake falls about 3½ feet per second, hence the time runs in at 45 to 60 minutes. Now this may well be true, but it does raise a couple of awkward questions doesn’t it?

Just what sort of obsessive a/ investigates how fast snowflakes fall, b/ bothers to do the calculations? I’ll be honest, I do like wild haired boffinry. But just as with the deranged Japanese bloke who reckons thinking about Mother Theresa can alter the structure of water, this smacks of a disease state. The Japanese guy was clearly bonkers, whereas this seems to me to be merely weird.

How do you measure how fast a flake falls? Do you use the big fluffy ones, or those hexagonal needles? How do you catch them? Where do you do the drop tests? Even more, just why? I can see no possible practical application here.

I’m a scientist by nature, education, training, and experience, and I know there’s no need to be hamstrung by worrying about practical applications. I just have some trouble getting to understand the mindset of somebody who thought this was fascinating research.

Talking of ravings, the website for UFO Sightings Daily claims that a photograph from the Discovery rover on Mars shows a picture of a woman watching said vehicle from a distance. I thought the site might be an elaborate hoax, but sadly it seems to be bona fide if as loopy as something really very loopy indeed. If we ignore the fact there’s very little atmosphere and what there is is mainly carbon dioxide, it’s bloody cold, and with no magnetic field the planet receives rather more radiation than is good for you. Then we have the thorny problem of why a putative Martian would look humanoid. And why would said Martian would give a stuff about a hunk of metal and silicon buggering about on her home turf, then not get close enough to chuck rocks at it, or disable it by turning it upside down like a tortoise?