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This is a question The B3TA Detective Agency

Universalpsykopath tugs our coat and says: Tell us about your feats of deduction and the little mysteries you've solved. Alternatively, tell us about the simple, everyday things that mystified you for far too long.

(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 12:52)
Pages: Popular, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This question is now closed.

We created a mystery which the people involved may never solve
Driving my cousin home late one Friday night after he had done some some plastering work on my house we passed by a group of boys walking in to town, just as we drove past our attention was brought to them by one of them dancing like a tit, with his pals laughing, unbeknownst to him as he was doing this his wallet fell out his back pocket.

My cousin suggested we turn around at the next roundabout and go back and see what was in the wallet.

By the time we got turned round the boys were nowhere to be seen and the area was deserted, after some searching we found the wallet which contained just 20 pounds, cards and a ticket to a gig that night. We decided to find the boys and give the wallet back, laughing at how he would be surprised to be approached and handed his own wallet.

But then, somehow, a much more funny idea came about.

First we drove around until we spotted them.

Then, knowing they were heading in to town and that the area was quiet and industrial, we drove about a quarter of a mile ahead, checking no one else was around.

We then placed the wallet on the pavement so it would be in their path once they reached the spot.

We then hid and watched them approach, say 'hey, that's someone's wallet over there!' , walk up to it, pick it up excitedly, open it looking for riches, and inexplicably discover it was theirs.

The absolute confusion and surprise was hilarious to watch, I like to think they still talk about how one of their wallets somehow jumped ahead of them and come up with crazy scenarios to try to explain it.

We then drove on crying with laughter, I still think it was one of the best and most simple pranks we have ever pulled off.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 15:28, 5 replies)
Apologies for length but Prof KM reminded me of this one.
Case of the mystery car stalling on the same corner of the same road.

Back when I was working for a certain car manufacturer there was a request from service to deal with a problem that was occurring with a customer's car and it was practically a case of 'look, I'm telling you it does it' even though the dealer technicians couldn't reproduce it. On the same bend of a road near his house in Aberdeen he claimed his car regularly cut out, leaving him with reduced steering assistance and diminished brake servo. It was serious enough for him to talk about returning his new car.

A buy-back is the worst thing for a car maker's reputation- plus, thanks to the Lemon Law in the states, if word of this got out people would be falling over themselves to claim the same thing so they could in effect 'borrow' a brand new car for a few months and then get their full retail price refund at the end of it.

Now service were baffled and were asking all departments to brainstorm what was going on, and as the diagnostics bloke in the department it fell to me.

First of all I got on to the AA to see how many cars they recovered from that area and what the symptoms were- maybe there's a crop of callouts suspiciously clustered in and around the same area;- but nothing really stood out as the statistical analysis only came to the conclusion that you get more callouts in the winter for non-starts than anything else, and there's less call out the further out of town you go. Rat's cocks. Next.

There was a suspicion that electromagnetic interference could be causing the problem, and despite the fact Google Maps showed 200kV (edited, I originally put 400kV but I've since found my file on the whole thing) power lines nearby, the vehicles have to be tested for electromagnetic immunity at the prototype stage so it would have to be something fairly unusual to cause this. Hang on, this is Aberdeen- don't they have an airport up there?

Out came Google Maps again. Yes indeed there was, Dyce airport. Airports have all sorts of electromagnetic sources, from VHF/UHF communications with aircraft, ILS, taxi cab offices, police radios, staff PMR radios, cellphone towers, observation radar for the runway, interrogation radar and navigational radar. But Dyce airport was a good few miles away, across the valley.

Aha- what's this on the map though? The airport was a few miles away BUT the radar head was actually stuck in a field out near the coast- less than 250 metres from the road where the guy was having his problem! The data from the radar head was beamed back to Dyce using a line-of-sight microwave link so we had a potential extra bogey to suspect.

More intelligence gathering was done- the interrogation radar was microsecond pulses which were designed, when recieved, to make airliners' on-board transponders send a burst back with their ID/altitude/heading information encoded, but the main navigational radar dish operated in the S-Band which was far and above the frequencies that cars are tested to. Suspicious....but surely it points up at the sky, not down at the ground?

Ah well now. The radar 'beam' formed by those 'goal net' parabolic reflectors actually makes a rather curious shaped compound pattern, with 'side lobes' almost perpendicular to the main beam. These emanated in such a way that the lobes may indeed project downwards and 'touch' the ground some 250 metres away where the road was.

Drawing the map and doing some triangulation I went to the boss to explain my theory. The big man thought it was an incredible unlikely story but then there were no other ideas and he almost wanted it to be right so he could be seen to have solved it where all others had failed. So, armed with a spectrum analyser I drove 500 miles up to Aberdeen in the same model car.

