September 22nd, 2012


The Plot Hole Detective - an Occasional Series?

[SCENE: The Queen's Chamber]

So ma'am, I understand this is the room where the incident took place?

That's right, Lieutenant. Over there by the window. I was sewing, and I just pricked my finger.

Sewing, you say?

Yes - I was working at my embroidery.

Is this it? Do you mind if I take a look?

Of course not, Lieutenant. Be my guest.

Oh, this is lovely. This is lovely work. Mrs Columbo, she would just love to have something like this over the fireplace of our police cottage. She can't get enough of unicorns.

[Flattered] Thank you very much.

Now, can you show me exactly where you were sitting when the pricking occurred?

I was right here on this stool by the window. I sit there to get the best of the light, because it's such fine work.

Of course, I understand. Oh, and you get a wonderful view too, don't you? Forests, pasture, gardens - so beautiful. But don't you get a little cold?

Cold, Lieutenant?

Well, the snow is lying thick on the ground under your window, which is wide open.

That's because window glass is still a rarity at the time of this story.

My apologies. So, it's worth sitting by the window for the light, even though the cold is enough to make your fingers numb?

No one said it was easy, being a queen.

Indeed they did not. My apologies again. Oh, and I see you have an ebony window frame! Unusual.

It was a wedding gift.

And a very handsome one. Well, I don't think I need keep you any longer, ma'am. The pricking incident all seems fairly straightforward. May I say what a pleasure it was to meet you - and I can't wait to tell my wife about those unicorns.

[Smug] Any time, officer.

[Turning back at the door] Oh, there's just one more thing.

Yes? How can I help you?

When you pricked your finger - very understandable, given those numb fingers - you say you were sitting inside the room?

Of course. Where else would I be?

Forgive me. It's just that, if you pricked you finger inside, I'm confused as to why we found two drops of blood in the snow outside. Would you care to explain that?

I--er--I mean--

Because [clambers onto stool] it seems to me that if I were sewing on this stool here, in order for my blood to fall into the snow I'd have to lean right out of the window, over the sill, like so, and then prick my finger. You see? You see how awkward that would be? How implausible?

[The queen's shoulders sag, universal signal (along with the evil voice) of a fair cop] All right, Lieutenant. You got me. I did it for the symbolism.

The whole snow white, blood red, ebony black thing?

Of course.

I sympathise. But see, where you made your mistake was claiming on the accident insurance...


Pisan Cant

As ever, there is much to admire in this year's Ig Nobel prizes. But the winners of the Psychology prize struck a particular chord with me.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan [THE NETHERLANDS] and Tulio Guadalupe [PERU, RUSSIA, and THE NETHERLANDS] for their study "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller"

REFERENCE: "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation," Anita Eerland, Tulio M. Guadalupe and Rolf A. Zwaan, Psychological Science, vol. 22 no. 12, December 2011, pp. 1511-14.

This brought back vividly my one visit to Italy in 1995, or rather my departure from Pisa airport, when, looking casually from the plane window as we ascended, I saw the Leaning Tower pointing absolutely straight up, while the rest of Pisa slanted at a crazy angle. It was a most peculiar sensation. In accordance with Eerland et al's findings, I can confirm that the Tower also looked smaller than usual. But then, so did everything else.