SLICE OF LIFE
WHY should anyone hold a microphone in front of the beak of a duck? That was what Professor Trevor Cox of Salford University (U.K.) was shown doing. The learned professor, an acoustics expert, was doing research to disprove the myth that a duck's quack had no echo. After making the duck quack several times into the microphone, the professor proved his point yet another feather in the cap of modern research.
If you come across an extremely good-looking man, for heaven's sake, do not call him a Greek God. Research has shown that the Greek Gods were not as handsome as they were made out to be. Experts at the Northumbria University found out that their sculpted features were not attractive to women. Some years ago, scientists associated with the British Museum claimed their research had shown that the famed beauty of Queen Cleopatra was just a myth. The Egyptian Queen was actually short, squat, plain and had buck teeth. Why then did Julius Caesar and Mark Antony fall for her? Don't ask me.
Poor Shakespeare is not free from such quixotic research either. There is still some dispute about the authorship of his plays with experts claiming that the genuine author could be either Marlowe or Lord Bacon. Today, our dear Will is being researched to find out if he was gay. Sir Ian McKellen, a scholarly head of a London gay group, is certain that Shakespeare was gay. Delving into history and folklore, American scholars came up with the "great" discovery that President Thomas Jefferson had fathered a black child, the mother being a Negro maid. Adolf Hitler's last days were spent in a Berlin bunker in the company of Eva Braun, but more than one researcher mentioned that Hitler had no interest in women. That did not stop him from ordering the slaughter of millions of innocent people.
But a lot of modern research is not so negative. I was excited to read that scholars and scientists at the University College of London claimed they had discovered the original of P.G. Wodehouse's famous Blandings Castle that figured in several novels. It was the home of the Ninth Earl of Emsworth who spent all his time and energy in bringing up his prize pig, the "Empress" and avoiding his bossy sisters.
The London scholars used modern computerised systems to locate the original Blandings Castle and found it somewhere near the Severn. In fact, the Wodehouse novels are a treasure house for avid researchers. Even at this time, scholars may be roaming the British countryside to find out the original Totleigh Towers, Market Snodsbury village, Junior Ganymede Club of which the incomparable Jeeves was a member and, of course, Bertie Wooster's own Drones club. Was there a role model for yet another famous character, Gussie Fink-Nottle whose hobby was the study of newts?
The more one delved into history, myth and folklore, the more one got hooked on to such research. Not many people may be interested whether a duck's quack echoed or not but the discovery of the original model of the Blandings Caste would be an event of celebration for the Wodehouse fans. There are hundreds of Sherlock Holmes fan clubs in England and some claim to be operating from the original Baker Street address. Some of these findings may be disappointing. I could not believe that the Greek Gods were not handsome. Paris must have been remarkably handsome for Helen to abandon her husband and elope with him. This type of research needs a second look.
Nearer home, if only the Ayodhya issue had not generated so much controversy and religious hatred, one could have looked forward to the discovery of Lord Ram's bow or his sandals brought to the city by his brother at the temple site, recently dug up by the Archaeological Society of India. This is how research should be viewed. Let historians and scholars take over, not religious bigots.
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