Saturday 30 August 2014

Nicht Argern, nur Wundern

Peronne, meet German Kultur
In the spring of 1917 the Germans made an orderly withdrawal on the Western Front over the ravaged battlefield of the Somme. In some places they pulled back over 20 miles behind their original lines. The planned pullback was strategic move to remove kinks and curves in their original front line. By straightening the line they could save on precious man power and 13 divisions could be garnered for operations elsewhere, perhaps. The operation was performed with thorough Teutonic efficiency and the allies could do little to harry the German rear guard. Behind, the Germans left a wasteland. What couldn't be removed was destroyed. Whole towns and villages were consumed. Everywhere the Germans planted ingeniously fashioned booby traps. 

The operation was also a tacit acknowledgement of defeat. The Somme battles of the preceding summer and autumn had severely mauled both the Allied and German armies. However, the Germans appreciated, that at the current rate of attrition, they would run out of men before the Allies did. They timed their manoeuvre to coincide with the inevitable Allied spring offensive and therefore the retreat had the added bonus of derailing the Allied  initiative.

The new position was called the Hindenburg line after indomitable German general, Paul Von Hindenburg. In reality Hindenburg, at this stage of the war, was more a symbol of the mighty German nation than an effective war leader. The real power behind the lines remained with the German 'Quarter Master,' Ludendorff. Nonetheless, the new line was formidable and had been designed in depth. Interlocking defenses and redoubts could be swept with gun fire and machine gun turning the front into efficient kill zones. The lie of the land had been incorporated to ensure the entrenched Germans exploited everything to advantage. It was hoped that the Allied armies would bleed to death on the German wire whilst the German army conserved it's strength deep in dugouts to await the time of the Great German Offensive.        

The withdrawal made sound military sense. The land the Germans occupied held no sentimental, or strategical value, to them. The giving up of land would increase the capacity of the German army to wage war and was a shrewd military move by the German High Command. However, it could not help but send a message to the German soldier on the front line, and even to the Allied High Command: 'Victorious armies do not retreat.' The adverse effect on German morale would not be immediately apparent and would have to await future battles before becoming manifest.  

The Germans, of all people, should have learned the lesson from previous wars: There is no such thing as an impregnable defense especially against an aggressive and determined enemy.

In the town of Peronne, the Germans erected a whimsical sign on the side of the ruined town hall, it read: 'Don't be angry, be amazed'. And who said the Germans don't have a sense of humour! Today the sign resides in the museum of war, in Perronne.  

Ludendorff, in repose

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Another Celebrity Pervert Revealed

Mr Vowel prior to his public hanging
Flaxen Saxon investigative reporter extraordinaire excels in his civic duty to apprise the good burghers of Tipton of the shocking news of yet another 'celebrity' pervert within our civic midst. It has been revealed that the incumbent Mayor, Mr Enoch Vowel, engaged in a lewd act (allegedly) 60 years ago whilst a pupil at Tipton Infant School. Miss Edith Mugumbo recalls the incident as if it was 59 years ago. In her own words: “I was making sand castles in the sand pit and distinctly recall Mr Vowel looking at me in a lewd manner and screaming ‘ I pooed my pants and want my momma’.  I am traumatised beyond belief and have been undergoing intense ‘behavioural therapy’ in order to rectify the intense psychological damage I have undergone. It is my fervent hope that the Tipton constabulary allow the local press to vilely and persecute this man on the basis of my sole testamony. And moreover, I won’t rest until a substantial amount of money is paid directly into my Bermuda bank account."
Mr Vowel was unavailable for comment and is believed to have fled to the neighbouring borough of Dudley. Tipton does not hold a reciprocal extradition treaty with the sovereign town of Dudley.

Mrs Mugumbo's ferret 'Shagger'- in repose

Sunday 24 August 2014

British Sea Power in the Great War

"I see no ships"

At the outbreak war of in 1914 Britain was the undoubted greatest world sea power. As an island and colonial power, Britain did not need a large army. The British professional standing army mustered a 125,000, many of these men were overseas. Although it was small, in comparison to continental armies, it was highly professional and well trained. It was designed to cope with police actions and small wars in British colonial interests and consequently unsuited for a great land conflict.