The plan was to log its internal computer module communication network signals while going along the same route and to measure the magnitude of the EMI that was coming from the
tower. Up I went, staying the night in Aberdeen and starting the next day.

Having contacted the local police to explain that I was measuring the radar, not trying to interfere with it (I had visions of being bundled into the back of a police van while being 'helped' by officers with MP5 machine pistols and heavy boots poised for a kicking, looking for terrorists trying to bring down airliners) I fired up the analyser and looked in amazement at the frigging peaks of radar energy zipping up and down the measurement scale as the dish swept on its constant circular scan. That's plenty of interference right there, in fact I'm surprised my eyeballs haven't clouded up from getting that much microwaving just standing there.

A quick word with the farmer whose house was just at the end of a track some 50 yards further on confirmed- oh yes he said, the TV's always buggered, remote control cars zip across the room without being controlled, mobile phone signal is ruined etc. and it turned out that once I got back and checked with the radio regulation rules from Ofcom, the levels actually exceeded what you should be exposing people to.

I did consider ringing up NATS and saying, in an offhand way, you might want to turn that down a bit, but the odds of them kowtowing to my request was minimal - NATS have data sharing responsibility
with the MOD and having a radar looking out over the North sea was considered quite a good idea from a point of view of those regular incursions that Russian bombers make into our airspace just to test the water. MOD 1, RWH 0.

Despite all this, I could not reproduce the fault with an identical car to the one that was supposedly giving the punter all this trouble. No cut out, no anomalous data on the in-car network systems. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Then out of the blue, after a quick look at what the guy did for a living, it turns out his company supplied marine safety beacons with a satellite uplink (INMARSAT I think) and after a chat it turned out he would regularly carry them in the boot of his car. The bloody things were becoming active after a jolt on that corner (which he must have been taking rather quickly) and from INSIDE the car blasting out several watts of RF energy - supposedly destined for a satellite 60,000 miles up in space, which instead was going up the nearest cable loom and confuddling the f*ck out of the car's internal systems.

Buy-back avoided, problem set to rest, tempers calmed and clashing with the civilian aviation authority unneccessary. However I was utterly and completely shagged out by doing a 1000 mile round trip in under 36 hours. Never again.
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 11:56, 11 replies)
Many many years ago in my youth in my local boozer.
There was a stuffed duckling that Sammy, one of the regulars, had bought for Reg, the landlord. Frogmorton, it was called. Anyway, some rotter nicked it one summer. Everyone was very upset, but totally perplexed as well as it was in plain sight when the pub was open and Reg kept the place locked up tight at night. The Fuzz were of no use, and the locals were nice people, but essentially dribbling, saddle-sniffing fools, so as the only remotely intelligent person in town I took it upon myself to solve the crime and recover Frogmorton.

I installed myself in the corner with my pint of Tribute and did my best to be inconspicuous as I listened to everyone around me. I pride myself on being observant and I learned a great deal that day. None of it, however, was pursuant to Frogmorton's disappearance, so I soon became bored and returned to my current project of the day, which was jacking up the vibration of my phone to tectonic levels for use as a sex aid in one of my many trysts.

An hour before closing, I spotted Horace, a drooling straggly fellow. He was as shifty-looking fellow, and would cringe visibly whenever the topic of Frogmorton was brought back to the fore.

"There's your man," thought I, and resolved to follow him.

Two hours later, after closing time and after tailing him on a frankly unpleasant and unnecessary course through the surrounding fields and villages, I found myself back where we started, peering over a post at Horace as he deftly broke into my local boozer. I followed him in. I realised at that moment that whatever happened now, if I was discovered here I'd be tarred with the same brush as Horace. I would have to be at my most crafty. For some reason I found the sense of danger arousing and, completely unbidden, I found myself cultivating a massive lob-on in my shorts. I tried to put it out of my mind and focus on the mission.

I turned the corner into the saloon bar and there was Horace, resplendent on the bar, fucking the hell out of the stuffed duckling that he'd been hiding behind the freezer.

"GOT YOU!" bellowed eight regulars plus Reg as they burst through the kitchen door.

"AHA!" I joined in, "the game's up you rotter! Put down the OH SWEET HELEN OF BALLS!" I squealed, spurting out rope after rope of gentleman's relish as I orgasmed violently.

As it happened, my tricked-out phone had been pressed snugly against my now-engorged bellend, and my mate Flobbo had chosen that precise moment to call me up with the go-karting scores.


So I solved the crime, but was mercilessly ribbed for ages as the guy who spunks when men fuck stuffed ducks.

