SCIENCE IS YOUR FRIEND #1: A musician I knew a bit – I’d written a little story on him – invited me to his house, somewhere in Essex on the banks of the Thames. He was throwing a barbecue for family and friends, and it was a nice warm day, and I was having a nice time until he asked me, out of nowhere really, to write his official biography. I liked him, and felt a bit awkward just saying no way while I was still a guest in his house, so I carried on chatting with him about this and that, his life and beliefs. We got onto politics: he was very anti-nuclear, and part of his argument was that nuclear reactors are not found in nature. Aha, I said, not strictly true. In Africa there’s a stream which rises from uranium-rich soil, and in the stream (like most streams) there are mats of algae, and the uranium particles deposit in these, and build up into large enough quantities that they reach critical mass and the isotopes decay and bingo! they give off radiation and heat the water up. Anyway, I wasn’t intending to be argumentative, just exact, and I though this was an interesting story and told it with enthusiasm and bingo! never heard from him again.

(I realise on rereading the linked-to passage that I got the story wrong, because I thought these natural reactors still existed: so maybe it was my BAD science which was my friend that day… )