Therefore Britain's main contribution at the outset of war was its navy. Its army would only become important in deciding the outcome, if the war became prolonged. But as mentioned elsewhere, no one expected a long war.

At the outbreak of war the British navy swept away German naval commerce in an instant. This would not be an encumbrance if the war was short. However, if the war was prolonged then the denial of munitions and food from overseas would be an important factor in Germany's ability to wage war. By 1918 the German civilian population were undergoing severe privation and even starvation due to the British naval blockade.

The German army was Germany's prime instrument of war. Although Germany had a large navy, it was never exercised fully. Only on one occasion did it sally en mass from German ports to take on the British fleet. The outcome of the battle of Jutland in May 1916 was indecisive. On the basis of ships sunk and lives lost, the Germans came out on top. However, it was the German fleet that fled back to port and left the British fleet resplendent upon the high seas. The Germans never chanced their fleet in a major sea action with the British again. Instead they engaged in small scale raids on the English, east coast inflicting civilian causalities but having no material impact on the war. After Jutland the German High Fleet ceased to be a tactical or strategical instrument of war.

The situation for the British was somewhat different. The British fleet was a decisive factor in allied power. The fact the fleet existed, whether stationed on the high seas or in port, mattered little. The Germans of course also had their U boats, but that story will have to wait for another time. Churchill, after the battle of Jutland, had this to say: "Jellicoe (British admiral) is the only man, on both sides, who could lose the war in an afternoon." Typical Churchillian prose you might say, but on this occasion he was dead right. The situation for Germany was different. If Germany lost all it's ships in an afternoon it would not affect the German ability to wage war. For the Germans the best strategy was to aggressively engage the British navy. By destroying British warships it could influence the war's outcome even at the cost of losing its own navy. Instead the German navy remained impotent in German dock. A magnificent instrument of war wasted.

In November 1918 with the signing of the armistice, Germany was defeated. However, the German fleet received it's final order to engage the British in a final death ride. But, the years of enforced idleness in port had sapped the moral of the German sailors and they refused to carry out the order; at this stage of the war, who could blame them.

In the final analysis Germany was too preoccupied with the war on land and failed to appreciate how the High Seas Fleet could effectively engage the British. The Western front held a hypnotic fascination for the Germans and they failed to grasp the strategic importance of their superb navy, until it was too late : A wasted asset left to rot in port.          

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Agony Uncle

Fuck off I'm pondering

King Flaxen of the Saxon Tiptons has magnanimously decided to dispense his prodigious wisdom from the lofty perspective of his Great Throne in the Great Hall. Justice will be freely dispensed through the medium of Flaxen's double headed Danish war axe, 'Twat Cruncher' or his sword, 'Arse, Big Fat Arse Biter'.

Please feel free to submit your problems for adjudication and sound deliberation, unless of course Flaxen is drunk then justice will proffered according to whim.

Dear King Flaxen,
My boss is always asking me to work late. Whenever I produce a presentation he always passes it off as his own work to the CEO. I feel undervalued, disregarded and totally abused. How can I handle this problem so I receive credit for my hard work without upsetting my boss who could sack me in an instant.

Bewildered of Bilsley

King Flaxen pronounceth,
I advise a measured response. Request a private meeting with your boss and take the opportunity to reasonably outline your predicament. Whilst he is deliberating, engage him thusly with a novelty impression of Arthur 'no legs' Askey. This will undoubtedly distract him mightily and cause him to pause. Exploit the hiatus in proceedings and thrust your sword (which, until this point, was cunningly concealed in a fold in your scrotum) betwixt his short ribs. Once he has expired, place him prone, remove his lungs and place them tastefully on the torso until they resemble the wings of the 'blood eagle'. Once satiated, burn the body and dedicate to Woden.