But it didn't matter so much as I was fired soon after for breaking the nose of some poor chap who was bad at maths and couldn't work out the right money to give me for his pint.
(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 20:12, 15 replies)
Given my moniker, you might expect this QotW to be tailor made for me...
But alas, it is not.
....or is it?
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 19:42, 11 replies)
The Great Paper Round Motorcycle Mystery!
14 years ago I used to do my paper round on my Kawasaki AR50 which in case you don't know anything about motorbikes is the best motorbike ever produced, and after a pint of lager top and a packet of cheese and onion it was capable of 200mph. Ah the priceless memories of yoof.

Everyday I would whizz around the paper round deliver all my papers, yet on the ride home it would start to struggle and the engine would die. I could just about keep it running in first gear but only if I stepped of it and walked along side it and let it run on tickover (any throttle and it just died). It never went wrong before or during the round and after I got home and got ready for school it was always fine again to ride to and from school only then break down again on my paper round the very next day.

This went on for so long that I eventually got so used to it that I could ride it home from my paper round standing on the left hand footpeg, in first gear and still make pretty good time. But it remained a mystery until one day I was reading up on changing the jets on the carb and came across a section in my Haynes manual about the air intake. On the AR50 it was under the seat. Everyday after my paper round I would have to ride past the local secondary school who were bitter rivals to my own. In order to look like a cool biker and not a spotty 16 year old oik I would take my paperbag off and stuff it under my seat and in doing so blocked the air intake. Stepping off relieved the pressure just enough to let enough air in so it could run on tickover.

So instead of looking cool I got to push my bike past groups of jeering school kids, every day, for months.
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 12:19, 10 replies)
Be sure your sins will catch up with you...
A mate of mine is an Environmental Protection Officer, which means he deals with chemical spills, hazardous waste and so on. He was having a problem with a prolific fly-tipper, who they just couldn't seem to catch. Then one day, while examining the latest pile of rubbish which had been dumped in a country lane, he noticed something odd.

It was a broken mug. Not too surprising, but this one seemed rather familiar: it was an old Charles and Diana Royal Wedding one, which had been broken so that the couple were split apart. He remembered that a week or so before, at a friends house in a completely different town, there had been a mug which had broken in exactly the same way, with the inevitable humorous comments about how appropriate it was to break Diana away from Charles.

Sure enough, when he called that friend, they confirmed that they'd paid a Man With A Van to take away some rubbish the day before. They could even supply the phone number of the offending scrote.

Serendipity Doo-Dah!
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 13:06, 4 replies)
I swear this is true.
The oddest and most mystifying thing that ever happened to me happened in a motorway service station near Bristol. Me and the g/f had stopped for a Red Bull and a nap to prevent a sleep-induced crash (this is probably relevant). We were standing in the shop, looking idly at the choccy bar display.

And then money appeared.

Nobody was standing anywhere near us, and in fact apart from the woman behind the counter there was nobody else in the shop at all. There were no hanging displays, no low ceiling, no shelves at head height or close to it. But suddenly, and sharply enough to make me take a step back in shock, I was hit in the face with four wadded £20 notes, as though they'd been thrown at me with some force.

G/f asked what was wrong, and I showed her the cash. She asked where it had come from, and I answered honestly that I had absolutely no idea. We hadn't been to the cash machine. There was nobody about. There was nowhere for it to have fallen or been launched from, and in any case what kind of nutter would fire eighty quid at a random stranger? We both walked right round the shop to see if we could see anything untoward, but everything seemed normal. I examined the cash - it was real. At that point, I decided to keep quiet and get the f.ck outta dodge.

To this day I have absolutely no idea what happened, where that money came from or why. I'm torn between going back to the services because thin air there throws money at you, and avoiding the place like the plague because there's an invisible demon there whose cash I nicked.
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 14:57, 11 replies)
Speed of light from tomato soup
A couple of weeks ago, I was heating soup in the microwave. I set it for 20 mins, and wandered off. When I got back the soup had exploded out of the bowl, evenly coated the walls of the microwave, and continued to cook.

So I set to cleaning it. What I noticed was that, now that the soup was static on the walls and not being moved on a turntable, it didn't cook evenly. Some parts were frazzled like flakey paint, and the areas in between were still damp. The areas where the cooking was concentrated were about 2 thumb lengths apart, or 6 cm.

I was looking at the half-wavelength of the microwaves, which would travel at the speed of light. A full oscillation would be 12 cm, or 0.12m. Looking at the safety information of the microwave, it operated at 2450 Mhz. To put it another way, it could pump out 2.45 billion of these 12cm lengths every second.

