Stormbreaker Islands

From today’s Times diary:

"In a forthcoming Alex Rider story, by the Stormbreaker author Anthony Horowitz, the boy hero will foil a plot to put poison in the chocolate in Tube vending machines*. Or maybe, if it comes out at Christmas, in mince pies. We know this because on Tuesday, we heard a man with a very loud voice outlining the idea to a friend in Patisserie Valerie in Soho. We’re pretty sure he knew what he was talking about because, a few moments later, he introduced himself to another man, equally loudly, by saying: "Hello! Remember me? I’m Anthony Horowitz!"   "

"At a lunch for The Oldie magazine, Victoria Hislop spoke about a family holiday to the island that inspired her book (The Island)**, which was once a leper colony. "Ian hates beaches and loves churches", she said. "Our children love beaches and hate churches. I chose the leper colony as I knew everybody would hate going there except me." "

A holiday on a leper colony quite appeals to me, actually. I could take a big pile of books and nobody would bother me. If it was hot, the children could sunbathe and if there was an Internet connection they’d be happy enough with that and their books. We could pack a few armadillos and we’d be fine. (Malcolm would probably miss the historical artefacts, I have to say.)

*(Tube = London underground train system).

** Hislop’s Island is a very big seller in the UK for the past few weeks, having been a Richard and Judy selection. However, I am far more interested in reading the Jane Rogers’ title of the same noun but without the article, as highlighted by Clare, because the holiday connection is far more appealing than a leper colony. And I have to confess an aversion to reading a book on the grounds that it has been selected by a TV programme — does that make me a snob? (Still quite taken with the leper colony holiday concept, though, as people would leave you alone there.)

To Clare: snail story

I read in the newspaper today that the more slime produced by a snail, the slower it will crawl. Leaving a trail of mucus uses up energy, so a thin layer of mucus allows the most efficent movement, apparently. Knowing of Clare’s identification with snails, I followed this news brief to the source, which turns out to be a scientific paper on the ArXiv preprint server by Eric Lauga and  A. E. Hosoi at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Here is the abstract of their paper:

"Common gastropods such as snails crawl on a solid substrate by propagating muscular waves of shear stress on a viscoelastic mucus. Producing the mucus accounts for the largest component in the gastropod’s energy budget, more than twenty times the amount of mechanical work used in crawling. Using a simple mechanical model, we show that the shear-thinning properties of the mucus favor a decrease in the amount of mucus necessary for crawling, thereby decreasing the overall energetic cost of locomotion."

Clare would put it more poetically, and indeed accessibly, than this. But I hope she’ll like it.

(Clare blogs at Keeper of the Snails, where writing, poetry, beauty and science intersect.)