Saturday, August 20, 2005

You should always carry with you a piece of string

After a thoroughly enjoyable fortnight of climbing trees and chasing squirrels, I have returned from the woods. Obviously I have been a little cut off from the usual cares of the world during this time, and so until I catch up on everything, I won't have anything terribly serious to write about. However in between raids on bird nests, I had time for some reflection, and I realised something important: I never have a piece of string available when I need one. I reasoned that there must be many others in a similar situation, and thought that this represented not only a business opportunity, but also a chance to really help people. And so I decided to do my best to provide Mankind with string.

Maybe you need a piece of string right now? In that case, I'll wager that you don't have one to hand. You're certain that you must have some string around the house somewhere, and in fact you're sure that you saw it lying around just last week, but you can't remember where. If at this moment, you don't need a piece of string, I'm sure that you can remember an occasion when you were faced with this very problem.

It used to be said (and this was probably one of Lord Baden-Powell's ideas) that a boy need not fear being caught unprepared to face an unexpected situation if he always carried with him a pocket knife, a sixpence and a piece of string very much like the one pictured here. I would adapt that advice for the Twenty-first Century by increasing the amount of cash to £10, but the principle remains sound. If you've read JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit, you may recall that just after finding the One Ring in the caves under the mountains of Barak-Skrudge (I forget the exact name), Gollum found himself looking for the answer to the question "What does it have in its' pocketses Preciousssss?" Well had Bilbo carried with him a piece of string, Gollum could have found himself strangled to death or tied up and abandoned in an underground cavern in short order, rather than just robbed of his birthday present.

If you were about to leave your home without a piece of string in your pocket, I strongly recommend that you give serious consideration to bidding for this item.

You'll notice that I have not so far approached the topic of the physical dimensions of this piece of string, and it may seem a reasonable question at first sight. However it is part of the very nature of string that it exists in a constant state of dimensional uncertainty. In fact, this state of flux also accounts for the elusiveness of pieces of string. At any given time, it is impossible to determine where a piece of string is and what its' dimensions are. This is hardly surprising if one is a believer in superstring theory of course, which basically holds that strings are the one-dimensional building blocks of the Universe. Specifically, the elemental particles that make up the atom are themselves simply composed of strings in varying degrees of excitation. I am not certain of the precise degree of excitation of the piece of string on offer here as I do not have a suitable particle accelerator to determine its state. Suffice to say that it is a splendid specimen of a piece of string.

Whether you were about to leave the house stringless, are interested in the fundamental fabric of the Universe, or simply want to make a temporary handle for an awkwardly-shaped package, this piece of string is for you!


Roberdin said...

If the length of the piece of string is in a perpetual state of quantum flux, wouldn't the post office's action of measuring the size of the packet within which it is contained unpredictably affect that piece of string's dimensions, possibly causing a delay in delivery, beyond the usual Royal Mail delays? Or is it perhaps possible that all previous delays are in fact a result of the onset of quantum mechanical uncertainty, and that when one receives a letter, one's action of reading the address to which the letter was sent alters that address in a random fashion so that it appears that you have received next door's post, when in fact it was the piece of string around which the parcel was tied under-going a change of quantum state?

Another one of life's mysteries explained by virtue of a piece of string.

Pine Marten said...

I refer you to E. Schrödinger, "Die gegenwartige Situation in der Quantenmechanik",, Naturwissenschaftern. 23 : pp. 807-812; 823-823, 844-849. (1935). I am afraid that unless the Royal Mail opens the packet in which I have packed the string, it cannot even tell whether or not the string is there, let alone how long it is. However my piece of string is currently in the post, and it will be interesting to see what state it is is when - and indeed where - it arrives.

Anonymous said...

The string doesnt exist. It's all in the MIND!

Pine Marten said...

If that was the case, I would be in breach of contract. I'm afraid that you are mistaken.

Anonymous said...

In this day and age would the boy still be allowed to carry a pocket knife (aka concealed weapon)?

Pine Marten said...

Yes, he would. Pocket knives are part of the very essence of being a boy. You may as well suggest that boys shouldn't run around shouting just for the hell of it.