12.04.16 – EPFL scientists propose a new way of understanding how the brain processes unconscious information into our consciousness. According to the model, consciousness arises only in time intervals of up to 400 milliseconds, with gaps of unconsciousness in between. Read more
Category Archives: Writing
Treating colon cancer with vitamin A
Scientists at EPFL identify the biological pathway behind the growth of colon cancer, and block it with vitamin A. Read more
“Alien” Chapter 3: The pizza of destiny – part 2
But as this was his first time in this part of the universe, he found that the galactic rays were messing with his natural biorhythm. He tried different napping positions turning this way and that but after he nearly reset the autopilot with his foot, he resorted to just staring out of the window.
“Alien” Chapter 3: The pizza of destiny
The Praxitans have been secretly watching Earth for a very long time.
No, it’s not because of the kaleidoscopic variety of lifeforms ensconced in her bosom; nor has it got anything to do with the uniqueness of the human psyche, or the amusing discrepancies of mind and emotion that people are prone to.
For the Praxitans, watching Earth is more like a moral concern. Or better yet, an insurance claim.
Let me explain.
Remember the dinosaurs? Of course you don’t. You weren’t around then.
You know who was around? Exactly.
It was the late Cretaceous by Earth reckoning. On Praxitus, it was Friday night. And, as is the habit for all Praxitans, Friday night is pizza night.
Now, pizza is fairly accessible when you’re on Praxitus, but when you’re a tired tenure-track researcher doing your obligatory stint on Earth during the late Cretaceous in the hope of proving your hypothesis that a subspecies of T-rexes actually have long arms, then pizza is nowhere to be found. Ferns – sure. Corythosauri – tons. Pizza – not so much.
But still, when you’re sitting there in the prehistoric mud fending off prehistoric mosquitoes and avoiding the amorous advances of prehistoric mammals that really shouldn’t exist yet, you miss home. And if it’s Friday night, you miss home Friday night. And if you miss home Friday night, you miss home Friday night pizza night.
So the researcher picked up his University-issued phone, called the black-hole extension code, reached Praxitus, connected to the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour, and ordered an extra-large, quadruple-everything-from-the-menu pizza, with extra everything-on-the-menu toppings.
Getting pizza delivered on time is a matter of national honour for Praxitans, and the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour is no exception. Normally, the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour would have deployed a Senior Delivery Associate for an off-planet mission like that, but, at the time, they were all busy.
So they decided to take a chance and send a Junior Delivery Associate to Earth. Except, they were all busy too.
Then they tried to find an intern to get the pizza to Earth, but guess what.
Then they tried to tie the pizza on the intern’s dog and send it to Earth, but it turned out that the dog had accidentally been included in an earlier pizza through an unfortunate combination of curiosity, a pastrami machine, and a less-than-watchful cook. But that is a story for another time.
So the Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour manager closed her eyes for a second, sighed, opened her eyes and, with a heavy heart, dispatched the pizza with the newly-appointed sub-trainee apprentice intern, Clovenard.
Clovenard wasn’t busy. Clovenard was never busy.
Clovenard was actually working the pastrami machine that Friday night.
Friday night pizza night, Clovenard left for Earth.
“Alien” chapter 2: The school years
As everyone expected, Clovenard barely scraped by in school. I mean, it was so bad they had to put him on advanced quantum physics just to make sure he passed. Of course, advanced quantum physics is complicated for the earthlings, and it probably says a lot about them that the Praxitan who went into his yearbook as “Monolithic Moron” could still dance circles around their Einsteins and Heisenbergs, but this is a story about Clovenard, and any story about Clovenard already contains enough stupid to go around.
When he took Teleportation 101, Clovenard became the only student in the history of Praxitus to teleport himself to the exact same spot where he started.
When Clovenard took Time Travelling 201, he shot straight past the Big Bang, and the school had to call janitorial services to unclog him out of the time-stick.
When Clovenard took Quantum Entanglement 301, he couldn’t get an electron to speak to itself, let alone another electron.
When he tried quantum tunneling, his electrons tunneled out of the lab and left. No-one’s seen them since.
When Clovenard demonstrated Schrodinger’s Cat, his cat was simultaneously dead and dead. Four times.
When he tested energy shields, he ended up shielding the enemy troops.
In tadball, Praxitus’s national pastime, Clovenard’s team tried to kill him by scoring him into the Narrow Post instead of the ball.
In flight school, Clovenard sunk his star cruiser. Yes, sunk it. In Linguistics, he erased an entire ancient dialect from the database. In Basic Cryptography, he broke his own code. In Simulated Economics, he bankrupted Praxitus. In Galactic Studies, he instigated a civil war between two peaceful planets. In Political Science, he tried to legislate genocide to resolve a minor tax issue.
At prom, Clovenard forgot to pick up his date, and then took back the wrong girl.
In the end, the Praxitan government fast-tracked Clovenard’s graduation “for the sake of the planet”.
And then they appointed him to the lofty profession of pizza delivery. That’s really how the story of Clovenard and the earthlings begins: With pizza.