So a beam would travel 0.12 * 2450000000 meters in a second, which is a speed of 294000000 m/s. The official speed of light is 299792458 m/s. So I was 2% off calculating the speed of light from a bowl of exploding soup. Not bad.

Edit : As has been pointed out, this bit of cleverness has been nullified by leaving the soup on for 20 minutes to begin with.
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 10:52, 14 replies)
It has always mystified me why certain B3tans mock the current question of the week as beneath them
But spend so much time criticising with unfunny posts or complaints.
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 19:31, 16 replies)
At some point in early 2006 my phone rang
and a distant, familiar voice quoffled in my ear. It was an old friend, The Moz. He kept shouting "I've found her, I've found her" over and over again.

"Found who?" "Pinkie".

The Moz, Pinkie and myself had been members of the same circle of friends in the mid-nineties. The Moz and I had been students while Pinkie had frequented the same dodgy indie club we had. The Moz and I didn't speak more than every couple of months, but we were still mates.

The Moz had had a crush on Pinkie. There were hints of things happening but he got kicked out and moved away. Both had got on with their lives.

Two years, he said, it's taken me two years.

The Moz had secretly acted on his ten year old teenage crush. Her old number didn't work, and he'd lost her address, so he had tried to find her using the internet. It was before the facebook boom, so social networking sites mostly dealt in aliases. He had tried friends reunited, but failed to find her. He put her name and hometown into search engines. He had trawled fora and usegroups for bands that she liked and the things she was into, hoping that one of the cryptic internet masks would slip to reveal her face behind. Nothing.

He kept this up, off and on, for the full two years. He spent hours, days, no luck, no joy. Eventually he conceded defeat. I will never find her, he thought, late one night, as he kicked a discarded tin can in a darkened, brick-lined street. Light flickered as a train passed on the bridge overhead with a mornful rumble. He looked at the night sky and it started to rain.

"And then, just as I gave up, it was there in my Inbox". She had found and contacted him, despite his common name and near-exclusive use of a pseudonym online. "How amazing is that?"

I looked at my fingernails. "She asked after you a while ago", I said.
"You know I've had her number the whole time, right?"
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 10:56, Reply)
Computer woes
My dad was having problems with his computer - it would just switch off, apparently at random. I took a look at it, but couldn't see anything wrong. He took it back to the shop but they couldn't find a fault, and couldn't reproduce the problem either.

One day he said, "It always seems to happen when I do this," and turned in his chair to take something out of the desk drawer. As he turned the arm of the chair poked the computer off switch.
(, Sun 16 Oct 2011, 15:39, 1 reply)
i've worked out there are three ways you can miss your train...
Missing trains fascinates me. If I’m on the train sitting waiting for it to trundle off and a group of commuters miss it, if it’s in a busy station there is a very visible and collective reaction of ‘awfirfucksake’ quickly followed by ‘fine, so it’s a ten minute wait, see if I care’. However a lone traveler at a quiet outlying station missing a train becomes a tragedy of epic proportions. Maybe its because there’s usually a much longer wait for the next train, or maybe if your on your own its suddenly ‘your train’ the only hope. One of my favorite Fast Show skits showed a family desperately battering along in holiday attire dragging bags and cases –nothing was ever explained, no resolution was offered, nor required. As much as I could identify with their plight I was also happy to mock.

Aside from the schadenfreude (oh come on – you could be the nicest person alive but there is a certain smug pleasure in sitting on the very train some sad tardy schmuck has just missed. It’s the same as seeing someone in a suit soaked by a lorry rampaging through a puddle).

I used to commute from a wee rural station in Lanark to Glasgow. I’m always late. Maybe not so much late but I tend to cut it finer and finer until finally the luck runs out. There’s another small pleasure – strolling onto a train just as the doors start beeping. “Fuck yeah I’m cool” Although to be honest it was more often a very undignified dash where only the victory steps were strolled. Adults shouldn’t run. Not unless there are trophies involved. Particularly if you are in any way overweight or out of shape or are carrying a bag. You just look like a tit.

Over time I noticed there are three basic types of missed train melodramas.

1. Injustice: “How could this happen?” (The doors are sealed and its pulling away) “Oh no it can’t be true – all is lost” coupled with a look of tragic bewilderment.

2. Denial: “NO! You utter bastard – you DEFINITELY saw me and deliberately left ahead of schedule.” Minor tantrum ensues on platform. Letters of complaint are drafted.

3. Blame: “Oh well fucking done! You knew what time you had to be here and you fucked it up. Can’t even get on a bloody train on time. Well fucking thank you”.

Which brings me to my point. One day I dashed up the escalators to the low level trains at Argyle Street in Glasgow – is it just me or is it odd you descend one escalator then have to go back up another escalator to get to the platform?

