Pathfinders: Calorie counts and pet scans

Hail the season of good capitalist cheer which will soon be upon you, while you’re on holiday from your lack of job and looking forward to the Christmas repossession and credit collection letters. Since you’re not likely to be merry and you can’t afford to buy presents or drink, let Pathfinders at least assure you that you can eat crap food because the scientists have got all their calorie intake levels wrong by about 16 per cent (‘Rethink for calorie eating levels’, BBC Online, 14 November).

But please stop feeding the leftovers to the damn dog, who’s probably clinically obese. One in three household pets in the UK, about 7m animals,is overweight (Vetpulse Blog ) while in USA it’s 50 per cent (Pet obesity facts)

The fact that pooch has got a paunch in a dog-eat-dog world where 750m people eat nearly nothing is no surprise to socialists, however Fido and Tiddles-lovers in the top 10 cat and dog-owning countries might be surprised to learn that it takes six and a half times the land area of New Zealand to provide the petfood. And in a delicious knife-twist to any self-righteous organic dog-owning vegan climate-protestors at Copenhagen this month, it turns out that for the eco-pawprint of an average sized dog you could instead drive not one but two SUVs 10,000 kilometres over a year (New Scientist, 24 October and Guardian, 13 November). In fact, for the price of an overweight small Scottie dog you could even run an Ethiopian or a
Vietnamese human.

Once you’ve eaten the dogfood and the dog you can always resort to drugs, now that the debate has been satisfactorily resolved and we can reliably tell how to assess the relative safety of any drug. Oh, you didn’t know? Well it’s simple. If the government says nothing at all about it, it will most probably kill you, whereas if they swear blind it’s dangerous and what’s more do their Nutt and sack any scientific advisor who dares to disagree with them, you know you can party!

Crystal balls-ups

No doubt many readers have come to regard Pathfinders as their infallible technical and scientific guru, and one is of course reluctant to disabuse them of such notions, however in positively the last anniversary item of 2009 it might be fun to reflect on the fate of pundit predictions from 20 years ago. The following comes from the book Towards 2001 – A consumer’s guide to the 21st century, by Malcolm Abrams and Harriet Bernstein (Angus, London, 1989). Quite what qualified these two journalists to write this book is unclear, however they probably did about as well as Pathfinders would have done.

Correct (if late): Flat screens, pocket computer, CDRs, digital cameras and hearing aids, impotence pills, sat-nav, supermarket self-checkout.

Wrong (or not heard of): walking TV, self-weeding gardens, bark-stopper dog collar, flying car, potato ice-cream.

Not predicted (stand by for a shock): pen-drives, DVDs, small mobile phones, text messaging, World Wide Web, PDAs, lithium-ion batteries (making small portable electronics possible).

What do we learn from this? Not much, apart from never believe what gurus tell you. The list of things they signally failed to predict accords eerily with the most revolutionary changes in our culture, which is a kind of reverse trick-shot. Hope for socialists, perhaps, since people are always telling us socialism will never happen. But Pathfinders can hardly stand by and laugh without entering the fray, so here are a few modest offerings for the next ten years:

They won’t find a graviton or a Higgs boson; they won’t understand what they do get; the LHC will break down anyway because somebody sneezed; somebody will announce the overthrow of Einstein (again); most of the heat from the Caderache nuclear fusion plant will be generated by rows over money; Dawkins will get baptised a Catholic.

Things that go Plod in the night

Modern detective work is a serious and scientific business, apparently. Only not in Wales, whose police force embarked on a £20,000 investigation into a suicide after being told that the man’s ghost had visited psychics and told them he had been poisoned (Guardian, 7 November). Learning that the words ‘lion’, ‘horse’ and ‘fox’ were significant, the police set off to visit every pub with one of those names in its title, and one with a statue of a horse outside. The case was closed only after a second post-mortem revealed no trace of any poison. “We are a laughing stock,” complained one police source. Perhaps, but spirits were doubtless apprehended in several of those pubs.

Competition results

If you interrogate your 140 character memory you will recall that Pathfinders attempted, back in September, to raise the level of debate on Twitter by holding a competition to find the best SMS-length rendition of the socialist case. To say that there was a tsunami of enthusiastic responses might be a slight exaggeration (ask a socialist whatever you like, but don’t ask them to be brief!) however some notable entries deserve honourable mention (the prize is that we keep your name out of it).

Most rallying: Society marches on its belly; give us the land, farms and the bakery not the crumbs! 4 1 world socialist community! (FA)

Most exact: From each according to ability, to each according to need. Free labour, free access. That’s Socialism. (SJW)

Most poetic: The essence of capitalism is the stench of cordite and blood. The essence of communism is the flavour of fulfilment. (JN)

Most McGonagall: The essence of capitalism is wages and profit. The essence of socialism is how to get off it. (ALB)

Most conversational: Think outside the box of capitalism and make the world a pleasurable place to inhabit. Work for the benefit of society, not your masters. (JV)

Most economical: I vote to end capitalism X (PM)

Most toddler-friendly: world socialism – for a world without war, want, wages and the fat controller.

Most street-hip: Banish the gods from the sky, the capitalists from the earth and the chuggers from the high street. (DON)

Thanks to all those who contributed. Due to postal difficulties the prize Seychelles tickets regrettably cannot be mailed out. Pathfinders will return in January. With a tan.

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