Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Committee

They say bad luck comes in threes, dear blog reader. Well yer actual Keith Telly Topping has had two in about three hours today - the blender broke and now it looks like the fridge is cattled as well. Brilliant, what next, I wonder? It just seems to be one thing after another that the moment, what with Mama Telly Topping's illness and various other far more minor, but extremely annoying, happenstances and discombobulations in their malarkey and shit. Every electrical item yer actual Keith Telly Topping seems to touch these days goes 'fizz, pop, I died.' It's not the money that's an issue (a new fridge, what, a hundred and twenty notes-ish? A hundred and fifty if I go for a slightly better one), it's just the clart of getting stuff delivered, getting the old one taken away, clearing up the mess, et cetera. As if I haven't got enough on my plate already without this crap to complicate matters. Ah, don't worry about me, dear blog reader, I'm just sick today, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has just about had a-frigging-nuff. Anyway ...

BBC America has confirmed the US premiere date for the new series of Doctor Who. The BBC's popular long-running family SF drama's seventh series (or, you know, thirty third if you're counting in old money, as it were) will début on Saturday 8 September at 9pm (8pm central time). A UK transmission date for the new episodes is yet to be confirmed by the Beeb, though in previous years Doctor Who has always received its first screening on BBC1 and is almost certain to on this occasion as well. Last year's début episode The Impossible Astronaut was broadcast on the same date - 23 April - in both the UK and US, with British viewers receiving the episode first due to the time difference. The show's 2012 run will launch with the Steven Moffat-written Asylum of the Daleks, the first of five final adventures for companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill).

Meanwhile, Jenna-Louise Coleman and Matt Smith have been photographed on the set of this year's Doctor Who Christmas special in Bristol.
Earlier shots from locations in Wales had shown Life on Mars actress Liz White on the set, apparently playing a guest role in the festive episode. New images show Coleman's companion in a scarlet corset, Smudger's Time Lord wearing a new outfit and top hat, and a horse-drawn carriage ploughing through the snowy streets.

Sir Tom Jones has given the biggest indication yet that he is rejoining The Voice for a second series. Just in case, you know, you were worried or anything. The Welsh singer had previously admitted that he would only sign up again if he liked the other coaches. Speaking to the NME at the V Festival, Jones claimed that Jessie J is 'considering' a return, and suggested that will.i.am and Danny O'Donoghue are 'most likely' to continue on the BBC1 singing contest. Jones is quoted as saying: 'We're talking about it now. The BBC would like me to do another one and I did have a lot of fun doing the first one.'

Comedian yer actual Stewart Francis has his very self won an award for the funniest joke of the Edinburgh Fringe. The deadpan Canadian comic - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping was given the prize by digital channel Dave, whose panel put a selection of their favourites to a public vote. He won for the joke: 'You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks.' Good one. The British king of the one-liner, Tim Vine, took the runner-up spot for the second year in a row. His joke was: 'Last night me and my girlfriend watched three DVDs back to back. Luckily I was the one facing the telly.' Heh. Very good. Vine, who won the award two years ago, appears twice in the list of ten jokes compiled by the TV channel, as does Francis. Stewart, who made his Edinburgh début fifteen years ago, has made appearances on British TV shows such as Mock the Week and Live at The Apollo. Although born in Canada, both of Stewart's parents are British and he lives in the UK full-time with his Scottish wife. Of his win, Stewart said: '1969 West Mall Soccer Association's Most Valuable Player, and now this!' Wild and crazy guy.

Richard Herring - the funny one out of Lee and Herring - is reportedly developing a historical sitcom set in pre-revolutionary Russia for the BBC. Ra-Ra Rasputin (working title, though a good one) is said to be 'surreal, satirical and slightly insane' and influenced by the likes of The Black Adder, 'Allo 'Allo and The Adventures of Baron Muchausen. Centred on the 'unreliable memoirs' of Grigori Rasputin – who is said to have invented Europop in the show – the historical setting was chosen for its parallels with modern Britain. Producers Avalon said: 'The super-rich are partying their way to disaster, whilst the poor starve, corrupt newspaper bosses and police chiefs, aristocratic public school educated politicians who have an arrogant disregard for the people they rule over, greedy bankers and a benign but out of touch and superstitious monarchy.' Uncannily accurate, but will it be funny? Herring is currently celebrating his Edinburgh Silver Jubilee with a reworking of his 2002 show, Talking Cock. His 1993 show was a play, also called Ra-Ra Rasputin, and when he appeared on Celebrity Mastermind in 2010, he chose the religious leader as his specialist subject.

