Feedback is our weekly column of bizarre stories, implausible advertising claims, confusing instructions and more
5 January 2022
Gazing into the alternative reality featured on the other pages of this magazine, we have mixed feelings. That’s a generally valid statement, but it applies especially to the metaverse that The Company Formerly Known As Facebook and others are building.
Or it does until we realise it gives our influencer franchise a (glittery) golden opportunity to mention Metaverse Nails™ (patent pending), “the only product in the WORLD that allows you to adorn your digital and physical self with customisable holograms”. “Glam wearable tech” is very much our bag – see our tote? It’s totes virtual – although our community service order still stands after going too far with Gucci’s virtual clothing line in lockdown (3 October 2020). Collectible fashion accessories that interact with a 3D social app to trigger a dazzling range of interactive hologram nail stickers that can be snapped and shared in real time to social networks seem a safer bet.
As was reported last year, TCFKAF might have agreed: shortly after its metamorphosis in October, it briefly suspended the Instagram account, @metaverse, of the driving force behind Metaverse Nails™ (patent pending), Thea-Mai Baumann, for “pretending to be someone else”. Far be it for us to question motivations, but if being someone else isn’t the point of the metaverse, we aren’t sure what is.
Flipping the bird
Feedback is relieved to be informed by our man in a hide with a pair of binoculars, Jeff Hecht, that birds are real. For those who hadn’t realised there was any doubt, we urge you to marinate – but not for too long – in the social media conspiracy theory that birds used to be real, but were replaced by US government spy drones. The walls of the metaverse being decidedly porous, this has seen billboards pop up in major US cities and a demonstration outside Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco demanding that the company change its logo.
For a while, we had a similar, special theory of avian unreality concerning the implausible, yet undoubtedly ornamental, pelicans of St James’s Park in the heart of London’s government district. We gave it up on the basis we couldn’t work out who ordered the poop. Now, as The New York Times revealed last month, the general theory of unreality has been revealed as a prank dreamed up to demonstrate the absurdity of conspiracy theories.
This is all pretty, well, meta. We are left pondering the truth value of the statement “this conspiracy theory is false”. While we do so, we offer up the fact that, although birds might exist, fish, reptiles, worms, wasps, jellyfish and a host of other things don’t. That isn’t a conspiracy, it is phylogenetics.
Look on the buttered side
Andy Bebington intervenes from Croydon, London, with a philosophical solution to the long-standing scientific puzzle in our Twisteddoodles cartoon on 4 December 2021: why toast always lands butter-side down. It is because we buttered the wrong side. We await explanation of how attaching buttered toast to the back of a falling cat retrocausually flips right side to wrong side. It is probably something to do with quantum theory; it usually is.
How low can you go?
Did monkeys really sail the oceans on floating rafts of vegetation? we asked in our super soaraway holiday edition (18/25 December 2021, p 50), answering the question with a firm “yeah but no but yeah”. Brian Horton of the floating raft of vegetation that is Tasmania takes exception, not to that, but to our description of a riverine floating island that “covered an area about the size of two Olympic swimming pools”.
“Surely everyone knows that area is measured in football pitches and swimming pools are only for volume,” he fumes. “Please ensure that the appropriate units are used in New Scientist articles to maintain standards.”
We hear you, Brian, while countering with Malcolm Drury of Ottawa’s clipping from a CBC News website article on oil sands tailing ponds in Alberta with a storage capacity “the equivalent volume of more than 560,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, which would stretch from Edmonton to Melbourne, Australia, and back if placed end-to-end”. Measurement standards are clearly slipping – to lower and lower dimensions.
In their element again
Many thanks to those of you who responded to our appeal for elemental names from across the world (11 December 2021). Sergio Frosini from Genoa, Italy, wins the prize of a gram of unobtanium in a virtual tote bag with his list of actors Franca Rame (copper) and Turi Ferro (iron), journalist Tito Stagno (tin) and horror film director Dario Argento (silver).
Sergio further enriches us by informing us that Stagno’s principal claim to fame is as the first person in the world to announce the Apollo 11 mission’s touchdown on the moon – a full 56 seconds before it happened. Miring ourselves briefly in the nether regions of the Italian-speaking web convinces us that those most liable to bring up this striking instance of retrocausality have well-defined views of the moon landing. Having seen the grainy footage ourselves, we are prepared to accept it was cock-up, not conspiracy. Which is a pretty good guiding principle for life, come to think of it.
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