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What have the swiss ever done for me? It’s an obvious enough question. Well for one, there’s the cuckoo clock. Then they invented the handy, bright red pocket knife-come-toolkit, for an army that doesn’t actually ever get to fight any wars. A nice touch, that.

Oh, and now they’re plotting to blow up the planet.

Not really of course. From recent media hype you’d think that those boffins at CERN have just switched on the world’s greatest super-weapon. But previous track record aside, it seems nuclear physicists aren’t all hell-bent on creating bigger and bigger bangs.

No, the Large Hadron Collider is all about creating very, very small big bangs.


Scientific fact zoneSo why would scientists go to all this trouble and expense?

Well, basically they have a big gap in their understanding of how the universe works. They know why planets go round stars and so on, and they understand how atoms work, but they want to know how these two branches of science relate to each other.

If successful, the Grand Unified Theory of Everything will at once be able to explain how big science works, how small science works, and why ITV viewers still phone premium telephone lines.


So what exactly do we the public get for the several billion euros it cost to build?

How Much?

You heard me. That’s 5 billion pounds of tax payers money – but remember it’s payable in installments. I think they sold us the idea in much the same way that those dodgy water filter companies sell home filter equipment. You know, “get lovely clean drinking water for only 9p a day”

This machine is capable of looking back at the Big Bang, which happened 14 billion years ago.

“£5,000,000,000 spread over 14,000,000,000 annual installments. That’s a snip at only about 30p a year to you sir.”

Bargain.

Particles Flyin’

To show their funky young side to the public, some of the scientists at CERN have created a rap video, the Large Hadron Rap. No, really.

The Coach always had in mind the people who would plot to blow up the planet would be just a little more, well.. evil looking.

It is a pretty good insight into the real reason these geeks have built the LHC – it’s the only way they know how to get girls. When that fails, they turn to rap music.

Look at them. They’ve built the biggest most expensive scientific experiment ever, which makes the smallest particles imaginable go as fast as is physically possible, down a tube colder than outer space, and recreate something that happened for a fraction of a millionth of a second, 14 billion years ago.

If they weren’t doing that, they be trying to topple the most dominoes, or squeezing themselves into ‘phone boxes.

Finding God

These Higgs Boson characters have been nicknamed the “God Particle” by the scientists. Basically this is the holy grail of theoretical physics. If the LHC works, it’ll prove the existence of science.

Is it me, or is that going to piss off all the world’s religious nutcases in one go? Like that’s not going to kick off some kind of war.

Fundamentalist nutters versus nuclear physicists. Hmmm. If George Bush drops a few nukes on CERN, it’s not like they aren’t precisely the kind of enemy that’s capable of building even bigger weapons to retaliate with.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Really, there’s nothing to worry about. The worst that could happen is the LHC creates a black hole which sinks to the centre of the Earth and devours the planet.

But fear not, Enstein tells us that time stretches out for any body getting sucked into a black hole. It’ll be a horrible, grizzly demise, but it’ll seem to last forever.

Rather like watching the England football team.

So either way you’re sorted for this evening. Enjoy the game, if you’ve subscribed to Setanta…

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Earlier this month, mathematics was on the agenda, with the government worried that most people find maths boring, embarrassing, or just plain silly.

Schools are underperforming; specialist maths teachers are to be trained and sent in to help primary schools; adults can’t do simple algebra, and so on..

This week, the focus turns to food, and the “5 a day” guidelines. People are struggling to come to terms with the rules for 5 a day – let’s face it, it sounds pretty simple when you hear phrases like “five portions of fruit or veg a day”, but the Nanny Coach was himself alarmed to find out only a week or so ago that those potatoes he’s been eating all these years counted as neither veg, nor fruit in this context.

People it seems, find vegetables boring, embarassing, and just plain silly.

No wonder, then, that’s it’s all so confusing. With all this Nannying we don’t know whether to improve our maths literacy, or our diets.

Now grown ups can have fun with fruit and vegetables, too

Never fear though, the Coach is here to help. He’s already a whizz at maths, and today he’s been reading up on what actually counts towards your daily fruit and veg intake. Frankly, any dietary advice that requires smallprint makes you wonder, but anyway…

To help make both topics less boring/emparrassing/silly, and help improve your knowledge of each, I give you:-

Fruit and Veg Algebra

Continue Reading »

As the striking Shell drivers bring the UK to its knees, the Coach brings you the definitive guide to stockpiling and hoarding.

It’s a tricky business knowing when to panic buy, but the Coach’s advice is actually quite simple on this: Buy as much stuff as you can before everybody else does.

