The Funny Side
By Nury Vittachi
They say the easiest way to bring people together is to unite them against a common enemy; so I would like to propose that scientists declare Neptune a Hostile Planet. All humans can then be enrolled in an anti-Neptune campaign, Trump can send angry tweets skywards and Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillipines can shoot at it. We’ll be so busy waving our fists at the sky that peace will break out on Earth.
It won’t even be that difficult. People will believe anything these days if you say it in the right “breathless internet factoid” tone of voice: “Amazing facts! Penguins can’t fall over! Bald men can’t lick their elbows! Planet Neptune identified as main cause of celebrity deaths!”
I tried out the idea on regular contributors to this column and one suggested that a more distant heavenly body be nomited for safety’s sake. He said that in December, astronomers released the biggest-ever night sky catalogue, with an ID number for every star. This revealed that there were a billion-trillion stars in the universe, a staggeringly huge number, almost as high as the number of Spchats my teege daughter sends every day.
The distribution of ID numbers is huge at the moment. The Indian government has just announced a scheme to give ID cards to all 88 million cows and buffaloes in the country before the end of this year. This is not a joke. Since cattle often go out without their handbags, the cards will be stapled to their ears. As aforementioned teege daughter recently mislaid her (human) ID card, perhaps the ear-stapling trick should be used more widely. Just a thought.
Anyway, that piece of news arrived on my desk at the same time as the Saudi Arabian authorities unveiled a plan to give registration numbers to camels. This also sounds like a joke but isn’t. Until now, car-camel traffic collisions have resulted in only the cars being identified. By making camels identifiable, the system will be fairer, officials say. No doubt witty camels will register “4 legs better than 2” and “I poop on U” and other cheeky number plates.
At the same time, officials in New York recently announced that they have just completed a two-year programme to issue every tree in the city with an individual ID number. Again, we have the problem that trees rarely carry purses. So the authorities have put a map on the internet. If a tree forgets its ID card number, it simply looks up its location and it will find its number, its vital statistics (including trunk diameter) and a photograph.
The irony is that because of the very strong individual rights lobby in western countries, the authorities now have a highly detailed database of all the trees in New York (there are 683,918 of them) but know almost nothing about the humans there.
On the plus side, if terrorism spreads to our leafy friends, then New York’s trees, or Arboreal-Americans to use the politically correct term, can be identified and tracked. I hope that makes you feel safer. Because I have a feeling we are going to get some very bad news about the planet Neptune soon. Could someone kindly tell Presidents Trump and Duterte? (IANS)