Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 13/12/2004 It's the last week of term, and a certain levity infests the air. I try to find something sensible to say about Intel's roadmap, and fail.

Monday 13/12/2004

It's the last week of term, and a certain levity infests the air. I try to find something sensible to say about Intel's roadmap, and fail. Likewise, attempts to cogently analyse the business implications of Nortel's VoIP strategy fall at the first.

In an attempt to find inspiration, I turn to New Scientist -- the magazine that delivers. And I am not disappointed. It turns out that in the New Zealand of 1931, attempts to control an invading alien weed by a newly discovered pesticide were going well. The mighty ragwort was falling back under the relentless onslaught of sodium chlorate, until pair by pair farmers' trousers started to smoulder. Some ignited, and a few pairs even exploded. Although many happened on the washing line or in the laundry basket, others were in service at the point of combustion. Before long, the nation was gripped by an epidemic of massively exothermal hose.

The trouble, of course, was the sodium chlorate. Harmless in solution -- except to the evil ragwort -- it becomes unstable when combined with organic material. As splashes and spills soaked into the agricultural strides, the trousers became liable to ignition and explosion. It'd be like wearing underpants made out of gun cotton: one false move and the bottom will fall out of your world.

I hesitate to admit it, but one does wonder if there may be an application for this. Just a small amount of sodium chlorate introduced into the fawn dye used in the Burberry factories could do so much good to the world.