Hit & Run: Eat your hearts out, Brangelina

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The Independent Online

It is, depending on your tittle-tattle tolerance levels, the most cockle-warming or barf-inducing celebrity story of the new year. What started as a whirlwind romance between Russell Brand, the bouffanted comedian and former sex addict, and "I kissed a girl" pop star, Katy Perry, has gathered pace in recent weeks to become a tornado of hand-in-hand pap shots, lovey-dovey Twitter exchanges and, during a New Years Eve trip to India, a proposal blessed by a "love guru".

There they were, wrapped up in scarves – and each other – on the terraces watching Brand's beloved West Ham (on another occasion she turned up at an awards ceremony wearing a claret-and-blue corset). Then came a mission to Austria, where a nervous Brand got the thumbs up from Perry's parents. Before the engagement, Perry tweeted a photo of the pair in front of the Taj Mahal with the caption "he built this for me".

Anti-cynics might believe the pair are engaged in a true romance, but with the steady stream of self-conscious updates and rumours last weekend of a pregnancy (according to observers reading between the 140-character lines of Perry's sometimes cryptic Twitter feed) Brand and Perry would appear to be taking shape as the latest celebrity power couple. Voracious gossip mags and ad men strip every ounce of flesh from brands Brangelina and Beckham, but do they have an appetite for RussKat?

The results of a poll of three PR kingpins are inconclusive. Max Clifford doubts that the pair has what it takes rub shoulders with the pros. "If you take Posh and Becks as the ultimate celebrity couple – constantly milking and working the media – it doesn't fit that Brand would want to conform," he says. "He likes to be outrageous and irreverent."

Mark Borkowski agrees that Brand's proclivity for scandal – his rehabilitation after the Sachsgate affair is arguably ongoing – is a stumbling block. "Maverick brands struggle to generate traction with the corporate entities that would invest in them for anything meaningful as a campaign," he says.

But the former News of the World and Hello! editor, Phil Hall, thinks Brand's brand might work in his favour. "He's always unpredictable and she's obviously gorgeous and has a slight mystique of her own," he says. "They don't play the game in the traditional way and that will be intriguing rather than a turn-off." So no billboards featuring Brand and Perry in posh underwear, but if the whirlwind keeps spinning, their combined clout may result in a feeding frenzy (sunglasses and beanie makers should reach for the phone now, judging by recent photographs of the couple).

If RussKat does sweep into the national consciousness, just remember where you heard it first. Simon Usborne

Hip hop lyrics don't deserve a bad rap

Last week, Andrew Motion, the former Poet Laureate, aired his concern at schools introducing rap lyrics into English lessons to help children understand poetry. The approach, encouraged by a Government initiative, he said, could bar children from the "palace" of the genre. But in New York, birthplace of rap, Tahir Hemphill, a creative strategist, is conducting a research project called Hip Hop Word Count (Hiphopword count.com), to calculate the education level required to understand hip hop lyrics.

Studying rhymes by artists including Jay-Z (left), Kanye and Tupac, he has rated "the artistic sophistication employed through the metaphors, similes, cultural references, consonantal/vocalic alliteration and overall pattern of each rhyme". Resulting scores go from 0 (illiterate) to 20 (post-graduate degree). The project is ongoing – but he's calculated that Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents II" (score: 16), rates higher than Barack Obama's pre-election "A Serious Energy Policy" (score: 12). What does Mr Motion make of that? Kate Burt

Cows feel the winds of (climate) change

It's not just ill-mannered, it could affect the future of our planet: 4 per cent of the greenhouse gases Britain produces comes from farting livestock. McDonald's, still on the charm offensive post-Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, has set about making amends for the 350,000 cattle it slaughters annually for British burgers. It has announced it is about to conduct a three year study into their pre-abattoir methane emissions.

"This ground-breaking project will help drive further reductions in our beef supply chain," said McDonald's UK chief executive Steve Easterbrook. So bar the introduction of extra-thick cattle pants, what's the solution?

Some Australian scientists have discussed isolating bacteria from kangaroo stomachs and transferring them to cattle and sheep. Kangaroo guts contain 40 microbes – the exact workings of which are still unknown – which prevent the marsupials from emitting methane. Alternatively, researchers from University College Dublin last year suggested we add 2 per cent of fish-oil extract Omega 3 (normally reserved for arthritis sufferers) to their feed. That would reduce the amount of methane the cattle produce by a fifth. And if these remedies fail, what about using cattle effluent to power the National Grid? That is a possibility, according to US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. He suggested using anaerobic digesters to create power from manure. Whatever we decide, we'll certainly see more cows stocking up on Yakult in Tesco. Rob Sharp