Welcome, students, to this latest lecture in my world renowned 'Canine Science Series'! This lecture is dedicated to our Relentlessly Huge friend Mango and his family and I wish them all the best in their efforts to bring his horrid seizures under control, and hope that science (plus love) can help.
As you are aware, today's topic is gravity, and I know you will all be leaping up and down with excitement at the prospect.
Of course, it is only because of gravity, that we have the 'down' bit...
Now all good scientists like to test their ideas by performing experiments. Italian physicist/astronomer Galileo Galilei conducted one of the most famous experiments in history when he dropped two balls of different masses off the Leaning Tower of Pisa and thus conclusively demonstrated that all objects fall at the same acceleration, due to gravity.
And so, when planning this lecture, I had what I thought a truly excellent idea. I suggested to Gail that we take the whole class on a trip to Pisa, and all the dogs whose weights we know (see graph, which will biggify on clicking) would jump off the top of the tower together, and I would stand at the bottom with a big net and observe what happened.
I have to tell you that Gail immediately looked alarmed. "Hold on a minute", she said, "I don't think we have the budget for that, what with all the higher education cutbacks, etc. Anyway, there is a fine tradition in science of 'thought experiments', using pure logic to determine what might happen. Why don't you try that instead Bertie?"
So I spent a little while pondering what might happen if I took all my friends to Pisa....
Well first off, numbers were greatly reduced by the time we reached the Leaning Tower, Lacie having shamelessly announced that she thought science "too boring" and hijacked a bus to take her and an entourage of the more fashion conscious dogs for some retail therapy in Milan. Asta wanted to join them, but she had consumed an excess of gelato and was too sick to travel, but also too bloated to fit through the door of the tower. Stella, who didn't really deserve to join the class anyway as she never divulged her weight, predictably hightailed her presumably rather chubby self off to the Clooney villa on Lago di Como no soon as we'd set paw in Italy. Some of the boy dogs heard about a poker night organised by the local mafiosa, and their whereabouts is still unknown. And finally, oh horror of horrors, dear sweet innocent little Katie accepted an invitation to a 'Bunga Bunga' party, courtesy of some creepy older guy with an orange tan and strangely unnatural hair....
The faithful few that did make it up all the steps to the top of the Leaning Tower (led of course by George) were to leap off in unison the minute I gave the sign. Sadly, Mango got distracted at a crucial moment and was a couple of seconds late in jumping, so landed on top of all the others and....
What's that Gail? You are saying that I have misunderstood the concept of a 'thought experiment'?
OK then, back to the text books (sigh).
The name most commonly associated with gravity is of course Sir Isaac Newton, quite possibly the least likable personality ever amongst world ranking scientists (and believe me the competition is strong). The story goes that Newton's dog Diamond knocked over a candle and burned a notebook containing 20 years worth of observations, but when you read about the relish with which, in later life as Master of the Royal Mint, Newton pursued the prosecution of coin counterfeiters and had the miscreants hung, drawn and quartered, you will be relieved that his dog apparently escaped with a mild ticking off.
Oh, I am digressing again.
Let's move on to Einstein, who introduced the concept that gravity is the curvature of space time, hence the more massive an object, the more light bends around it. It seems that this effect has been noticed in Wilf's household, but only in the vicinity of the bipeds (surely not 'the Font', whom we all imagine as a slender, long-limbed and not at all dense Scandinavian, don't we?)
I think that the explanation for why light shines out of a certain orifice belonging to 'King' Toffee in South Africa awaits a 21st Century Einstein figure.
Now I would like to have made more use in this lecture of all the fascinating weight data that you provided, but I confess that I am more that a little troubled about its accuracy. Lacie dear (said in my best patronising David Cameronesque tones), did you weigh yourself on top of Mount Everest? Or maybe even on the moon? And another data point looks like an 'outlier'. Or can a dog really be 230 lb? Nearly two Gails?? If so, Mango, we predict high tides in the Estate Pool when you approach. As for Riley and Enzo - Newton himself would have been baffled by your measurement system. Lastly, on legal advice from Jed and Abbey, I decided to steer well clear of any of the data relating to the humans, cats and parrots...
I would also like to have discussed with you my interesting theory of "dog mouth/black hole equivalence", but sadly we have already run out of time today!