By Nury Vittachi
There are few things more stressful than waiting for exam results, hoping and praying that you get the grades you desperately want: an “F” in every subject. Please please please please!
Yay! Prayer works. An entire college received the score I wanted them to get when academic results were announced last week: “Distinctions: Zero. Passes: Zero. Fails: 100 per cent.”
Done it again. The Junior Science College in the town of Jeerango, in India’s Odisha state, has become mildly famous for failing to successfully get a single student through the science exam since it opened in 2008. The just-announced 2013 score gives them five years of total failure, the Times of India reported. You have to admire their consistency.
Why celebrate? Because the college lacks certain useful facilities, such as electricity, for example. This makes their computers less useful. The more headlines this school makes, the more likely the state government will actually do something about it.
At almost exactly the same time, people in China had the opposite problem: too much functioning technology. An exam invigilator in Zhongxiang, Hubei, refused to accept large stacks of banknotes in return for letting students use their iPhones to find answers, the Beijing News reported. A furious mob of parents and students accused him of the heinous crime of Not Behaving Like a Chinese Official. I guess they have a point.
Chinese officials are naughty. The government there always claims to have a free press, but a journalist leaked a secret memo issued last week by the State Council Information Office about the wife of the president: “All websites are asked to immediately find and remove images of Peng Liyuan taking a picture with her cellphone.” Why the panic? Peng has an iPhone 5, but it’s a secret, since the China authorities have a strict policy of verbally trashing all Apple products. No one knows why, but one reader has a theory that Samsung has secretly purchased the government of China as part of its marketing plan for the Galaxy S4. This is utterly unbelievable, so is probably true.
But, going back to academia, did you read about that professor in Sri Lanka who claimed to have found a fossilized germ on a meteorite, proving that there is life in outer space? I was under the impression that this fact had already been confirmed by important pieces of scientific literature, such as Action Comics No. 1: The Origin of Superman. But what do I know?
And now the good news: the biggest scientific mystery of this year so far has been solved. In February, a flock of char-grilled pigeons landed on a grassy bank in the British countryside and set fire to it. Where did they come from?
A British newspaper found a witness who revealed what had happened. A large flock of birds landed on an electricity cable. When the 615th pigeon landed, the wire touched the one below and the flock was instantly barbecued. You see, there’s a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation for everything.
Such as the fact that trainee scientists won’t achieve much with their computers if they have no electricity.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mjam.org)