- If asked to write a critique about a poem, write the title of the poem followed by the words “is about man’s relationship with nature.” This will appeal to the marker who’s probably a tree-hugging anorak.
- If you’re going to permanently tattoo answers on your forearm, make sure a) they are correct – have a grown-up check them first for you – b) you tattoo them the right way round – important for physics – and make sure it’s for an exam in a subject you really love.
- Have everyone take out their textbooks and cheat all at once, sometimes referred to as the ‘Oh, Captain, my Captain’ principle. They can’t fail everybody. Or, can they?
- Offer the examiner money. It sometimes works, really it does, if the price is right. Mathematicians are expensive. Be advised.
- When passing notes that have answers written on them, be sure not to label the note “Test Answers”, ’cause it’s a bummer if you get caught.
- Some schools equip classrooms with hidden cameras to catch cheaters, or entrepreneurs, whichever you prefer. A simple low-inductance capacitor bank appropriately modulated with a three-way phase adapter discharged into a single-loop antenna can send out an electromagnetic pulse capable of disabling all cameras within a three-block radius. This will give you a three point five minute window at the most. Use it well. Regrettably, however, your BlackBerry upon which you had been relying for external text updates, will also fail to function. Don’t get caught plugging it in, will you…
- It is notoriously difficult to cheat on most applied mathematics tests, since the examiner actually expects you to apply what you have learned. It’s probably best to avoid taking these classes altogether.
- No matter how small, crib notes can be conspicuous, especially when used as missiles. Commit them to memory for an innovative, unencumbered cheating method. Carpe diem.
I was speaking to someone the other day about homeopathy. What surprised me was not this person’s robust defence of the practice, – in fact they made no attempt to do so – it was my own knee-jerk reaction to it. I trotted out the usual scientific line about the quantities being insufficient for any appropriately beneficial metabolism and it was only after a little research that it became clear that whether or not homeopathy has any benefit, my reaction to one of its proponents was less than adequate. It further became clear to me that I had no idea what I was talking about. I had fallen for a stereotype, or more properly an archetype which did not necessarily have any factual basis. I then began to wonder how many other things I simply ‘reacted’ to or dismissed without any clarity of thought. I know someone well, a reasonable, well-educated individual, who believes in a literal Adam and Eve. I don’t, but my reaction to their belief was an urge to dismantle it in the light of what I might suppose to be superior rational thinking, when the postulate requires nothing of the kind, since concepts like ‘belief’ in the sense of ‘faith’ often (I won’t say ‘never’) cross over the tramline of empirical or provable science. Stephen Hawking, in the light of massive advances in theoretical physics has suggested the hitherto unprovable proposition that since it is likely that there are billions of planets on which ‘life’ might evolve, the probability of there not being sentience – in the same way as we might comprehend it – is remote somewhere in the Universe. Were we able to and if we were to decide to ‘make friends’ with it or them, as SETI seems bent on achieving,we may find ourselves the subject of unhealthy interest from civilisations more advanced and possibly considerably more rapacious and malevolent than our own, with life forms possibly having brains shaped like pretzels, according to Murray Gell-Mann. A small quantity of malevolence might be able, it seems, to poison a planet. Much the same as reversed homeopathy, I suppose…
Brits – or more properly the English here stoutly and – it seems – somewhat forlornly celebrate St George’s Day, now yesterday, which is ironic, rather like ageing groupies follow a long-forgotten pop idol. There probably was a historical figure called George, who was a prominent Christian in the reign of the pagan Roman Emperor, Diocletian, and was killed in 303. One version of his life records that he was an officer who refused to carry out the Emperor’s order that all soldiers must make sacrifices to pagan gods, for which he was hideously tortured to death. A very different story is told in Gibbon’s “Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire”. He alleged that George was “an odious priest”, a Cappadocian wiesguy who was chased out of Palestine for selling dodgy bacon to the army. He fled to Egypt, adopted a new and growing brand of Christianity called Arianism. With this as leverage, he got himself appointed Archbishop of Alexandria in place of the genuinely saintly Athanasius the Great, whose authorship of the Creed is now widely disputed, whereupon he instigated a reign of such “cruelty and avarice” that he was lynched by the outraged citizens. Ah. No dragon-slaying myth here, then…
I’ve always been fascinated by hands. A friend particularly likes the work of Lucian Freud – perhaps a modern British equivalent of the towering Renaissance masters, who also seems interested in them. His hands are always a little larger than life, crafted as workpieces – hands that do things. These hands are obviously female, from “Girl with a White Dog”.
I think the mark of a master is that so much can be read into a small area of canvas.
These are maternal hands, a little careworn, the hands of a nurturer, hands that have held precious things.
My hands have been described as ‘cricketer’s hands’, functional, not particularly beautiful, square, even safe. Like Escher’s perhaps.
“Here is the Earth”, ran the T shirt slogan. “Don’t spend it all at once”. I’ve never been, or felt the need to become, a bearded, tree-hugging anorak so the passage of Earth Day today, actually celebrated in almost two hundred countries worldwide, usually fails to ripple my profligate, wasteful conscience. My father didn’t recycle. He burned stuff on a vast pyre at the bottom of the garden, creating a cloud of pollutants large enough to swamp Shropshire, returning hours later, satisfyingly begrimed, with a healthy odour of hard outdoor work about him. The closest he came to recycling was the maintenance of a compost heap. It has been said – with good reason – that the less educated don’t recycle, either because they can’t be bothered to put the soda can in the pretty green bin rather than the grubby brown one, or whatever, or they forget which is which because vandals have torn off the labels, or perhaps the different coloured bins cost money which they don’t have. Vapid, shallow and irreflective? Possibly. Lacking in public spirit? Probably. It doesn’t often cross people’s minds that entropy always increases and there’s a thermodynamic inevitability about recycled material that it’s going to cost more than you think it does to retrieve the original material in usable form. Electricity, generated from oil, gas or nuclear material is needed to manage and drive recycling processes and joules are expensive.
There’s another agenda. Recycling of cross-species animal feeds accumulates what is rather grandly called ‘biomagnifying toxins’ in the food chain, as well as pathogens causing bizarre diseases like CJD and possibly the emergence of other toxic or infective organisms resistant to recycling chemistry.
As a teacher I am supposed to care about recycling. I wondered therefore, neglecting for a moment the small forest I annually sacrifice in print and photocopy, mostly filled with rubbish which students scrawl on, are the tools of my trade ‘green’? Is it better to write with white chalk on a blackboard or to use dry-erase markers on a whiteboard, I wonder? A possible and quite persuasive argument can be found on this site. Interested persons can squander a few more joules by clicking on it.
In this country, recycling means dropping something on the floor for some poverty-stricken immigrant to sweep it up after you and put it in a bin, where squadrons more of his countrymen take it away and process it. Old Mr Cynical, or what….