There’s been almost universal outrage on social network sites and broadcast media, with recent news confirming that a group of Bristol professors are currently involved in an experiment believed to squander valuable public money. The original proposal had been changed at the last minute, and that decision is why they are getting all this criticism. TDJJ spoke with Professor Twins Thompson in the lab where their experiment is currently under way.
TDJJ: “Okay, to set things straight, what was your initial proposal? And can you clear up the raging debate about the reason for the change. There’s a lot of different rumours and half-truths about all this, wherever you look.”
PTT: “The first proposal – which was to see if and how we can get plants to communicate with robotic technology in the medical industry – was going ahead as planned. We did a lot of research and some rudimentary tests had been undertaken. After a week or so, it was one of our colleagues’ 50th. For a treat, I brought in several cans of lager to have after work that day. We had some money left over from the grant, so decided after the cans to go to a nearby bar. It was later that night – I think we went to a few places, my mind’s a bit hazy – that one of us came up with the new proposal which we are working on today.”
TDJJ: “Is it the most heavily rumoured idea?”
PTT: “Yes, we’re looking to find out the effects on a cat if you keep nudging it, in a large-ish environment.”
TDJJ: “I see. And how did you come to this new proposal?
PTT: “Again, I can’t quite recall. I got home and saw it on one of the beer mats I stole for some reason. It’s written in Professor Boys Petshop’s scribbled handwriting. He’s the one in that room conducting the experiment right now.”
TDJJ: “Playing devil’s advocate, I can see how the news of this has angered a lot of hard working people, how they don’t see a benefit to whatever conclusion that you may end up with. You must realise that the plant robot idea had more of a point to it.”
PTT: “Listen, there are lots of other scientists studying ideas everywhere which will help make the world a better place. I’m not here to debate which of our two proposals are more worthy. But you always read about studies which, on the surface, don’t have any meaningful benefit to society. I read one study where they tested if flies preferred one particular type of door varnish over another. Who cares, right?”
TDJJ: “TDJJ read that story and agrees with you, and your new experiment. The world isn’t going to end if one group of esteemed professors decide to bring a bit of humour to science, it’s only costing several tens of thousands of pounds. Can you go into a bit more detail on your experiment?”
PTT: “We have a cat. Actually, it’s Professor Amitri Del’s cat. We have it in a regular looking front room, made to look like what it recognises at home, and a few adjoining rooms as well, with no exit, and everything is modified to a point where there’s no hiding place for it. Then Professor Petshop nudges the cat if it sits down or stops, writes notes down on his clipboard – whether it scratches, hisses, or just gets up again and walks somewhere else. Things like that.”
TDJJ: “How long has this been going on?”
PTT: “Nearly two days. We feed the cat don’t worry, but it’s getting a bit cranky now.”
TDJJ: “You understand if these details get out, you may have the RSPCA to answer to. A lot of cat lovers out there.”
PTT: “Print this, I don’t care. They can back off. I like cats too, it’s just a bit of a laugh and it’s in the name of science. We’ll see how much more blood Professor Petshop can still shed without collapsing, then we’ll think about pulling him out. This could be a yearly thing, see if we can beat whatever record we set this time.”
Professor Thompson begins to laugh at his colleague in the room, decides to end the interview, and offers his thanks for allowing him the time to clarify a few things. He vows to keep TDJJ up to date on the developments, and if the experiment is a success, he will put forward a proposal to the government about holding annual tournaments.