I heard the doors beeping as I got to the top of the escalator. There was a throng of Denials and a few Blamers in front of me. The doors had started to close. The Injustice brigade had already started looking to each other for some sense to it all. A few had already begun tying yellow ribbons around the benches.

Not today I thought! I pushed through the fallen and bewildered and grabbed the closing doors. They didn’t stop closing.


Determined, I hopped onto the doorstep and for some reason began to Samson style, heave the doors apart. Suddenly I was a superhero tearing open an impregnable vault – steel plate ripping apart like wet paper. The smug brigade on the train mere inches from my face looked at me through the door windows wryly.

“Daft fucker’s missed his train”

But then a marvelous thing – the doors gave up. Folded, or more so unfolded. As I casually stepped into the newly conquered carriage, the doors snapped shut behind, leaving the bewildered and the damned on the platform – excluded and bereft.

In true Glasgow style a bloke casually turned to me and said:

“So how do you get aff mate – through the roof?”

That day I was (slightly) ahead!
(, Sun 16 Oct 2011, 1:31, 23 replies)
Sir Clement Freud and the Physics Genius...
Story from Big Clem:

"I was for six years rector of the University of Dundee. As rector, one would chair the court of the University. There was one occasion when a physics student came to us with a complaint. He had, in the course of his final year physics exam been asked a question. He had been asked ‘How would you gauge the height of a skyscraper, using a barometer?’

He had answered that he would take the barometer to the top of the skyscraper. He would tie a piece of string to it, and lower it to the ground. He would then measure the elapsed string, add the length of the barometer, and that would be the height of the skyscraper. He was failed for showing a total ignorance of physics. He appealed to us on the grounds that he had given a correct answer and received no credit for it. And the marks were important to the quality of his degree.

We considered, and then accepted he had a point and so appointed an external examiner to ask the question again. When the examiner met him, he said to the student ‘You’ve had plenty of time to answer it, so come on what is your answer?’

The student said, ‘It isn’t as simple as that. I could of course go to the top of the skyscraper, and drop the barometer. And then with an accurate stop watch record the length of time taken for it to hit the ground and then, bearing in mind the falling speed of the object, I could give you a pretty good idea of what the height of the skycraper is. Or, and this is I imagine what you had in mind, I could measure the barometric pressure at the top of the building, and then again at the bottom. But on consideration, what I think I would do, would be to go to the janitor and say to him, “If you tell me the height of this skyscraper, I will give you a barometer.”‘
(, Fri 14 Oct 2011, 12:26, 17 replies)
Supposed "friends" on facebook
My Ex wife (after she decided to leave) had an incredible amount of info on my relationships post marriage, and was trying everything to annoy / harrass me after I decided to carry on with my life.

I decided to look through my "friends" to see who was still in contact with her and then fed them all the same story, but with slightly different details about what I was doing (there was something similar in a John LeCarre book). The theory being, the details she acquired would point to the culprit.

Lo and behold, a few days later I got a verbatim account via email of how I was being "unfaithful" (even though she'd already left for 6 months) and 2 separate sets of details were included...

2 very polite messages to the once trusted people telling them in no uncertain terms where they could insert their own heads and I've been left alone since.

George Smiley would've been proud.
(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 17:16, 37 replies)
The Mystery of the Perennial Scud.
Hooray! Got a QOTW suggestion accepted! Today, I am a man.

Now, gentle reader, this happened when I was a mere lad of fifteen or sixteen. Back in them days, modems were 56.6k and broadband was but the fevered dream of a madman. So if you wanted some covert scud, you had to wait, pixel by agonizing pixel.

Until, walking to school one day, my cohorts and I found that something WONDERFUL had happened overnight! The streets were paved with porn! Page after torn-out page of it, covering the long, leafy path up to the school! Unfortunately, some knob-jockey from the CU reported it, the school cleaners were called in and the filth was cleared away. Bags were searched, folders opened and away the lovely porno went.

But the next day, it happened again. It was as though God, in his infinite wisdom, had finally seen fit to make a porno tree that shed its leaves in the presence of testosterone and frustration. It was far harder for the authorities to find this time. Some hid it up their jumpers. Others wrapped their lunches in it. Others still simply stashed it somewhere secure before walking into the school.

An assembly was called. Someone, for their own nefarious ends was littering the school grounds with this... this...filth, and anyone found in possession thereof would be punished. The police had been called in. Meanwhile, don't talk to strangers, don't accept lifts, etc.

