Life on Mars is a real gas

I REMEMBER many years ago stumbling across the remarkable fact – if it is one – that most of the methane in our atmosphere comes from little bubbles released by fish.

I REMEMBER many years ago stumbling across the remarkable fact – if it is one – that most of the methane in our atmosphere comes from little bubbles released by fish.

Most of the rest, apparently, originates in the guts of cattle and sheep.

Then there are the Dutch. A splendid natural gas experiment was launched some time back in a new suburb of Amsterdam.

The idea was that all the human waste from a development of new flats should be used to create gas, which would provide the residents with all their cooking and heating power.

As renewable energy sources go, it has an unbeatable logic. And it gives new meaning to the old adage about getting off the pot if you can't perform.

Now space scientists report traces of methane in the Martian atmosphere.

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This apparently does not mean aliens hiding behind the rocks, giving themselves away with the fumes from their digestive systems. But it is being taken as further exciting evidence of life.

Methane, it seems, is almost certain to originate in microbes, though not necessarily the ones that inhabit the intestines of mammals and fish.

The boffins aren't looking for little green men – just little green traces of mould.


I DON'T care about his love life. I don't really care when or how often he's had cosy chats with officials of Chelsea FC. Surely everyone's entitled to seek a better (or better-paid) job, or at least listen to offers.

But I do think the FA have boobed in rushing to tie Sven Goran Eriksson down to a longer, even more lucrative contract.

Right now, just a few weeks before a major tournament, is not the time to be changing the England manager. But I'd have been happy to see Sven leave after Euro 2004, however England fare in Portugal (and don't expect miracles).

He may have a decent record of results with – let's face it – a pretty mediocre bunch of players. But would you pay millions to a man who still believes, despite years of evidence to the contrary, that Emile Heskey is an international-class footballer?

That Joe Cole's showing off will ever be useful?

That friendlies in which only three men play the full 90 minutes serve any purpose at all?

This summer should have been the time to say bye-bye to Mr Dull. I'd like to see how the best English manager, Alan Curbishley, manages the best English players.


NOW here's a parable for our times.

A man leans out of a hot-air balloon and yells to a woman out walking her dog.

"Excuse me," he shouts, "can you tell me where I am? I'm supposed to be meeting someone."

"Certainly," she replies. "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30ft above the ground. You're at 52 degrees four minutes north, one degree ten minutes east."

"You must be in information technology," says the balloonist.

"How can you tell?" asks the woman.

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically precise, but I've no idea what it means, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed me."

"Oh," the woman responds. "You must be in management."

"I am," says the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," says the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going.

"You've risen to where you are thanks to a lot of hot air and you expect people below you to solve your problems.

"You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

Now, how many of the people nodding vigorously as they read this are managers?