Mother of all queues
Petrol: you need it more than they do

It only takes a modicum of planning and thought, but in essence you must act quickly, decisively, and without delay:

  • If you hear so much as the words “petrol” and “crisis” mentioned in the same sentence, go at once to the nearest petrol station and fill up. Most people out there are oppportunists who only start to panic when they actually see a queue – they want some of what other people are having – so you get there before the queue develops you’re already ahead of the game.
  • Stock up on food at the same time. As much as you can. If the crisis continues, supermarket supply chains will start to struggle and food will become scarce. Tinned food is good. It’ll keep, and if the expected fuel crisis fails to materialise will keep for a good few years in the back of a cupboard somewhere before it goes off.
  • Buy bottled water too. Buy multipacks of smaller bottles for added freshness. Buy lots of them. Your taps are unlikely to run dry in a crisis, but if you don’t buy those bottles somebody else will. This is personal. It’s your  water.
  • If somebody – anybody – mentions foot and mouth or BSE, immediately go out and buy enough frozen chickens to fill your freezer. If you see a dead bird at the side of the road, dump the chickens and fill the freezer with red meat. Buy a bigger freezer.
  • Develop a keen sense of “fuel envy” – if your neighbour has more fuel/water/stuff than you, then you are doing something wrong. Buy more.

It’s as simple as that. Planning and forethought. Just like they’d have done during the War. Except that they didn’t have freezers and cars and stuff back then, and they knew their neighbour’s name. But you know what I mean.


Brainy money fact zone
Oil is a scarce commodity produced by few countries in the world, but relied upon by all of them. The oil producers have the rest of us – excuse the pun – over a barrel on this, and have clubbed together to form a cartel known as OPEC.

These producers commonly talk about things like “production capacities” and “supply and demand” and so on, but ultimately they just want to make as much money as they can before the oil runs out, and to be able to afford enough military equipment to deter the Americans and their friends from dropping bombs on them. Basically, if OPEC ran supermarkets rather than sold oil, the government would have fined them by now and told them stop fixing their prices.

In it’s crude form, oil is a thick, black, gloopy substance which is bugger all use for making cars go, and is bought and sold by very, very, very rich people people with dark glasses, fast cars and fancy yachts, before ultimately being “refined” into various fuel products such as petrol, diesel and paraffin and being sold to the rest of us.

But the complexities don’t end there. Because of our dependency on these fuels, the government puts big taxes (or “duty”- to sound a bit fluffier) on them to raise funds so as to buy bigger/better military equipment than those oil producers have got. It’s a tricky calculation – with the levels of duty calculated to make it both look like the government isn’t too responsible for the price of fuel, whilst simultaneously looking like they’re trying to make us want to buy more of it AND ALSO trying to make us want to buy less of it.

Naturally that’s quite difficult, so they employ the second most important person in the government to work it all out, called the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I forget the current fellow’s name – used to be Gordon Brown.


In today’s media led world, panic buying can begin anywhere and anytime, and for little or no reason. Remember the water riots during the 2007 floods? In 2001, American stocks of plastic sheeting and “duct tape” ran out as homeowners raced to ensure their homes were secure against nucular, biological, and chemical attack. In May of this year there was even an episode of global carrot panic buying which began as a joke on facebook.

Remember: act swiftly, decisively, and without delay. This photo shows the forecourt sign of the Foxhayes garage in Exwick, near Exeter. As local stocks ran low during this week’s petrol shortage, the garage raised its prices to “conserve stocks”.

Rip-off Britain at its best
Rip-off Britain at its best

But look closer at that numeral 1 on the sign. The display has only been designed to handle prices beginning with a 1. They charged £1.999 per litre because that’s as high a price as they could advertise. Rest assured that petrol stations all over the country will be upgrading their signs very soon. Next time, those who don’t act quickly, decisively, and without delay  will be paying £9.999 per litre, maybe even £99.999. Stay ahead of the game.

Buy a “Gas Guzzler”

Here’s a thought. The law actually forbids the stockpiling of flammable materials. The narrow-minded bureaucrats allow you store no more than two 5-litre plastic containers – that’s about 12 quid’s worth, which is hardly going to get you to the end of the first forecourt queue you come across.

In fact the only container in which you can legally store any decent quantity of fuel is in a motor vehicle. So there’s your answer – get a decrepit old Jaguar or some other giant-tanked gas guzzler on ebay, park it your front lawn, SORN it so you don’t have to pay tax, and keep its tank topped up with fuel in case of emergencies.