Next week King Flaxen will tackle the vexed dilemma of choosing the right moisturiser to complement your delicate skin tone. Arrrrrrrse........                


Saturday 16 August 2014

The West Midland's Tourist Board Says: Come to Majestic Tipton.

A typical Tipton resident on her way to collect her state benefits

Tipton nestles in the heart of the West Midlands. And indeed is the heart, lungs and thymus gland of merrie old England. Founded in 927 by the mad Saxon king, Flaxen it has now developed into a breathtakingly ugly, urban sprawl, punctuated by pound shops, pawnbrokers and kebab restaurants.

The town prospered in the middle ages due to the booming demand for leper bells and delicate pastries. Today these industries have gone but the entrepreneurial spirit lingers like a fart on a windless day. The Tiptonites have always been adaptable to change. These days they can found hanging about street corners bedecked in shell suits and cheap jewelry selling crack cocaine to passing tourists and wandering minstrels.

The main tourist draw, remains, as always, its town centre. Meet the locals as they lurch drunkenly across the town square shouting the age old refrain: "can you spare 20 quid for a case of Special Brew." Colourful street entertainers regale tourists with their hard earned craft and skills. For 50p Lugless Douglas will berate you with tales of how he lost his pinna in a freak ear cutting off exercise whilst pissed. Listen to Maggie Mugumbo as she explains why a wild weekend in Skegness resulted in her being shagged sequentially by the Wigan rugby team during the interval of the match between Widnes and the Dudley Scapegoats circa 1972. I could go on, but the last bottle of red wine I drank has started to kick in. I digress.   

Come and sample Tipton's fabled cuisine. The delicacy of the region, 'faggots and peas' can be obtained from the plentiful and pitiful street vendors which abound and rebound and survive cheek by jowl with assorted charity shops and Kosher meat outlets. Faggots are made from only the tenderest of rat's arses marinated in boiled ferrets urine. Yum. Faggots are usually drizzled with peas which been fermented for several years before being impregnated with a green fluorescent dye, aptly labelled E60689056. Yum fucking Yum. As usual, I digress.

To be continued......   

Friday 15 August 2014

An Exercise in Power: The Great War

What do you think of Europe now, Mr N? 

The affairs of man have changed little over time. War and power politics are the province of human nature writ large. Nothing of the contemplation of a general, or statesman, of the Great War would have been incomprehensible to a Roman general two thousand years earlier. Only the scale and technology have changed; human nature has not.

At the outbreak of the First World War the Germans disregarded British power both on land and sea. This was from the narrow perspective of the 'quick war.' Traditionally Britain was not a great power in the continental sense, although its presence could not be disregarded. Britain had long had a privileged position when it came to continental war. It could partake as much, or as little, of the war as suited national policy. Shielded by its large navy, Britain, if it so desired, could act as a spectator and watch Europe burn; this was about to change.

Immediately prior to the first First World War, British policy changed. With a resurgent Germany, both military and economically, Britain could no longer watch and cynically meddle in Europe to maximise national advantage. Britain rightly surmised that the next war would be driven by Germany. Germany sported a magnificent army backed by an equally impressive economic infrastructure. This vigorous, proud, powerful and belligerent nation was a danger to British national interest. The best diplomacy decreed that she should be an ally. Now that would have been an interesting alliance. An alliance that could have taken on the world. But the German, or at least the Kaiser's insistence on a vainglorious German navy scuppered that route to world peace or domination.

At the outbreak of the war with Russia, and then France, the Germans hoped to contain the war and naively thought the British would stick to their old policy of watch and wait. After the expected quick, but violent war, the British would be left vacillating impotently on the periphery until intervention was futile. Not a bad plan but for one small point. The British also expected the Germans to win, whether the war was short, or prolonged, the eventual outcome would be the same; a Europe under German orders. The Germans saw this as their right, the British could not allow this to happen. A united Europe, albeit one coerced under German military power, represented a threat to the very survival of Britain itself. The Germans never appreciated this political fact, until it was too late.