Victoria Pendleton has revealed that she would be 'interested' in joining Strictly Come Dancing. The Olympic gold medallist - and stone cold fox on a bike - has recently been linked with a spot on this year's competition on BBC1. She explained that the prospect of trying something new would be fun. 'If they do ring me I'll be very interested I must say,' she told Lorraine's Kate Thornton. 'It definitely appeals to me. After wearing lycra suits for so long it would be fun.' Don't diss the lycra suits, Vicky, they were just fine. Queen Victoria recently said that she is 'looking forward' to feeling 'a bit more feminine' since retiring from the sport after a glittering career that included two Olympic golds. Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah were all alleged to be featuring in a future Olympics-themed X Factor episode in a preposterous article in the Sun. Three of those four have denied having spoken to anyone even remotely connected too The X Factor and two of them - Sir Chris and King of the Mods Brad - have stated they would not do so even if they were to be asked. So, it's starting to look like, as with so many stories which originate in that particularly odious tabloid, this is nothing more than a load of made-up bollocks containing quotes from entirely fictitious 'sources.' So, no change there, then.

When Tom Bradby arrived in Belfast as ITN's newly-appointed Ireland correspondent in 1993, The Troubles were raging, Bishopsgate had just been bombed and the peace process was no more than a whispered rumour. The new film Shadow Dancer – adapted by Bradby from his late 1990s novel of the same name – shows how far we have come since then. 'It really hit home for me when I saw the Queen shaking hands with Martin McGuinness the other month,' says Bradby, now ITN's political editor. 'I was gobsmacked by that and very uplifted by it too. It shows that anything is possible in the world.' Shadow Dancer, to be released on Friday 24 August, opens in the early 1970s before switching to the 1990s when the British security forces had infiltrated every level of the Provisional IRA. Andrea Riseborough plays a Republican single mother who is coerced into spying on her extended family by an MI5 agent, played by Clive Owen. Both protagonists are eventually revealed to be pawns in a far wider game – and forced to rely on each other in order to survive. The film is based on Bradby's own experiences in Belfast, where he lived from 1993 to 1996. His tenure covered the IRA ceasefire, Bill Clinton's Belfast rally and the fraught run-up to the Good Friday agreement. 'It was my good luck to be there at a crucial time,' he said. 'I only got the job because the older, more experienced reporters didn't go for it. They were sick of the place and assumed that nothing would ever change. But three weeks into the job I heard the first whispers that the IRA were thinking about taking a different path. Some colleagues were very cynical – they thought it was a trick. But I knew nothing about anything. I came without any baggage, which was probably for the best.' Shadow Dancer was directed by James Marsh, the British film-maker who won an Oscar for his 2008 documentary Man on Wire. Marsh admits that he initially hesitated over the project, reluctant to excavate such painful recent history. 'It was about Ireland and The Troubles, and we are all glad to have got beyond that,' he said. Yet Bradby feels that the film's themes speak to today's headlines as much as to the archive. 'The film is set in Northern Ireland, but it could have been anywhere. It's about people caught up at the heart of a vicious conflict and the choices they make in a life or death situation. A similar situation might just as easily be taking place in Cairo or Aleppo.' Shadow Dancer premiered at the Sundance festival earlier this year, where it was greeted by very positive reviews. The Hollywood Reporter called it a film of 'riveting assurance' while the Gruniad Morning Star saw it as 'a raw reminder of a sad and painful past.' On leaving Northern Ireland, Bradby progressed through stints as ITN's Asia correspondent and royal correspondent. He currently juggles his day job as political editor with his sideline as a novelist and is in the process of adapting another of his books – the Shanghai-based historical thriller The Master of Rain – for the screen. Meanwhile, his recent visits to Belfast have reminded him how far the city has travelled in the past two decades. 'I think I've always been more interested in humanity than politics,' he said. 'The best stories are the ones about the ordinary human beings who are caught in the vortex, mired in the misery. What's most inspiring about Northern Ireland is the way in which the people caught in that vortex were able to march themselves out of it.' In so doing, perhaps, they set an example for the politicians. 'I'll tell you what was even more remarkable than McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen,' said Bradby. 'It was watching McGuinness and Ian Paisley sitting together at Stormont as though they'd been mates forever, laughing away like The Chuckle Brothers. We could never have conceived of that twenty years ago – the idea that two men with that much history would ever arrive at that kind of relationship. Although maybe it was that recognition of shared history that allowed them to get there. Maybe they got to the point where they stopped making judgments. They recognised that they had both been in the same boat all along.'