You should be used to the Coach’s advice going against conventional thinking by now, but look at it this way: people have never been more desperate to get rid of their uneconomical battle-tanks, so there are plenty of bargains to be had.

With fuel prices set to continue rising for the foreseeable, you can actually look on this as an investment – £80 of fuel now is likely to be worth £90 by the time you come to refill your tank. Those oil speculators who’re driving the prices up in the first place aren’t likely to stop anytime soon, so play them at their own game. Invest in petrol.

Since inventing this ludicrous idea for a tournament several months ago, it’s become clear to the Nanny Coach that people are actually genuinely interested in this mythical event – or to put it another way, this site gets googled more by a miscellany of school names than any other search criteria, excepting for “Myleene Klass” (did I spell her name wrong or summat?) and “party 7 beer”.

Myleene - a Klass actWith this in mind, I’ve extended the draw to a full 1024 schools, and plan to actually carry through with the competition, even if it takes 5 years to complete – which it will…

There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition to get kids achieving their goals. And let’s face it, they’re more likely to get excited about putting one over on Blanchelande Girls’ College via some imaginary web competition than to improve their school’s DCSF “value added” nonsense statistics, or boost their parents’ house prices.

The results for each round will be based on whichever GCSE and A-Level -based statistic I choose at my whim, from the results that get published periodically in the media. Any non-existant schools, primary schools, and so on that have accidentally slipped in to the first round draw will quickly get knocked out.

Good luck all – the Nanny Coach’s decision on any result is final.


Complete draw for Round 1:

Continue Reading »

If you think about it, owning a pet is a terrible extravagance in today’s ecologically conscious world. All those extra food miles your tins of Whiskas account for, the energy bill for the pumps and lights in your aquarium, the fossil fuels that go into making all those plastic dog toys, etc. etc. The planet is already overcrowded, and that tin of Pedigree Chum could just as readily feed some starving African in some distant famine ravaged desert as it does little Fido.

Knowing that many of his fans are also pet lovers, The Coach got his scientific advisory team to thinking of some ways to reduce your pet’s carbon footprint.

Here are some of the ideas they came up with.


Dog Charger

A handy device for dog lovers, who will typically take their pet out on long walks 3 times a day. You take your mobile phone along with you you anyway, so why not slip it into this convenient pull-along unit and enjoy seeing your pet’s pleasure as he helps to save the planet whilst pulling it along behind him.

There’s a good boy.


Harnessing Cat Fight Energy

If you’ve ever seen cats fighting, you’ll appreciate the incredible amount of energy involved. The Coach thought long and hard about ways of harnessing this energy, before remembering those school physics lessons about static electricity.

Scientific fact zoneIt’s kown scientifically as the triboelectric effect, and it’s what you get when you rub balloons on woolly jumpers to make them stick to the ceiling, and so on. At school, the coach was also shown another good example – that of rubbing plastic rods with fur.

And what are cats covered in…?

The Cat Fight Static Electricity Generator consists of an insulated enclosure (sporting types may prefer the term “arena”) in to which are place two cats. One of which is wearing a close-fitting polyester suit. During the ensuing fracas, one cat gains a negative charge, and the other a positive charge.

Please note that there is no inherent cruelty in this device – they were going to “get it on” at some point anyway. It’s what cats do.


Gravitational Potential Energy in Birds

Let’s face it, a bird is just a big store of gravitational potential energy. The higher a bird soars, the greater the store. But how to harness this?

The Nanny gives you: The Bird Feeder-Guano Turbine. Basically it’s just an ordinary bird table – which means you can harness the potential of any wild bird, not just pets. Bird sits on table, bird eats nuts/scraps/whatever, bird craps over the side of the table into the turbine which is mounted at ground level, electricity is generated, bird flies away contented.

Note: The Bird Feeder-Guano Turbine is not available for penguins.


Rabbit Love Pump

Everyone knows about the natural fecundity of rabbits…

…oh you get the idea people, do I have to draw a picture?


Cow Wind Turbine

Let’s face it, cattle get a lot of bad press over their propensity to generate greenhouse gasses. Though technically not a pet, the Nanny turned his team to thinking of ways to reduce this anyway.

The team failed in that remit, but thinking laterally they decided that if they can’t reduce it, they might as well harness it.

In simple terms it’s just a wind turbine strapped to a cow’s arse. In more technical terms, it’s… well.. pretty much just that. But it’s a great idea nonetheless.


Fish Wheel

Fitting generators to hamster wheels is a given. These actually already exist in the form of wheel hub dynamos that cyclists can use to power their lights. They are very efficent, although somewhat expensive. It certainly wouldn’t be cost effective to attach one of these to a single hamster wheel, so the Coach envisages a number of wheels attached to a single axle to create a kind of hamster energy farm.