Ostensibly Britain went to war with Germany over the violation of neutral Belgium. This was in accordance with a treaty, signed by Prussia, Britain and France after the Napoleonic wars in 1839. Britain did not go to war because German troops entered Belgium in August 1914; this was but a pretext. Britain could have easily ignored this old treaty, just as the Germans did. Interestingly, both France and Britain violated Greek neutrality later in the war because it was expedient to do so. Treaties after all, are only paper. Britain went to war to prevent Europe being dominated by German power, with all that entailed.

If Germany had truly appreciated the extent its vigorous foreign policy would affect the British then perhaps the Great War would have remained a figment of popular literature. But much of German policy, both national and international, remained in the hands of the intelligent but mercurial Kaiser. By temperament this man was unfit to rule. When William's rule was coupled with a compliant German political and war machine, the First World War was inevitable.        

Thursday 14 August 2014

Kim Jong Cunt to visit Tipton (and Netherton North)

Who ate all the pies?

Breaking news from Tipton's only daily, national newspaper, 'The Tipton Times (featuring North Netherton).' The glorious leader of the glorious Democratic Republic of North Korea, Kim Jong Cunt has deigned to visit the glorious spa town of Tipton and Netherton North. Mr Enoch Vowel, the Mayor of Tipton had this to say about the glorious impending visit: "This is a glorious opportunity to cement concord between our great nations and forge cultural and export opportunities." When pressed about the export opportunities, Mr Vowel waxed on accordingly: "In exchange for Tipton made main battle tanks, weapons grade plutonium and dog meat, Tipton will receive large quantities of glorious North Korean mud."

Mr Patel of 'Patel's novelty trinkets and assorted tat, emporium' has already been producing life size effigies of King Cunt out of weapons grade Bakelite. The figures stand a full 6 inchons high and accentuate the glorious leader's generous paunch and ill considered haircut. The North Korean embassy has intervened and 'requested' that the representations of the glorious leader be withdrawn and replaced with models which fully reflect the reality in the Democratic Republic of North Korea. The revised models will be fashioned from purest gold and stand a majestic 6 feet and 10 inchons high. There will be no paunch, or a hint of a shite haircut. Failure to comply will result in the accidental release of radioactive mud and dodgy noodles into the midst of Tipton town centre.

Mrs Hilda Mugumbo, a life long resident of the borough, had this to say: "Who gives a shit about that fat, ugly little slope." Tragically, later that day, Mrs Mugumbo was accidentally killed in a radioactive mud and noodle slide.



Wednesday 13 August 2014

Why is the Night Sky Dark?

Good man that Edgar Allan Poe

Consider the night sky and contemplate the myriad of stars as they scintillate, in a jewel bedecked, black dome. Well, not really, most of us have difficulty contemplating the night sky due to extraneous light from street lamps, neighbouring houses and burning buildings. In Nuzzyland there are still places where you can lie on your back and view the stars in er, resplendent splendour (arse). Under perfect circumstances you can observe several thousand stars with the unaided eye and even glimpse the lazy arc of the milky way as it meanders across the sky. If you are unfortunate enough to be sober, the stars twinkle, if not, they prance and reel incoherently across the night sky. Hic.

But have you wondered why the night sky is dark? We live in a universe full of stars. There are billions of stars in our galaxy and billions of galaxies in our universe, each consisting of billions of stars. That is a lot of stars. The night sky should, in reality, be incandescent bright. It wont do to say that stars thousands/millions/billions of light years away are simply too dim to make a difference. An 18th century astronomer, Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux showed by some simple, but neat geometry, that if you consider stars to be grouped in concentric shells around us, then those stars situated close will shine relatively brightly, whilst those stars in the outer shell shine less brightly. However, this difference in relative brightness is offset by the fact that there are so many stars in the outer heavens. Collectively, those stars in the outer 'rings' will shine as bright as those fewer, brighter stars, positioned closer. This is a simple model, but it illustrates the fundamental problem very clearly.      

