The faulty wiring of the publicity-seeking pointy-head

Faulty wire 1, Einstein Deniers 0

I know it’s a cheap shot and all that, but there is something sphincter-smashingly funny about CERN scientists announcing that they’ve refuted Einstein’s law about the speed of Light….and then returning to say, mamma mia, it was only a wiring problem after all. Big fat boffin bollocks gets a kick in the teeth again, hurrah.

Last November, The Slog had an outrageously off-message and incorrect take on why the Italians hadn’t noticed any radiation being given off by the Cern neutrino experiments. But even I was not so crass as to imagine that a faulty wire was behind it.

I lay emphasis on this phrase for a very good reason. When I was a kid, my Dad had Practical Householder delivered every month. The colours, illustrations and articles were pure, unadulterated independent ironmonger in nature: all brown overalls, cut-away diagrams, and late deco typefaces. And – just as with Cosmopolitian and the female orgasm thirty years later – the one thing you could always be certain of was an article about faulty wires. ‘Tackling that faulty wire in the scullery’ was a particular favourite, as was ‘Why every family man should beware that faulty wire to the immersion heater’.

Immersion heaters were the forerunner to central heating. I wouldn’t say that every house should have one, but back then every house did. Like some kind of hangover from wartime rationing, they allowed for up to one family member to have a weekly ankle-deep bath. So while on the one hand it is nothing short of a miracle that we have gone from such Da Vinci contraptions to Cern colliders in just over sixty years, it is (for me anyway) profoundly comforting to know that faulty wires still f**k things up.

A similar emotion, one suspects, drives a lot of James Delingpole’s Daily Telegraph blog columns. Although I find his blanket rejection of climate change impossible to justify, we are on the same wavelength in understanding that the task of every ego-driven Bigbrain is to establish that he or she has ‘settled’ the debate. This partly explains who so many medical researchers rush to the nearest Science Correspondent in order to ‘show’ that beetroot causes chilblains or butter is good for you after all: like any form of marketing, if you get into the media first and full-on, you will be the one in the history books and on the way to that Nobel Prize. Science’s self-publicists differ only from hype-marketed brands in the degree of onanism involved in the process.

The faulty wire is closely akin to the hatpin in the sheath factory: with just one, tiny metal prick in the wrong place, it can make any prick anywhere supremely over-confident. Just as the drive for a wireless, paperless office has produced more reams of paper and miles of wire than at any time in history, so too the search for that elusive Higgs bosun particle has been thwarted, thus far, by…a faulty wire.

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