Science is not my strong suit, but even I know the worth of lasers – eye surgery, sawing James Bond in half. But a recent report suggests myriad uses for these devices, from combating climate change to detecting fake whisky.

According to Dr Robin Head, a scientist at M Squared Lasers, the use of lasers is why “we can suddenly differentiate between white powders. We can tell whether someone might be an international drug dealer or a pastry chef.” I don’t wish to come over all flat earther, but surely if you moisten your finger, dip it into said powder and taste, you might just as easily be able to tell the difference. Still, it could explain why I keep having such a run of failure with my Colombian yorkshire puddings.

Moving along to the wonderful world of the City. The beleaguered fashion company Ted Baker finds itself unable to account for a £25m error in its accounts and has called in “a magic circle law firm”, which I can only hope means that they have called up Tommy Cooper.

Elsewhere, the outgoing Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has warned that up to £15.5tn of “stranded assets” could be wiped out by climate crisis. Which conjures up nothing but images of beached whales. And what are we to make of “bumpitrage”, which I saw cited in a recent business article? Thank heavens for Collins for the following: “When activist investors or others buy shares that have agreed to be acquired and push for a higher price.” No, me neither.

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Finally, a belated but blessed vote of thanks to John Richards, the valiant champion behind the Apostrophe Protection Society, who, at 96, has thrown in the towel, exasperated, I suspect, by the besmirching of language and punctuation. I salute his proud fight and share his despair.

Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist



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