I resolved to try and get to the bottom of this mystery, rather unwisely, because I didn't want our mystery benefactor to get into trouble. I went full-on Nancy Drew. Reasoning the school was a natural wind-break, I checked wind direction over the previous two nights. And I found my way to Mr. Arif's* shop. He was legendary for his surliness, his refusal to sell cigarettes to anyone even slightly young-looking and his strict 'no-school uniforms' policy. He was also legendary for not having porno in his shop.

For whatever reason, some must have been delivered to him. And, not wanting to have it on his Allah-fearing premises, he'd destroyed it, and put it in the wheelie bins outside. One of which had no lid, and some of the muck still in.

I mulled over telling the miserable old fucker what was going on. But then, I reasoned, I was still in uniform. He wouldn't have let me in, see?

*Name changed to protect the innocent
(, Mon 17 Oct 2011, 16:14, 1 reply)
Mystery of the Santa Cat
Many years ago when I was as at school i returned home to find nobody was in, so, i sat myself down on the doorstep and awaited the return of a keyholder.

After about 10 minutes or so a cat turned the corner, a cat that I was familiar with, although I had no idea who it belonged to. I would stop and pet said cat whenever I saw it and it would generally run over to me when beckoned.

Sure enough, it runs over for a clap, but when i put my hand down it hits my hand as if to scratch it, but uses no claws. It then runs to the corner of the houses and stands waiting. It paces about, meowing and walking up the up the path and back again. As I am doing nothing better i decide to go down and see what the fuss is.

As i approached, the cat would walk off ahead, always keeping a distance, always looking back to see if i was still there. It's still making lots of noise and generally acting really weird. I continue to follow it up the path and round the side of a large rhodendrum. This bush was large enough that we kids could play inside it and it had an entrance as such. As I turned round the side of the bush it was in this entrance that the cat was sitting, proud as could be beside a stack of board games. They were in amazing condition, yet not brand new. There must have been about 7 different games, including Electronic Battleships. I could scarcely believe it. The cat was purring away happily beside this haul of goodies. I gave the cat and my head a scratch then made off with my treasure.

I had a reasonably hard time convincing my parents on how exactly i found all these games, but they didn't protest too much and i was allowed to keep them, and for the record Electronic Battleships was a convoluted piece of shit.
(, Mon 17 Oct 2011, 14:37, 2 replies)
the speed of light
I was very interested in science as a kid. (a chance encounter with some post grad students at the age of 5 left me telling my primary school teacher I wanted to be a microbiologist)

I read with great interest about the speed of light and how at that speed something could travel round the earth 7.5 times a second.

I got thinking about this at bedtime when my mum turned the light off. Despite it being the fastest thing in the universe I was somehow able to see light receding from the room towards its source. I was amazed. I was gifted. I had some sort of super vision. I was thick. I was about ten before I realised that it was just the wolfram coil in the bulb cooling down.
(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 21:30, 4 replies)
Another tecchie one
We used to have a printer/copier in the office, and it would go wrong. After working fine for months, it would start acting up. The engineer would come out and announce that he could find nothing wrong, it was working perfectly - but after he left it would be just as bad. Then, a few weeks later it would be working perfectly again for several months. This went on for two or three years.

Eventually, someone worked it out. In spring and autumn, for a few weeks, the sun would be at exactly the right low angle for part of the day to shine in throw the window and into the works of the machine, confusing its sensors. Of course, when the engineer came, he would stand with his back to the window and block the sunlight...
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 12:56, 4 replies)
So, you put a bit of bread in the toaster
and a few minutes later, toast comes out.

Where does the bread go??
(, Tue 18 Oct 2011, 8:57, 2 replies)
Bathtub revelations
At around 14-15 years old I was lying in the bathtub, head almost completely submerged, thinking about various topics. For some reason, cavemen came into my head. Cavemen with there crude stone tool. I thought about how it was amazing they learned to use flint to make tools. Stone tools made of flint. Flint. Stones.

HOLY FUCKING HELL! I sat bolt upright, water splashing all over. It had hit me like a brick. The Flinstones were called The Flintstones because they used flint stones.

Later that week I realised the Blue Peter cats had been called Carrie and Oaky. CarrieOaky. Karaoke. Mind = Blown.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 3:07, Reply)
That the sticky strip on pantie liners ...
was for sticking them to the panties. I had been married several years before spotting a discarded pair and having this particular damascean revelation. Previously I had wondered about the hair problem but simply figured that it was just one of those things that women put up with for the sake of a 'good seal'.
(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 18:37, 5 replies)
The moon mystery
I happened to find myself at Milton Keynes train station early one morning. I was waiting for the train to arrive in the bridge area (above the tracks) if anyone is familiar with the station.