Although the problem of why the night sky is dark was known to earlier astronomers, it was Heinrich Olbers in 1823 who posed the problem in a paper and offered a reasonable solution. Perhaps the vast interstellar gas clouds which  haunt the universe could be acting as a barrier, filtering out the light from trillions of stars. But no. Photons from all these shielded stars would, if given enough time, cause the gas clouds to glow as bright as the stars they hid.

The answer to this apparent paradox lies with the big bang  The big bang occurred 14 billion years ago and ever since, the universe has been expanding. Because the universe is 14 billion years old and light travels at a finite speed, we can only perceive those galaxies which are close enough for their light to have reached us. The rest, and most, of the universe is out of sight and therefore unable to contribute its light to our the night sky.

The solution to this problem is a 20th century solution. It took several branches of astronomy and modern  physics, including Einstein's insights into the connection between mass, space and time to solve this conundrum.

But there is a twist in the tale/tail, like all good science stories. Edgar Allan Poe penned this prophetic and insightful passage in 1848, a hundred years before science came up with a viable answer for the 'dark sky' paradox.  Of course, Poe was no scientist, and arrived at his conclusion through intuitive, poetic genius. Here is the passage; read and weep.

"Were the succession of stars endless, then the background of the sky would present us a a uniform luminosity, like that displayed by the Galaxy- since there could be absolutely no point, in all that background, at which would not exist a star. The only mode, therefore, in which, under such a state of affairs, we  could comprehend the voids, which our telescopes find in innumerable directions, would be by supposing the distance of the invisible background so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all." 


Sunday 10 August 2014

Arthur Askey: The Wonder Years

Arthur says: "Stop being a cunt"

Arthur Askey was born in the hamlet of Tipton on August 9th, 1836. He grew up in extreme poverty but despite great hardship he grew into a cheerful chappy. When he was nine, disaster struck. A freak yachting accident left him with a paralysed left nostril- he would never sniff again.

His parents had marked him out for a labouring job in heavy industry, but Arthur had other plans. At 16 he caught the number 12 bus and ran away to the neighbouring borough of Dudley. He quickly caught the eye of Peggy in personnel and was offered a position as a shelf stacker in Tescos. He would entertain shoppers with his comic impressions of the then incumbent Prime Minister, Clement 'Big Clem' Atlee.

At the age of 20 he managed to secure a position as the resident comedian and toilet cleaner at the Dudley town theatre. But as is often the case with comedians, tragedy struck a second time. During his act, which involved toad sexing whilst juggling a variety of exotic lards, his legs fell orf. By a freak chance of fate, 'No Fingers' McGee was practicing his chain saw extravaganza. McGees' act involved slicing cans of fruit to produce a delightful fruit salad. However, on this occasion, a passing fruit fly (Drosophilia melanogaster) so distracted him that he flung the chainsaw at 'Big Hearted' Arthur.

Arthur's legs caught the full brunt of the errant appliance and his legs rolled clean away and by chance ended up in the cheap seats. Arthur had never been a big man, but now devoid of legs, he remained a proud 2 foot 3 inches, without shoes.

Arthur remained undaunted and used to propel himself on a bespoke skateboard. By cruel irony he was secured to the board by a ragged piece of sinew which extended from one of his severed stumps. He would never walk again without the use of a cane.

To be continued........     

In the meantime, suck on this.


Saturday 9 August 2014

Von Schlieffen is Spinning in his Grave

The man with the plan
This is my third post in the series on the Great War. Few families in Britain were untouched by this conflagration. Both my grandfathers fought. My maternal grandfather was a professional soldier in 1914 and fought in the first battles in August.  He was captured by the Germans and spent the next four years in captivity. My paternal grandfather joined as part of the patriotic wave which overtook all combatants. Eventually he fought on the Somme in 1916. I knew this man as as a child. He never spoke to me directly; he never spoke about the war to my father. In fact he spoke little.

I will continue to post on the Great War. In keeping with the chaotic nature of my mind, posts will be in no particular order with regard to chronology or theme.  