I digress.

Extrapolating the hamster wheel to other species, we originally came up with the duck wheel. As the duck swims to one side of the device, so the centre of gravity shifts, and the wheel turns. Except it doesn’t – the duck floats, and by Archimedes’ principle, it displaces its own weight in water – the so weight on each side of the wheel remains the same.

A fish on the other hand has a positive buoyancy. It’s able to control this through its swim bladder, and whilst swimming underwater may have a different density to the surrounding water. Hence the weight of the contents on either side of the fish wheel may at times be different, offsetting its centre of gravity and causing it to rotate.

The BBC reports that today’s concerned parents are denying their children the basic right to roam, and often don’t allow them out of the house.

Apparently, in 1970, an average 9-year-old girl would have been allowed to stray some 840 metres from home, but this had shrunk to a dramatic 280 metres by 1997, and the perceived safe distance is ever-descreasing.

Nuclear detonation effects
The home is “Ground Zero” for modern parents

The Coach decided to look into the figures and discover exactly what is the safe roaming distance for the child of 2007.

Let’s look at that graphic above. A girl allowed to travel within 1970’s safe distance would in fact cover an area 9 times the size of the 1997 safe area.

This is a horrifying statistic for any parent to deal with. For every doubling of the roaming distance, the area covered multiplies by a terrifying 4 times, and therefore similarly the chances of a paedophile living within that zone also quadruples.

Stranger Danger
Exponential Danger Growth

But look again, armed with an extra crucial part of the puzzle. A roaming child doesn’t expand to fill that entire paedo-friendly area, but merely travels within it.

At any given moment in time, the child exists in a small child-sized area, and the average distance to any given paedo remains a constant.

The Coach says: risk does NOT increase with roaming distance.

Let your kids go where they want. Let’s face it, as recent news events will tell you, a child is at risk even when it’s tucked up in bed at home. Especially on holiday. If anything, the risk to the child increases the further a parent travels from the home.

STOP PRESS

The Coach has teamed up with the Ramblers Association, to bring you the National Safe Kid Network – a network of routes calculated to be the most child friendly in the country.

How we did it:-

We took a map of the UK, and plotted the areas covered by The Sun’s “Top 100 Paedo-Hotspots 2007” pull-out supplement, together with RoSPA’s accident blackspot data, then found the roads that don’t bisect these areas. This is the National Safe Kid Network.

And remember the motto that goes with this map: Stay in the white zones, and out of the red. Nothing in this game for two in a bed.

Sleep well.

School league tables were introduced several years ago by the government in order that the Department for Education and Schools (DfES) had a reason to exist – and could produce league tables demonstrating which UK schools were the best, so that parents could decide amongst themselves which are the best schools, and all send their kids to those.

A foolproof plan, you’ll doubtless agree.

But take a look at the following list which show the top 10 schools for A Level results, which was published by the BBC

1. King Edward’s School
2. Withington Girls’ School
3. King Edward VI High School for Girls
4. The Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton
5. St Swithun’s School
6. Leeds Girls’ High School
7. Bolton School Boys’ Division
8. Wycombe Abbey School
9. Loughborough High School
10. Downe House School

What does that tell you? Nothing. Posh schools turn out swotty kids. Thank you for that insight DfES.


Scientific fact zoneOn the face of it, producing lists which rank schools by their effectiveness at producing kids who can pass lots of exams seems a great idea.

In reality of course, the scheme just leads to increased social divison; creates disproportionate house prices; neglects to teach kids actual skills that might come in handy in later life, instead teaching them merely to pass exams, increases stress and suicide rates among pre-teens; and churns out two polarised classes of young adults – either pale face socially inept swots, or disenfranchised chavvy burger-flippers -cum- baby making machines.

Nobody needs a league table to tell them that a child going “St. Crispin’s Preparetary Middle School” is destined for Tory MP-hood. It’s NOT rocket-science and never has been.


Anyway, it may have escaped your notice but earlier this year the DfES ceased to be. It was instead replace by an entirely different body (consisting of the same staff in the same buildings doing the same job) called the the Department for Children, Schools and Families, or DCSF for short, so that it can’t possibly be confused with the old DfES.

The government has since announced that it intends to put less emphasis on ranking schools in league tables, and has finally today unveiled the future for education in England and Wales.