Twelve years after giving up full-time acting to focus on fighting Parkinson's disease, Michael J Fox will star in a new TV comedy based on his illness. The Back to the Future star will play a father of three dealing with the degenerative nervous system disorder. NBC television called Fox 'utterly relatable, optimistic, and in a class by himself.' In recent years, Fox gradually returned to TV with recurring roles in the likes of Boston Legal and The Good Wife. However, the new twenty two-episode sitcom marks his first long-term commitment to a show since he left political comedy Spin City in 2000. 'I have no doubt that the character he will create - and the vivid family characters surrounding him - will be both instantly recognisable and hilarious,' said NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt. Fox made his name in the 1980s TV comedy Family Ties, winning three EMMY Awards for his role as the Nixon-loving, Reagan-worshipping teenager Alex Keaton. His movie career took off when he played teen adventurer Marty McFly in the Back to the Future franchise and starred in horror spoof Teen Wolf. In the 1990s the fifty one-year-old actor's role in TV political comedy Spin City won him another EMMY, three Golden Globes and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991, Fox took the decision to semi-retire from acting in 2000 as his symptoms worsened. He founded the Michael J Fox Foundation dedicated to finding a cure for the disease, promoting the development of improved therapies and raising public awareness. The Canadian actor continued to guest star in shows including Scrubs and Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as doing voice-over work for the Stuart Little movies. Filming for the new sitcom, loosely based on Fox's own personal life, will start this year with the rest of the cast still to be announced. The actor said he was 'extremely pleased' to be working on the show. In May he told ABC News that a new drug regimen had helped him control the tics which are often a result of the disease and could allow him to take on more acting roles. 'To bring Michael J Fox back to NBC is a supreme honour,' said Greenblatt. 'We are thrilled that one of the great comedic television stars is coming home again.' The as-yet-untitled series will be broadcast from autumn 2013.

New Tricks actress Amanda Redman has caused something of a fair old shit-storm after she told the Radio Times that she considers the show is 'more bland now' and that the characters are not as 'anarchic' as it used to be. Her co-stars Alun Armstrong and Dennis Waterman then appeared to agree with her assessment. 'My character has got saner. Which I'm not too enamoured with,' Armstrong told the magazine. Waterman added: 'We're always talking about history and some writers - not all of them - can go on and on, repeating themselves.' The actors have just finished filming the ninth series of the very popular police drama based on a trio of retired former detectives and their - female - boss who solve cold cases, the first without James Bolam, who announced he was leaving last year. The eighth series attracted the show's highest ever ratings. Waterman added: 'You have to remind yourself that people aren't as stupid as writers think. But that's the way things are going in the industry. Basically, we all want to move to Copenhagen to get to do some extraordinary television.' Armstrong said: 'We put a lot of time into making the scripts work. If we felt that a story didn't work, or that bits of the story could be improved, then - if the writer wasn't around - we would set about re-writing it ourselves.' Although the cast did not single out any particular writer, one of the show's mainstays seemingly took proper umbrage at the reported comments. 'A New Tricks I wrote and directed airs on Monday. I can tell you exactly how much of it the actors wrote: not a comma,' said Julian Simpson on Twitter getting his knickers right in a right old twist. 'The following week, Sarah Pinborough's episode is on. I directed that too. Cast contribution to script? Big fat zero. I was going to be writing today, instead I'm just going to hand the actors a pad and pen. I wish I'd learned this fifteen years ago,' he added, before noting: 'Worth saying that I get on phenomenally well with the New Tricks cast. Just don't appreciate actors speaking out of turn and they know that.' Ooo, get her! And now, stand back and marvel as either Julian or Amanda gets his (or her) P45 forthwith. If not sooner. Former EastEnders actress Tamzin Outhwaite, who appears in the forthcoming series, replied to Simpson's comment: 'Oh dear! I had a great time on it.' The first series of New Tricks was broadcast in 2004 and it is one of the BBC's most popular dramas. yer actual Keith Telly Topping quite enjoys it, let it be noted. The ninth series has already been filmed and will begin later this month, with a tenth already confirmed for 2013. Redman recently announced that the tenth series would be her last. Denis Lawson replaces James Bolam in the forthcoming ninth series.