The initial battles on the Western front were marked by much marching and ferocious encounters. The Schlieffen plan envisioned the Germans moving rapidly in a great arc through Belgium and Northern France, sweeping all before them before crushing the remnants of the allied armies near Paris. Once Paris was taken it had been determined that the French would capitulate and the war in the west would be over. The German armies would then move east to take on the Great Bear. The German timetable allotted 6 weeks for this part of the war; it was an audacious plan and completely divorced from reality. The German High Command, with breathtaking arrogance, expected their armies to brush aside armed resistance as a man would bat away a fly. The German army was to move as an unstoppable machine, but even well designed machines break down sometimes, or at least become deficient in times of mechanical stress. The allies resisted fiercely, first in Belgium, and then in Northern France, thus introducing grit into the well oiled, German, war machine.

The French also had a plan. On the out set of war they attacked on the border with Germany in an attempt to regain the lost provinces of  Alsace-Lorraine. The Germans had anticipated this move and intended to fight a purely defensive war- a holding action while their attacking armies decided the war further to the north and east. The French attacked with great courage, spirit and elan. Consequently the French were slaughtered in great numbers by an enemy well prepared in defense. The situation so favoured the Germans that they started to attack hoping to take advantage of the French chaos.

Further to the east, the battles were reaching a crescendo. At a critical moment the Germans transferred troops to the Eastern front thus weakening the German right wing. The Russians had mobilised faster than the Germans had decreed and had invaded East Prussia. However, the local commander in East Prussia defeated both Russian armies before the reinforcements could effectively intervene. It is interesting to ponder whether this transfer of strength to the east would have made a difference to the ultimate outcome in the west; I suspect not. The German armies had been severely mauled and the soldiers were becoming exhausted. The allies were falling back on interior lines and becoming more effective in defense.

To the east of Paris the German advance faltered and became vulnerable to a flank attack. The German High Command perceived the danger and ordered a general retreat. The allies advanced and there was talk of allied soldiers entering Berlin by Christmas. Then the Germans did something that no one anticipated, least of all the Germans. They stopped retreating and started to dig in. A few men with machine guns could dominate the ground and cut down whole companies of men. The allied advance halted and trench warfare began by default. Trench warfare would now dominate the war in the west almost to the end.      

Wednesday 6 August 2014

That Dalai Lamai is a bit of a cunt

I get my hair cut and glasses for free- beat that sucker

Banal, commonplace sentiments. But because they are supposedly said by an 'Eastern sage' we are supposed to be impressed. You have got to ask where the Dalai Lama gets his money so he can live a life of serene contemplation. Perhaps from the very folk he derides. When he earns a living as a truck driver he can come preaching to me.

Priests can only exist due to toil that is not their own.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Breaking Bad

No one looks their best on their mug shot. But some folk could make more of an effort........

 This fellow forgot to shave this morning. Yeah, I know shaving can be a bit of a chore, but how long would it take to scrape the fur off?

This be my happy face

I see dead people. In fact I see everything. Just a bit of advice: once you get out of prison, get your thyroid checked out 

I baby sit for beer

I also see everything- I'm god after all. Can't you read? 

Even god is entitled to a day off

I'm your friendly neighbourhood swamp monster

I eat children

I'm contemplating my inner child. And of course, the side of my nose

Children don't like me

'Black and Blue'

Sunday 3 August 2014

All the Fun of the Fair

The Welsh have never liked us 

Every year, at high summer, we have a fair on Tipton field. Folk from nine kingdoms come to mingle, swap stories and bodily fluids. This year we had a contingent of wretched screiling Welshmen. Short, dark and beetle browed, they are ill put together folk and given to much brooding.

