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Du temps perdu à la recherche

Research is an insidious affliction which, once contracted, can change a life. Its origins may be traced to a genetic change in its forebear - curiosity. Many people have begun their careers by acquiring a Doctorate in Applied Curiosity. The positive results of such exercises have mainly been on and in the mind of the researcher rather than in a significant contribution to the wealth of human knowledge. Nevertheless, the mindset of a confirmed addict can lead to a lot of time spent, if not actually lost.

These reflections have been prompted by a bottle of M. Chapoutier’s excellent elixir, La Croix des Grives. Created on the borders of the Rhone, like so many of our favourites, it was slipping down a treat when the question arose ‘which bird is the grive?’ Hastening to Le Petit Robert, we confirmed our conclusion that it was indeed a thrush. But the questions did not stop there. Although Le Petit is weak on ornithological exactitudes, Harrap’s New is better and also gave us a marvellous saying:
     "Faute de grives on mange des merles."
This was completely new to us and at once confirmed a character of the French.
     "Live directly on what Nature provides, however small."
Some of these characteristics are exhibited by other nations. Wild mushrooms are valued by many including the Russians and us. Many times have I returned from Sheremetyevo to the UK with a smuggled bottle of грибь. I believe, however, that snails are peculiar to our friends across the Channel, as the chickens’ feet we experienced in Beijing are to the Chinese.
In the matter of avian delicacies, the British like bigger targets. Grouse and pheasants require less precision on the part of the shooter than, say, the robin (which, it now appears, the Maltese are slaughtering in large numbers). Moreover, the sentiment of our Nation is to support the underdog and this includes the underbird. To turn a song thrush into paté would not have crossed the National Mind. But if, in common with the juvenile Robert, you only think of him as "a bird of light plumage speckled with black", I suppose it might just become possible.

So this is an example of how, by chance, a random observation can lead to significant time-loss if research is in one’s blood. Furthermore, one thing leads to another unlike the blind alleys which seduce an enquiring mind from the straight and narrow road to an illusive objective.

Who was Little Robert and how did he grow up? Large Roberts or Bobbies I recall from my youth, but their size was probably magnified by being viewed from closer to the ground. Now, do the French indulge in well-used abbreviations of their Christian names? Do Bobby and Jim fit into France as well as Vova and Sasha do in Russia where they distance their bearers from Vladimir (perhaps Lenin), and the magnificent Alexander with its Tsaristic connotations. A little step further closes one gastronomic loop by reminding me of one of my Sasha friends, Borovik-Romanov, a physicist who worked with Piotr Kapitza. He confided in me that he didn’t stress the Romanov and the Borovik is a large edible mushroom!

I do not intend to turn this note into a treatise, much less a thesis, but to justify my title a little further, I should like to switch to the real time waster - the re-search which increases in significance as one ages.

Re-search engenders time loss in searching for mislaid objects. It is a frequently observed fact that Things conspire to absent Themselves in the initial stages of such searches only to re-materialise later, exactly in the same place where the search was begun. A common example can/cannot be found in most peoples refrigerators. To understand this macro-phenomenon further one only needs to relate it to the quantum effect known as Schroedinger’s Pussy. To be dead or alive at the same quantum-time is equivalent to be there or not there in macro-time.  Of course, these transitions require a large amount of dark energy, the existence of which may be clarified by new experiments using the enhanced energy of the LHC in Geneva. This sort of research is incomprehensible to most humans and may involve the deployment of Planck’s Variable, which itself is a secret revealed only to the Few.
One should also point out that Schroedinger’s dog is never mentioned. This is because the family Canidae is not equipped with the ingenuity and imagination required for such transitions of state, whereas in the family Felidae, particularly Felix Catus sub-species Cheshire tabby shorthair, it was regularly observed and recorded by Dr Dodgson of Oxford. This specie regularly disappears, but very slowly, leaving a sardonic grin only to return later with its grin intact.

Bruce Forsyth (Searcher and Re-searcher, the latter Extraordinary)

Dernière mise à jour: 08 April 2018