Tax inspectors have raised concerns over MPs claiming 'accountancy fees' on expenses, documents released under a Freedom of Information request reveal. You remember MPs, dear blog reader? They're the scum of humanity who, a week ago were criticising British workers (tax payers and, therefore, the people who pay MPs sodding wages) as 'too lazy.' Was that sup[posed to be dramatic irony, or what? HM Revenue and Customs officials said they were 'concerned' that the fees might amount to personal benefits - on which tax would be payable - rather than work-related costs. But the MPs' expenses watchdog replied that they were a 'business cost.' The e-mail exchanges were seen by the Gruniad Morning Star newspaper who, seemingly, thoroughly enjoyed revealing their contents to an astonished nation. The MPs' expenses scandal, which broke in May 2009 and led to the resignation of many parliamentarians at the last general election, prompted calls for reform. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which was set up later that year to oversee the altered system, has prompted complaints from many MPs that its procedures are too complex and that its behaviour has been heavy-handed. Yet, in this case, it is defending their tax arrangements. In response to a Revenue and Customs inquiry, it said MPs had a right to hire an accountant to fill in expenses forms and tax returns on their behalf and that the cost of doing so - up to five thousand smackers a year - should not be taxed. This, IPSA argued, was because MPs are effectively self-employed and deserved the same tax settlement as small businesses. But, in a sometimes tetchy exchange of e-mails, which appears to have begun in July, a tax official wrote: 'Even allowing for the unique position of MPs, it would be difficult to see how such an expense is necessarily incurred in the performance of their duties.' In another e-mail, they raised concerns that the MPs' costs were 'personal rather than wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of the member's parliamentary function.' An IPSA spokesman told the BBC that the exchanges were 'normal' and part of most organisations' annual dealings with the HMRC.

Russian investigators are reported to be searching for other members of the punk band Pussy Riot who took part in the anti-Putin protest in Moscow's main cathedral. The search is separate from the trial which led to three band members being jailed for two years - a verdict that drew an international outcry. Police have not named the new suspects, nor said how many are being sought. Police have also questioned ex-chess champion Garry Kasparov for allegedly biting a policeman's hand at a protest. Kasparov denied the allegation and accused the police of having detained him unjustly and hit him. Hard. He was arrested with several other opposition activists outside the Moscow court before the Pussy Riot trio were sentenced on Friday. The women were convicted of 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.' Along with other members of their band, they staged a flashmob-style performance of a protest song near the altar of Christ the Saviour cathedral on 21 February. Reports say two other band members participated. But last week seven unidentified Pussy Riot members in balaclavas met Western journalists and said the trial had only made them more determined. The three sentenced on Friday said they did not know the other band members' names, because they had an anonymity rule and just used nicknames for each other. The British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has published a two-page open letter of support for Pussy Riot, joining other global celebrities in deploring the Russian authorities' handling of the case. Course, that fact that they're, you know, in jail and, therefore in all likelihood without access to a computer, means they're probably going to be able to read it. Plus the fact that it's written in English. Might've been a better idea, Stephen, to have written it in Russian, printed it out, stuck it in an envelope and actually sent it to them, as a 'closed' letter care of The Gulag. It's a well-written piece, for all that - Fry condemns the 'monstrous injustice and preposterous tyranny' in the case, calling the women's two-year prison sentence 'astoundingly unfair and disproportionate. Putin hasn't made a monster of himself. He has made a fool of himself. It is often said that had the world laughed at Hitler early enough he would never have taken the hold on power he did. I do not call Putin a Hitler. Yet. But it is time to laugh him out of this stance and you out of incarceration,' Fry wrote. All of which is, undeniably true but, one imagines, it's hardly likely to have The Butcher of Grozny sleeping uncomfortably in his bed at night. In Helsinki on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against over-reacting, saying the judicial process had not yet been exhausted. 'There is still the possibility of filing an appeal and the lawyers for the young girls plan to do so,' he said, quoted by AFP news agency. 'Let's not draw any rash conclusions and go off into hysterics,' he said. Which, presumably, means that in a few weeks time, the Russian government will show clemency as make a big show of how merciful they are. Personally, if I was one of the pussy Riot girls, I'd stay exactly where I was and let the bastards sweat.

The Onion's take on that odious slime bucket Todd Akin's reported comments on the subject of rape over the weekend is suitably forthright in a spoof article entitled I Misspoke — What I Meant To Say Is 'I Am Dumb As Dog Shit And I Am A Terrible Human Being'. One which this blogger hugely recommends: 'As a politician, I often find myself in situations where, unfortunately, I express a certain thought or idea poorly, or find my words taken out of context. Indeed, that is what happened this weekend. Upon reviewing the impromptu remarks I made Sunday afternoon, I can now see that I used the wrong words in the wrong way. I would now like to set the record straight with the American people and clear up some confusion about what it was I intended to convey. You see, what I said was, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." But what I meant to say was, "I am a worthless, moronic sack of shit and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever."' Well, quite.