So, I'm staring out of one of those little round windows at the moon. Perfect full moon and quite large (optical illusion when it's near the horizon or some such)

Anyhoo was just about to leave when all of a sudden the moon moved across the sky by tens of thousands of miles and turned blood red at the same time.

A sign of the apocalypse!!!? Was really shocking to behold such an event. Did the solar system just get a whack.

A less rational person than I would have ran for the hills (or nearest bunker or called the police and newspapers..

However it did take a tad bit too long for me to work out I had actually been staring at the reflection of the train signals.. doh!
(, Wed 19 Oct 2011, 15:19, Reply)
if they're called travellers..
why do they kick up such a fuss when they get moved on? Surely they'd love it? Do I win a free pencil?
(, Wed 19 Oct 2011, 12:19, 12 replies)
Dog Farts
Id long wondered why, as a human, Mrs Kite can produce loud, ripping botty burps, but dogs just produce a face melting stink with minimal noise. Then one day it came to me; buttocks! Dogs have no buttocks to be parted and slapped back together when the gas escapes, whereas humans do!

And they say I waste my time.
(, Mon 17 Oct 2011, 7:21, 15 replies)
Mystery of the psychic dog (ok urban legend then)
It's common practice in England to ring a telephone by signaling extra voltage across one side of the two wire circuit and ground (earth in England). When the subscriber answers the phone, it switches to the two wire circuit for the conversation. This method allows two parties on the same line to be signalled without disturbing each other.

Anyway, an elderly lady with several pets called to say that her telephone failed to ring when her friends called; and that on the few occasions when it did ring her dog always barked first. The telephone repairman proceeded to the scene, curious to see this psychic dog.

He climbed a nearby telephone pole, hooked in his test set, and dialed the subscriber's house. The phone didn't ring. He tried again. The dog barked loudly, followed by a ringing telephone.

Climbing down from the pole, the telephone repairman found:
1. A dog was tied to the telephone system's ground post via an iron
chain and collar.
2. The dog was receiving a 90 volt signalling current.
3. After several such jolts, the dog would start barking and urinating on the ground.
4. The wet ground now completed the circuit and the phone would ring.

Which shows you that some problems can be fixed by just pissing on them.
(, Sun 16 Oct 2011, 15:15, 4 replies)
think i've got life the universe and everything sussed here...
re: our invisible friend. So, no one knows what happens when we snuff it. The overwhelming likelihood is not very much. Ever been unconscious?

But no – when offered an incomprehensible, inconceivable jumble of superstitions, fairy tales and bogeyman stories rewritten recycled and Chinese whispered down the ages by control freaks and charlatans - you are CERTAIN beyond all doubt that despite all the vast wonder of all existence there is a creator, who (while having a universe to run) is obsessed with your every move thought and action. Oh and you can wish for stuff too.

An all powerful intangible invisible friend and protector – sounds pretty cool. You must be immune to all illness, earthquakes and injury then. No?

Our essential natural urges are shameful and evil?

Your creator is jealous, intolerant, violent, vindictive, spiteful, pernicious and vengeful – but he loves you?

I should terrify my tiny innocent child with assurances this invisible character is waiting in the shadows to punish him for questioning any of this whilst conversely insisting he only deals in truth and that ghosts and goblins are just camp fire tales?

You insist you require no proof for this but continually strive to find bolt-on bits and bobs of science that support your crackpot ideas - the same science that you continually deny.

If my crackpot jumble of superstitions varies even slightly from yours we should devote all our energies to annihilation in a manner that contradicts the few worthwhile parts of your crazy code of divine conduct?

We have the technology to split the atom and unravel DNA but your preference is to split humanity into one half who believe dinosaurs were a prank and another half who believe women should be bundled up and passed around like parcels by men who think it’s a splendid idea to chop off rather crucial bits of anatomy.

We see ourselves as an advanced civilisation yet it was twenty or so years after landing a man on the moon before we realised wheels on a suitcase might be helpful.

Doesn’t bode well does it?
(, Sun 16 Oct 2011, 1:26, 22 replies)
Apologies for length in advance
I used to work for a chocolate manufacturer. Yes, *that* one. Late one summer's evening it's past time for home and I'm out on top of a powder silo trying (with help) to get a support frame out of a filter bag. There's forty of them to do. Some of them were sticking. My mate was pulling up on the frame, and I was jamming a big length of metal conduit down into the bag to hold it in place. This worked great for the first thirty nine bags. On the fortieth, and last, the bag was particularly sticky and wet, so when my mate pulled UP on the frame to get it out, I pushed DOWN... and my nine-foot length of metal went straight through the bag and down, out through my fingers and irretrievably into the powder silo.