So this year, with my wife Edith 'Swan neck' on my one arm and my beloved mistress Brynhildr on the other, I did indeed cut a dash. The contrast between the women could not be more pronounced. Lithe Edith. Graceful and slender of form. Red scintillating hair cut neat to her long, pale, neck and eyes of amber green. Small, pert, breasts lingering on a taut frame. Brynhildr, of the golden tresses, cascading over full voluptuous breasts. A full figured woman with haunting purple orbs.......  I digress. Stalls selling sweet meats and mead abounded. I took my hand to knocking the leper's heads clean orf with wooden balls. I managed four with six throws. In truth, one of the heads did linger by a strip of fetid sinew. But a quick flick with my trusty Dane axe 'Twat Cruncher' did dispel any doubts that the head would not roll. The stall owner did not think this should count and thereby tried to deny my right to a cuddly toy, so I killed him. Edith had the stuffed bear and Brynhildr sported a stunned badger.    

Toward the end of the evening we all became befuddled with drink. A scuffle broke out in the crowd. A Welshman suspended his brooding and began berating Loki concerning the appropriation of some Celtic land by his war band. I would liked to have said that we reasoned with him. But as we were all very drunk it was thought more expeditious to stab the Welshmen in the throat. Thus verbal dissension was curtailed. Afterward we tossed their bodies until the midden pit. And my wolf, Eingar, made much sport with their trailing entrails- O, we did laugh so.

And so the day did come to an end, on a happy note.       

                                                   The next Mrs Saxon, perhaps?

Saturday 2 August 2014

The Answer is 42

How can you not be inspired by the cosmic awe? When you contemplate the vastness, of time, space and the universe how can you not become giddy? As a child I was fascinated by boundary and infinity. When I looked to the night sky I saw a myriad of twinkling stars and wondered what lay beyond.

The human mind does not deal well with infinity. We live in a world of solid edges and our minds are hard wired to expect limits. Of course this does not mean we can't understand the concept of infinity. Think of a very large number and add one.

Cosmologists have been wrestling with the fundamentals of the universe for sometime. Has it always existed? Did it have a beginning? Is the universe enclosed or does it stretch on forever? The consensus suggests that the universe had a beginning about 14 billion years ago with the 'big bang'. In a moment all matter and energy, and time as we know it, exploded from a singularity. Ever since this matter has been expanding. On the way galaxies and stars coalesced and so we came into being. That being the case, the universe must have an edge. We can't see that edge although we can get close; cosmologists can observe the near beginning. When they reach out they can see the universe as it was some 13.6 billion years ago. A mass of swirling matter and energy. Because light travels at a finite speed (186,000 miles per second) it has taken light almost 14 billion years to travel from this region of space. We see the universe not as it is now but as it was in the unbelievable past.

It seems that galaxies are racing away from each other and heading toward the edge. Or perhaps the universe is just getting bigger. Ever since Einstein we understand the flexible nature of space and time. Some cosmologists think that if we ever leave the universe from one side we will simply enter the opposite side without even knowing. And we may not be alone. Some distant galaxies are not only dispersing, they seem to be drawn in a particular direction. Dark forces (dark flow) seem to be acting and pulling them toward, what? Perhaps to other universes which lie just beyond the edge of ours.

Cosmologists are now considering the possibility that many universes coexist. Imagine a cluster of bubbles. Each universe may have its own unique properties and laws and may look very different from ours. It is known that the conditions in our universe are very precise and that if properties were set slightly differently the universe would be a strange and alien place indeed. So strange, that stars, planets and hence life, and ultimately us, would be an impossibility. But imagine an infinite number of universes, or even just an extremely large number of them, each with its own set of physical principles- all different. That being so, the probability of a single universe being 'just right' doesn't seem so implausible. Playing the probability game can make your head hurt. But imagine a single grain of sand. Imagine all the sand grains which exist on the earth. The number of individual sand grains is unimaginably large. But if you could fly anywhere in the world, perhaps to a tropical beach or even to a remote desert and select a single grain of sand, the probability of you selecting that particular grain would be infinitesimally small. But regardless, there it is lying in the palm of your hand.    

If contemplating the universe doesn't give you a thrill, an atavistic chill, then you must be dead. On a lighter note, contemplate this video. It made I laugh, so it did. 

                                               And who said men can't multitask?