22nd March 2013 at 00:00

Being economical with the truth

Nobel prize winning economist, beard-wearer and indie rock enthusiast Paul Krugman has a book out, so last week he took to a dodgy satellite feed from Princeton University to appear on Newsnight and Channel 4 News.

Which of the government's economic giants squared up to his claim that austerity is hurting the economy? Alas, everyone in the Treasury appeared to be busy, so FE minister Matthew Hancock, an economist by training, appeared.

And he seems to think he did rather well. "Amazing discussion," he reported back on Twitter. "Astonishingly, he argued record employment in the UK was bad news."

Naturally, Mr Krugman argued nothing of the sort. What he said was: "There's been a collapse of productivity: the British economy is producing less but somehow employing more people. That's a puzzle, but it's not a good thing. There's a lot of part-time work." It's clear he was talking about the quality of work and underemployment, before Mr Hancock started talking over him.

This blatant spinning has FErret wondering if he can take Mr Hancock's other comment, made between the Channel 4 News debate and Newsnight, at face value: "Hope the (satellite) link works this time ." Mr Hancock's yelp of laughter when his counterpart was cut off sounded suspiciously like the relief of a nervous man.

An explosive mix

Stockton Riverside College physics teacher Bernard Taylor organised a festival of science last week to inspire students to take up boffinry. His own contribution was a demonstration of the fun fact that flour can cause explosions, called the Exploding Custard Roadshow.

Let's hope he's not hoist with his own petard, however: "Exploding Custard" is the well-protected trademark of science educator Ian Russell. "The Trade Marks Registry confirms that I was the first person to invent and use the phrase `Exploding Custard'," he says.

If Mr Taylor needs a defence, perhaps FErret can help. Although Mr Russell was using the term in 1990, it goes at least as far back as a seminal 1982 episode of Danger Mouse. To the rescue once again!

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