Scottish fencer Keith Cook is to take legal action over his omission from Great Britain's Olympic squad. So, when newspapers reported that everybody was getting into the Olympic spirit, they actually meant everyone 'except Keith Cook.' A necessary difference, this blogger feels. Cook claims 'multiple breaches' of the Olympic selection policy were made in his case. 'I am determined that no-one else should go through this totally dispiriting experience,' the thirty one-year-old said in a statement. 'I've been so let down by my governing body. In my opinion, they have not treated me well.' Or, maybe they just didn't think you were good enough, Keith. It's possible, you know? British Fencing rejected Cook's appeal against his exclusion, with the 2010 British champion claiming he was initially left out because he did not give contact details to selectors, who told him they did not know he wished to be considered. His request for an appeal hearing was turned down in June on the grounds the deadline was 'long past.' The Edinburgh fencer is now being represented by Simon Smith, a partner in defamation, media and reputation management specialists PSB Law. His complaint is made in libel to British Fencing and concerns statements made to the media by the governing body. At the time of his appeal rejection, British Fencing communications director David King told BBC Sport: 'We stand by the fact that our selection procedure is very clear - twenty five other athletes participated and five appealed their non-selection. Keith Cook did not participate in the process.' The governing body added that Cook was still considered but did not reach the required standard. Ah, so they didn't think he was good enough. That explains that, then. However, Cook asserts that the minutes of the Olympic selection meetings will show that he was never considered. 'To add insult to injury, they've even claimed they didn't know I wanted to be considered for the Olympics after six years of dedication and training - just bizarre,' he added. 'The Olympic motto is "Inspire a generation."' This is not how I wanted to do it, but I am showing the courage to stand up for what's right - for the truth.' Actually, the Olympic motto isn't that at all, it's 'it is not the winning that's important but the taking part.' Or, not as the case may be.

Three people associated with the Jordanian Paralympic squad have been arrested following allegations of indecent assault in County Antrim. The Jordanian Paralympic squad is one of several teams using the Antrim Forum's training facilities. The alleged assault took place at Antrim Forum which is managed by Antrim Borough Council. The BBC claims that Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin called an emergency meeting with Sport NI and a PR company. Antrim Forum is one of Northern Ireland's largest multi-purpose training and leisure centres. In a statement Antrim Council said: 'We are aware of the allegations. This is a police matter and PSNI are undertaking a full investigation.' Police have confirmed that they arrested three men, aged thirty six, thirty five and twenty three, on Monday, in relation to allegations of an indecent assault in the Antrim area. A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure said: 'The PSNI are currently leading an active investigation and therefore we cannot comment further.' The Jordan squad is due to leave Northern Ireland on Wednesday for the start of the games in London on 29 August.

Instant feedback via social networking sites such as Twitter is 'encouraging a culture of self-censorship that threatens to stifle literary endeavour,' the author Patrick Ness has said. No shit, Sherlock. In other news, apparently the Pope Catholic after all. 'Instead of bringing us all together in an omnipresent, multi-faceted discussion, the Internet instead has made sectarianism an almost default position. The nature of mass debate has become solely binary,' Ness said. Well, yeah. And you've only just realised this?

