Electric meringue recipe, public relations equation, and two sleepy superpowers

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has four segments. Here are bits of each of them:

  • Power meringue — Researchers in South Korea and the US have cooked up a recipe for meringue that you can then use to make electrical batteries….
  • Public relations equation — “It will cost up to $21.5 billion to clean up California’s oil sites. The industry won’t make enough money to pay for it”, reads the headline of a report by news site ProPublica. Such revelations – of things costing much more than the public had been told – can bring a knowing smile to anyone who loves equations. Here’s why. It is a reminder, first, that in the field of economics (like everywhere else), what you choose to leave out of your equations matters and, second, that it might be a long time before people realise what is missing….
  • Falling off to sleep — Stephen Ferguson contributes a dangerously relaxing addition to Feedback’s nascent catalogue of trivial superpowers. He says: “I can fall asleep in any moving vehicle. While serving in the Falklands I found I could sleep in a Chinook helicopter which caused me to miss where I was supposed to get off, which in turn caused the pilot to have to turn around and take me back….
  • Nap time — Gillian Metheringham reports another sleep-related trivial superpower. She says: “I am able to nap whenever I feel a wave of sleepiness overcoming me and then wake up after a defined number of minutes, feeling fully rested and ready to continue the day. The only requirement is for me to say the number of minutes (e.g. 10 minutes) aloud to myself first and look at a clock to orient myself. …