Beyond nuts and bolts

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The Independent Online
Beyond nuts

and bolts

The sceptical temper of the age is perhaps not all it's cracked up to be. At an International Colloquium on Lightning held in Zimbabwe this month, the 100 or so scientists all sniggered on cue when a local witchdoctor was invited on stage to have his say.

He agreed with the mechanistic explanation of lightning, but also offered the view that lightning could be invoked by witchcraft. He brought out his kit - two calabashes containing all the ingredients needed to make lightning strike - and asked for a volunteer.

An inexplicable dread suddenly overcame the massed empiricists. They gazed at their shoes, examined their nails, avoided one another's eyes - and not one would take up the challenge. Nil-one to the ineffable mysteries.