One thing that has bothered me over the years is the number of occasions when some research or discovery has been announced where all that has happened is that the wheel has been re-invented. That’s bad enough but when the old wheel was round and the new one resembles the Austin Allegro Quartic Steering wheel, I wonder why they bothered.

Some years ago, the BBC announced on the 6 o’clock News the invention of spectacles with variable focal lengths; the lens consisted of two pieces of plastic with the gap between them filled with fluid. This “news” item was simply an advert for a QED programme later that evening. I pointed out to the BBC that this was not an “invention” as a similar – and apparently better – device had been shown a few decades previously on their “Tomorrow’s World” program. Their response was that I was wrong because the system had been invented in the 19th century. Eh?!

A couple of years ago, a “shock” discovery showed that people who drank more milk than average were less likely to suffer heart trouble. I’d no idea why scientists were saying this was so shocking as I knew of a couple of other pieces of research published a decade or two earlier that came to the same verdict. I guess there’ll be yet another “shocking” piece of research in a few years that will say exactly the same.

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