I had to fess up to my clumsiness. The powder got out of there via a twin-screw conveyor, and I was having nightmares about how mangled up that conveyor was going to get, how much damage and lost production I'd be responsible for. I asked all the shift crews to tell me immediately if there was any sign of problems with the unloading conveyor. A day or two goes by, and the silo gets unloaded. No problems. A few more days, another load, no problems. A week, no problems. I'm still paranoid. It never turns up, and there's never any problem. I'm baffled. It's got to be in there somewhere, just waiting to break everything.

A year or two later, the whole plant gets mothballed, and the silo is emptied completely. I've been asking after this thing every two or three days since I dropped it - nope, no sign of it. Eventually, I don breathing apparatus, a miner's lamp and other protective gear, crawl through a small hole and sweep, by hand, every last particle of powder out of that silo. No rod. Over three metres of solid aluminium bar... evaporated.

YEARS later, I get a job elsewhere and hand in my notice. On my last day there, one of the guys takes me to one side, and confides that, in fact, my length of conduit had emerged, mangled, from the conveyor on a night shift about two weeks after I dropped it in, doing no damage whatsoever. Everyone was sworn to secrecy, since I was asking after it every couple of days, and even after the plant was mothballed I still fairly regularly mentioned the mystery of what had happened to it. If I'd carried on working there, nobody would ever have told me. As I was leaving, they decided to put me out of my misery and solve the mystery for me.
(, Sat 15 Oct 2011, 0:35, Reply)
Magic disappearing van keys trick
A few years ago I was locking the back doors of a Mercedes Sprinter Van I was using for work. After locking the door, I accidentally dropped the keys and immediately looked to the ground to pick them up. Only thing was, they weren't there! I looked under the van thinking they may have ricocheted off my foot but no keys under the van. I went into the (still unlocked) cab to release the handbrake thinking they may have gone under a tyre. After pushing (with help) the van forwards and backwards, no keys were found. Remembering that I had heard the noise of keys hitting something I looked at the back bumper but no keys there either. The van was parked in a large hotel car park with no other vehicles nearby, no kerbs or drains, just tarmac as far as the keys could have gone. It felt as if Jeremy Beadle was going to appear as part of some new weird gag show and I walked off actually hoping he would be there as the alternative was that I had slipped into a parallel universe where the only thing different was that those van keys didn't exist. I went for a cup of tea in a nearby cafe, troubled but determined to solve the mystery. After half an hour of ringing work mates explaining my problem and worrying that I'd gone mental, I walked back to the van with a view to searching everywhere again one last time. As I traced the route the keys would have taken from door lock to ground, my eyes passed a dark object halfway down the door (otherwise known as the magnet that hold the door to the side of the van when it is fully open) with the keys firmly stuck to it.......

I tried (and still do try) to recreate the 'mid air door magnet key snatch' with no success whatsoever and I challenge anyone with a 1999 Merc Sprinter to do it also.
(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 14:32, 9 replies)
Campsite Electricians
I stayed on a lovely farm in Cornwall in my camper van. It had 8 electrical hookups, each with two sockets, fed by separate incoming circuits , to supply mains electricity. One hookup was faulty, and would constantly trip the circuit breaker when anyone connected to either socket. Cue local electrical contractors spending eight hours (two men, 50 quid an hour) trying unsuccessfully to diagnose the fault, and telling the poor farmer they would have to dig up the supply cable and relay it, would cost thousands. As I was paying the rent, she told me the tale of woe. 30 minutes of tracing the circuits with my multimeter showed that incoming supply 1 positive was connected OK to socket 1 positive, but also (wrongly) supply 1 negative was connected to socket 2 negative. So although both sockets showed 240 volts available, any load made the circuit fail. Five minutes swapping the wrong connections, job done. The electricians (??) never got paid, I got cheap rent for the rest of my stay. Sorry for slight technical geekiness.
(, Mon 17 Oct 2011, 5:14, 5 replies)
I could be the opposite of a detective...
... So unobservant and quick to jump to illogical conclusions I am.
Here is one from just last week: about to go downstairs from my girfriends bedroom, I picked up the last night's glasses of water to put in the dishwasher.
As I stood up, I heard the unmistakeable sound from beneath me of water trickling from the glasses onto the floorboards from the glasses that I was holding at a weird angle.
Except that I did mistake it for being a sound from above, so I looked up at the ceiling and said gravely to my girlfriend that there seemed to be a bad leak in the roof, but I couldn't see where it was, while continuing to pour water on the floor.

My girlfriend looked rather incredulous, it's fair to say
(, Thu 13 Oct 2011, 13:40, 1 reply)

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