Kevin Pietersen has been left out of the England squads for both the World Twenty20 tournament and the preceding one-day series against South Africa. The thirty two-year-old was dropped for the third Test against South Africa after allegedly insulting captain Andrew Strauss in texts to the tourists. Pietersen apologised for the messages, admitting they were 'provocative.' England team director Andy Flower said: 'There's unresolved issues of trust and respect which have to be resolved.' Pietersen had been expected to meet Strauss this week to discuss the matter but speaking after his side's defeat by South Africa in the third Test on Monday, the England captain said that as far as he was concerned that would not be the case. Strauss suggested the issues surrounding Pietersen 'will take a while to be resolved,' adding 'we'll be looking to do that away from the public eye as much as possible in the coming weeks.' Flower told BBC Sport: 'When we have time we will begin resolving these issues one way or another. This is not just an issue between the player and the captain, there are bigger issues at heart. The text issues have to be investigated so that we know what situation we are dealing with. We are aware of some of the content but we have to understand the content to move on in a proper, healthy fashion.' Asked if a decision had been made on whether to offer Pietersen a new central contract, Flower added: 'We have to deal with some of these other issues before a decision can be made on central contracts and who gets offered them.' England Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad has been left out of the one-day series against South Africa to rest ahead of the World Twenty20. England play five one-day internationals against the Proteas - the first on 24 August in Cardiff - and three Twenty20s before they commence the defence of their World Twenty20 crown in Sri Lanka. 'Stuart Broad has an important period coming up leading our T20 side and with a three-match series followed closely by the ICC World T20 we feel a two-week break from cricket is in the best interests of both Stuart and the team,' said national selector Geoff Miller. Pietersen retired - in something of a a stroppy huff - from both one-day and Twenty20 internationals in May, but made himself available for all formats in a surprise U-turn on 11 August. Despite being man of the match in the second Test against South Africa the off-field controversy led to him being dropped for the third Test, and he was out for a golden duck to the left-arm spin of Hampshire's Liam Dawson while playing for Surrey on Sunday. The big-hitting right-hander averages 41.84 in one-day internationals, while in T20s he averages 37.93. He was named player of the tournament as England won the last World Twenty20 in 2010, averaging sixty two from his six innings. Luke Wright and Michael Lumb, who were both part of the side that won the World Twenty20 in 2010, return to the T20 squad for the first time since June 2011. Also in the fifteen-man T20 squad is Danny Briggs, who has a solitary ODI cap for England but has yet to represent his country in the shortest form of the game. Ravi Bopara, who has not played for England since pulling out of the squad for the second Test against South Africa for personal reasons, is included in both the ODI and T20 parties.

Astronomers have found evidence for a planet being devoured by its star, yielding insights into the fate which will befall Earth in a few billion years time. The team uncovered the signature of a planet that had been 'eaten' by looking at the chemistry of the host star. They also think a surviving planet around this star may have been kicked into its unusual orbit by the destruction of a neighbouring world. Details of the work have been published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The US-Polish-Spanish team made the discovery when they were studying the star BD+48 740 - which is one of a stellar class known as red giants. Their observations were made with the Hobby Eberly telescope, based at the McDonald Observatory in Texas. Rising temperatures near the cores of red giants cause these elderly stars to expand in size, a process which will cause any nearby planets to be destroyed. 'A similar fate may await the inner planets in our solar system, when the Sun becomes a red giant and expands all the way out to Earth's orbit some five billion years from now,' said co-author Professor Alexander Wolszczan from Pennsylvania State University in the US. The first piece of evidence for the missing planet comes from the star's peculiar chemical composition. Spectroscopic analysis of BD+48 740 revealed that it contained an abnormally high amount of lithium, a rare element created primarily during the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago. Lithium is easily destroyed in stars, so its high abundance in this ageing star is very unusual. 'Theorists have identified only a few, very specific circumstances, other than the Big Bang, under which lithium can be created in stars,' Wolszczan explained. 'In the case of BD+48 740, it is probable that the lithium production was triggered by a mass the size of a planet that spiralled into the star and heated it up while the star was digesting it.' The second piece of evidence discovered by the astronomers is the highly elliptical orbit of a newly discovered planet around the red giant star. The previously undetected world is at least 1.6 times as massive as Jupiter. Co-author Andrzej Niedzielski of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun said that orbits as eccentric as this one are uncommon in planetary systems around evolved stars. 'In fact, the BD+48 740 planet's orbit is the most elliptical one detected so far,' he added. Because gravitational interactions between planets are often responsible for such peculiar orbits, the astronomers suspect that the dive of the missing planet toward its host star before it became a giant could have given the surviving massive planet a burst of energy. This boost would have propelled it into its present unusual orbit. Eva Villaver of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid commented: 'Catching a planet in the act of being devoured by a star is an almost improbable feat to accomplish because of the comparative swiftness of the process, but the occurrence of such a collision can be deduced from the way it affects the stellar chemistry. The highly elongated orbit of the massive planet we discovered around this lithium-polluted red giant star is exactly the kind of evidence that would point to the star's recent destruction of its now-missing planet.' Of course, as Bill Bailey so wisely noted: 'The universe is gradually slowing down and will eventually collapse inwardly on itself, according to the laws of entropy when all it's thermal and mechanical functions fail, thus rendering all human endeavours ultimately pointless. Just to put the gig in some sort of context.' Maxwell's second law of thermodynamics, that. never a truer word spoken.

And so, dear blog reader, to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's some more expanding star turns.