Things you can do at home, such as nuclear fission

By Nury Vittachi

Sometimes I order weird stuff from Amazon and tick “same-day delivery” just to make Jeff Bezos swear. “@#$%! Someone wants the life-sized big foot statue! Get the extra-large drone!”

We nobodies have to use what little power we have. This comes easier to some than others.

This columnist, teaching a friend to drive, told him that he could not cross a white line painted on the road. “Of course you can! I’ll show you,” he replied, slipping across it. I told him he could not go through a red traffic light. “Sure you can,” he said, sneaking through a junction. This man is going to go far in life, assuming he survives.

Welcome to the era of making your own rules.

A few days ago, a motorist named Cai, 28, fed up of traffic jams where he lived in Lianyungang, Jiangsu, painted lines and arrows to reconfigure the roads. “Police painted over them but I think they should have tried his revised road markings for a week in case they worked better,” said a reader from China named Wen Wu.

Motorists in China have several times been caught making their own parking areas on the sides of roads, including one man earlier this year in Zhejiang province who found that holding a stick of chalk sideways makes a believably thick straight white line on road surfaces.

Also a few days ago, a man named Alex Bowen went into a 24-hour restaurant called Waffle House in the US state of South Carolina and found staff asleep. He slipped behind the counter and cooked himself a double Texas bacon cheesesteak with extra pickles. “He posted a picture of his adventure on social media, complete with a sleeping employee in the background,” said a contributor from the US. The food looked good.

The fact is amateurs are often better than professionals. I note that the BBC’s new TV show, featuring impersonators of stars such as George Michael, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, is called “Even Better Than The Real Thing”. Technically speaking, the title is right. Even this columnist can sing and dance better than the average corpse, albeit only marginally.

Of course there are some things that no amateur should ever do. I once cut my wife’s hair and the next time she went to a real hairdresser he almost died of shock. I hid behind a magazine in the waiting area.

But one should be ambitious. Some years ago, this columnist and his kids tried to split an atom at home. 1) You get a smoke detector and take out the smidgen of radioactive isotope that makes it work. 2) You buy a pre-1950 watch and extract the radium 226 that makes the hands glow. 3) You put the radium in a small box with a tiny hole in it. 4) You bounce the alpha rays that come out of the hole against tinfoil, resulting in free neutrons which can split an isotope atom. Unfortunately my wife thought nuclear fission might stain the kitchen table and told us we had to do it outside.

But it was raining, so we baked a cake instead.

(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and suggestions via his Facebook page)

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