The all singing, all dancing blog of Alex Guite

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I rate myself as a pretty logical kinda guy and try not to let adverts or celebrity endorsements influence my purchasing decisions. Even if an advert could somehow construct a link in my mind between drinking cranberry juice and romantic success, I'd like to think I'd be able to see through this and reach for the trusted orange juice.

On Sunday evening I was just going about my normal business, watching Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand Up Comedians, so I ended up seeing a lot of adverts. A compelling case was presented in favour of buying Lynx body spray but I resisted it and despite captivating cinematography wasn't moved to order a Jaguar S-type. Then somewhere in the commercial break between Bill Hicks and Robin Williams, an advert for fruit pastels came on. It wasn't about how fruity they are or how, er, pastely they are, but that apparently it's impossible to put one in your mouth without chewing it.

Clearly this needed to be tested. Immediatley. My housemate Iain quite literally put his running shoes on and returned five minutes later with three packets from the corner shop.

And it turned out that it is exceptionally, almost indescribably, difficult not to chew them: many attemps failed after even the most momentary of concentration lapses. Eventually, with concerted efforts we eventually achieved the impossible and sucked through entire pastels. So as good scientists we concluded that it is almost impossible not to chew them and thus settled the matter to everyone's satisfaction.

Then I realised what had happened: we had just spent money on a product we didn't need. More than that: the advert didn't just make us buy it, it made us want it as soon as possible and feel like it was our own decision. It wasn't as if the advert had made us switch pastel brands, we just didn't need pastels in the first place!

So because of a simple advert we'd spent the evening sucking fruit pastels we didn't need like, well, suckers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Carbon cheating

Have you ever cheated on your loved one or hired partner? If so, it turns out that help is at hand to clear your conscience over at

According to the site: "When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere. Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and not cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience."

Even if it's not a new approach to relationships, it's definitely an insightful contribution to the debate on carbon offsetting.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Painting the moon red

One of the things about working in a physics department is that if anything cool and scientific is about to go down, someone is bound to put up a poster drawing your attention to it. Yesterday evening's lunar eclipse was mercilessly promoted in lifts, common rooms and other public places, using footage from previous eclipses as teaser material. In case I wasn't excited enough , the BBC got in on the act yesterday, reporting that the was eclipse set to be the "best in years".

Clearly there was no way I could miss this. As you can imagine, I was over the moon that last night was cloudless.

I can see why lunar eclipses freaked people out back in the day - the moon appears to disappear then returns stained blood red. But thanks to modern science I was able to watch it from my observatory (er, spare room with open window) without any fear. I'd like to think though that even if I wasn't sure what was going on that my first instinct wouldn't have been to sacrifice something.

Particualry at a time when some people on the internet are howling that the moon is getting too predictable and you can download episodes before the moon even rises, I was pretty impressed with the moon's performance last night. The red hue it chose is very now yet its determination not to be rushed through the act (it took over an hour in totality) was frankly timeless (actually, about an hour I guess).

Finally, it seems that no one this week can write a blog without linking to this.

This blog post was written in front of a live studio audience.