Jack's blog

Another blog coming from Jack, a 16 year old growing up in a highly charged family of engineers.

OK, so exams are over and we've been booting a ball about on the fields in the evenings. It's usually just me who goes off to watch the games on TV - the others stay for a kickabout as the sun goes down and Europe's best are in another country playing the biggest games of their lives.

My friends really irritate Dad, who's not a tribal guy when it comes to football. He thinks we should be watching the games for the technical content. Oh yes. He came the other night to come and get me (we've got this footie bonding thing going on, sort of embarrassing really) and invited some of the guys round.

They all stare at the grass.

"Come on, it's the quarter finals. Best football for the next two years."

"Who cares?" says Pete. "England's not in it."

"Footie doesn't stop with the England team," argues Dad.

"Doesn't start with it either, bunch of donkeys," says Sam.

"No, I mean that the team is just one component of the whole football world, the circuit..." says Dad. I can suddenly see where he's going, and I start, very slowly, to sidle away.

"Look, you've got your first circuit, very simple, just one component, the league team, and then - very important - in PARALLEL, not series - you've got your country and then beyond that you've got OTHER national teams and European league teams and where these elements meet, that's a node, a player like Ronaldo, probably, who plays in England and for Portugal and..."

"So if football is a circuit," says Justin, slowly, "What's the electricity doing?"

"You probably mean the voltage," sighs Dad. "Well, because all these teams are connected in parallel, they have the same potential difference, electrical tension, if you like - if you measured it there should be the same excitement surrounding a league team as there should be surrounding, say, Austria."

I can't help myself. I turn back.

"There has been no excitement surrounding Austria in this tournament, Dad, apart from the fact that the butcher has been offering Wiener schnitzel half price. And you're going to run into problems defining current."

"Well, it's, err..."

"Yeah, well it's obviously the flow of interest," says Sam, who's actually just done his electronics GCSE. "And the more components in the circuit the less interest in each one."

Dad looks hacked off at the hijacking of his analogy, but cheers up at the thought that teams could be capacitors which only store a certain amount of interest. "So, no takers for an evening in front of the telly, then?" he asks. "Crisps?"

"Got any beer?" asks Pete.

Later, during half-time in a dismal match, Dad shows the guys an old MiroSot footballer from a business trip to the Far East where he got to go to a robot football tournament - the ones where the little wheeled robots zip around a table while a camera above them takes their coordinates and the software goes mad trying to tell them where the ping pong ball is.

This one fell off the table and smashed: I think they gave it to Dad because he was so upset about it. He's fixed it, although of course it doesn't work without the team to play off, a bit like Wayne Rooney, really.

Dad takes them through the techie stuff, explaining that the software tells the robots what to do, but they're independent in the sense of having their own motor.

"Sounds like David Beckham. Although Posh wouldn't let him play in the Far East. Women!" (Sam actually has no girlfriend.)

"I heard that," says Mum, who's come in to take an order for pizza. "No, your problem would be playing Fabregas. He can't deliver at international level."

"Yes, but you could programme the software to move him up a gear," says Dad.

"Oh yes, at eight data bytes a packet, he'd be up a gear in time for the World Cup in 2010."

"And if it was Quaresma he'd probably pretend it wasn't his ID byte just so he could play it his way!"

Cue parents laughing hysterically at data-related joke.

"Could you programme them to take risks?" asks Pete.

"Yeah, but without the option of bolting back to the goalmouth you'd have no Italy," says Sam.

"Not so bored by international football now?" says Dad.

"No, seriously, if all the robots are the same and you could programme them all to be goal scorers, or all to be perfect at penalties, it would be...."

"A coach's dream?"

"Roman Abramovich's dream, probably," says Mum.

"Well, it's a bit spooky, isn't it? All these robots with no character and no talent, just doing what the computer tells them..."

"And no drug binges, or scandals in the News of the World, or eating all the pies, or enormous pay packets..."

"So where's the passion? Where's the excitement? What's the point of it all?" asks Pete, who is obviously being Jeremy Paxman for the day.

"Well, football is an intelligent game, all about cooperation and communication, and if we want to create robots that work for us and with us, by making them better at football we will create a better society," says Dad.

There's a reverent silence while we all think about football being an intelligent game, and footballers contributing to a better society.

"Makes you think the real ones could do better," says Justin, almost mournfully. The guys are about to become converts to Dad's cult of benevolent science, and they don't even realise it.

"That's why engineering is better than sport. And, of course, by 2050 we'll have created robots that will make Alex Ferguson weep with shame," says Dad.

The bubble bursts and they see him for the mad visionary he is. Luckily, Russia are back on the pitch. Game on!

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