The GCSE Knockout Cup Tournament

The draw for this took place earlier today at the DCSF headquarters in Great Smith Street, London, with Baroness Morris of Yardley, former Secretary of State for Education and Skills drawing the home schools, and the away schools drawn by Fred Harris, fromer presenter of Play School, Choc-a-Block and Micro Live, on the BBC.

Popular TV presenter Fred Harris
Fred Harris

Draw for Round 1

East Barnet School v Sutton High Sports College
The Compton School v Brixham Community College
Ladybridge High School v Bedford Field Middle School
Manning Comprehensive School v Noel Baker School
Eaton Bank School v Rivington High School
Our Lady’s RC High School v Wintringham School
William Crane School v Allerton Grange School
Cathedral Middle School v Glaisdale School
Farlingaye High School v Rainford High Technology College
Carr Manor High School v St Bede’s Catholic College
Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School v William Sharp School
The Brakenhale School v Werneth School
Newton-Le-Willows School v The Avenue Comprehensive School
Margaret Glen-Bott School v Burleigh Community College
Durrington High School v Sandhurst School
Leiston Middle School v Robert Sutton Catholic School
Cowley Language College v Yohden Hall School
Birley High School, Hulme v The Robert Smyth School
Marple Hall School v King Solomon High School, Ilford
Farnborough Sixth Form College v John Smeaton Community High School
Bramhall High School v Easthampstead Park School
Steyning Grammar School v Wansbeck Junior High School
Fairham Community College v Spurley Hey High School
Edensor Technology College v The Bolsover School
Canon Palmer Catholic School v Haywards Heath College
Blurton High School v Longhill Junior High School
West Bank High School v Top Valley School
Beverley High School v Richard Taunton College
Downlands Community School v Thomas Magnus Upper School
Tawd Vale High School v Ibstock Community College
Imberhorne School v Newark Magdalene High School
The Blackpool Sixth Form College v Elliott Durham School
Limehurst High School v Middlecroft School
Hessle High School v Sackville Community College
Westbourne High School v Lambwath Junior High School
Lutterworth High School v Lordswood Boys’ School
The Benjamin Gott High School v Ousedale School
Villa Junior High School v Henry Mellish Comprehensive School
Risedale Community College v Walderslade Joint Sixth Form
Trentham High School v Sandon High School
Kinloss Junior High School v East Bergholt High School
West Leeds Girls’ High School v Ryeish Green School
South Manchester High School v Birches Head High School
South Charnwood High School v Holbrook High School
Driffield School v Bury Church Of England High School
Thirsk School v Shena Simon College
Roundhill Community College v The River Leen School
Thistley Hough High School v Wortley High School
Dorchester Junior High School v St Gabriel’s RC High School
The Ockendon School v Pilgrim Upper School
Hastings High School v John Cleveland College
Woldgate College v Sir Wilfrid Martineau School
Edward Sheerien School v The Bulmershe School
Shipston High School v Sir Bernard Lovell School
Mitchell High School v Ivanhoe College
Wycliffe CofE Middle School v Brandreth Middle School
Maiden Erlegh School v Linmear Middle School
Counthill School v Perry Beeches School
Stratford-Upon-Avon High School v Kirkley Middle School
Highlands Junior High School v Silver Jubilee Middle School
Shrewsbury Sixth Form College v Ralph Thoresby High School
Highbury Grove School v Nodehill Middle School
The Ovenden High School v Alderman Smith School
Pope Pius X Catholic High School v Kingsway Middle School
The Hathershaw Technology College v The Manor School
Ysgol Uwchradd Glan Clwyd v Holloway School
St Richard’s Catholic College v The Calder High School
The Dales Junior High School v Hereward Community College
Luton Sixth Form College v Pindar School
Martin High School v Braim Wood Boys’ High School
The Snaith School v Ryde High School
Francis Askew Junior High School v St Edmund Campion School
Breeze Hill School v Bretton Woods Community School
Highbury Fields School v The Elmhirst School
Ysgol Dinas Bran v Stirchley County Middle School
Pimlico School v Buttershaw High School
Shepshed High School v Bushfield Community College
Kaskenmoor School v Morley High School
George Orwell School v Cudworth Middle School
Ysgol Brynhyfryd v Harborne Hill School
Todmorden High School v George Eliot Community School
Scalby School v St Cuthbert Mayne School
South Chadderton School v Ken Stimpson Community School
The Foulstone School v Somerton Middle School
Royton And Crompton School v The Halifax High School
Fitzalan School v Allertonshire School
Brickhill Middle School v Islington Arts And Media School
Lake Middle School v Grange Middle School

Exams to be sat in the week commencing May 14th 2008.