Peter Rhodes on a boy called Archer, rethinking your appendix and the risks of tinkering with the climate
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
IF I were a wicked old cynic, I might raise an eyebrow at the unveiling of the new Centre for Climate Repair so soon after the Extinction Rebellion demos in London. After the anguish, the solution. Good timing, or what?
BASED at Cambridge University, the new centre will explore ways of saving the planet by halting and reversing climate change. Ideas include millions of mechanical "trees" to suck carbon dioxide out of the air, deploying thousands of mirrors to reflect the sun's heat back into space and spraying salt water into clouds to make them more reflective. This may remind you of the great carbon-capture project, launched with many fanfares in 2012. This would have involved dumping thousands of tons of iron filings into the world's oceans where they would encourage the growth of algae which would soak up tons of carbon dioxide before dying and taking all that carbon to the bottom of the ocean. Four years later, scientists announced that it wasn't such a good idea after all and any similar research should proceed with caution.
AND who can argue with that? It may be that the Centre for Climate Repair will come up with a brilliant, fail-safe means of getting the planet back in order with no nasty side effects. But common sense tells us that if you're mucking about with technologies powerful enough to deflect the sun and polish the clouds, it might all end in tears, not to mention an ice age. The lesson of history is that scientists are often right, but occasionally wrong.
SO here's a suggestion for the climate healers' watchword: Appendix.
FOR many years, generations of respected scientists have assured us that the human appendix is a vestigial organ, something left over from our evolution. One website confidently lists it as one of "five useless organs." In the United States it is common practice to whip it out during unrelated abdominal surgery to prevent appendicitis (and save money) in the future. By some estimates two-thirds of appendectomies are unnecessary.
AND now comes new research based on the health records of 62 million Americans which suggests a powerful link between having your appendix removed and developing Parkinson's disease in later life. Scientists have a word for this: Oops.
STILL on that Royal name, a Daily Mail reader recalls that her father, born in the late 19th century, was supposed to be named Archie but, owing to his father's broad Norfolk accent, the registrar logged it as Archer, a name he bore with pride all his life.
SOMETHING similar happened when my great-grandfather Charlie Franks, master of horse at a fine house in Bradford, entered his name in the 1911 Census. He wanted to write Charlie but his wife wanted the more formal Charles. The result of that little tussle with the pen is that he is listed neither as Charles nor Charlie but as the rather puzzling Charlies.