Saturday, February 02, 2008

Particle Physics

It’s really quite striking sometimes how people are able to view the same events in such different ways; as if the world was turned upside down. I often get this feeling with news items related to traffic in Spain, as the weather gets the blame for yet another horrific pile up rather than the accident being the fault of the moron who decided to drive at 180 km per hour in a blizzard.

It happened again this week as we were informed that 90% of the pedestrians who get run over by traffic in Madrid are not hit on pedestrian crossings, the suggestion being that they get what they deserve for crossing the road where they shouldn’t. Clearly a news item prepared from the point of view of a driver. Now it’s a little known but scientifically proven fact that 71% of Madrid drivers are homicidal maniacs. This percentage rises to 98.47% in the case of taxi drivers, and I don’t intend to suggest in any way with these figures that the rest are not dangerous! Crossing the road on an established crossing place in Madrid is an adventure sport on a par with rock climbing and canyoning in terms of potential dangers. So it can hardly come as a surprise that pedestrians attempt to cross the road in places where the traffic does not immediately accelerate the moment they see a light changing to red.

Another person who sees the world in a very different way is Ana Botella, potential future Madrid mayor and spouse of an embittered ex Prime Minister. A case in point was her explanation last week of the, ehem, slight air quality problem that Madrid is experiencing. Ana, or Mrs Bottle if you prefer, has a way of explaining things that brings to mind a nursery teacher talking to a class of 3 year olds. In her case I don’t think it’s because she feels the need to simplify her explanation, it’s more to do with how she gets to grips with the issue herself. Anyway, Ana told us that there are two kinds of particles in the air. There are the unnatural ones, which come from cars, and the natural ones (which come from Africa). You might think that the baddies in this story would be the horrible unnatural particles that come from all those cars clogging the streets and mowing down anyone who tries to walk anywhere, but you’re wrong. The particles that caused the problem for anyone with respiratory difficulties were the natural ones, whether this was because they were African is something which Ana has not helped us with. So there you have it, it’s all case of how you look at things. On the other hand, maybe Ana has a point - look what happens when the two kinds of particles mix:

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