Jack's blog

All teenagers have problems. But Jack's problems usually stem from the fact that he comes from a family of engineers...

Dad comes back from the pub quiz fizzing with excitement.

"We have got to watch 'High School Musical'," he declares at breakfast (eight words I never expected to hear in our household) while the twins spit cornflakes all over the table. "God, Dad," they wail, "it's about basketball".

Anyway, the quiz had this question: How does Gabriella (cute HSM geek, good at maths) delay her science competition in the film? Answer: by setting off a stink bomb. Dad is well impressed. "Chemistry as a plot device in a Disney film. Things are looking up for science," he says.

He borrows the film from a colleague after the twins declare they knew no one who would possess it. Although if you wanted 'Good Will Hunting' or 'A Beautiful Mind', that would be no problem. (They're 13 freaking years old, who are their friends?)

We all watched it together, although I had my hands over my eyes. Anyway, Gabriella corrects the teachers on their maths, saves the day with science and gets to snog Zac Efron (HSM jock, floppy hair, plays basketball).

"Well, I think she was a pretty good role model," says Dad at the end.

"She's no Marie Curie," says Mum. "What do you think, girls?"

"No one that good-looking would be allowed to be a geek," exclaims Alice. "She'd be possessed by the cheerleaders before she got near a quadrilateral equation. Plus the geeks would set her hair on fire in the first chemistry lesson."

"Yeah, if you're good at science in films everyone hates you. Look at Jeff Goldblum," says Amy.

"But everyone loves Jeff Goldblum!" cries Mum. (She actually fancies him.)

"No they don't," says Amy. "Look at the evidence. 1) 'Jurassic Park': our Jeff is a science genius who knows dinosaurs are dangerous and is despised and ignored by all the people with the money."

"Oh my God, she's just described my career!" says Dad.

"Shut up, Dad. Second reason: 'Independence Day': Jeff is a science genius who knows the aliens are dangerous and is despised and ignored by all the people with the power."

"Yeah, but he does save the world," I say. "Everyone in his films respects him in the end. Except in 'The Fly', where he turns into a big disgusting sticky thing. Only his mother could love him."

"It was early in his science career," says Mum forgivingly. "But it's true, everyone on the screen who likes science is always really nerdy. Like Brains in 'Thunderbirds'. Or Joe 90." (I can see the twins mouthing "who? who?" at each other.)

"Or Dr Spock," suggests Dad.

"Oh, I don't know, there's something sexy about Spock. You'd like to peel off that tight tunic and see what's underneath..." begins Mum.

"Whoa!" we all shout.

"Alright then, I tell you who was fab in science on TV, and that was Romana from 'Doctor Who'. Sexy and with brains. Now she was a role model."

"And you know what?" says Dad. "She ended up marrying Richard Dawkins. How intellectual is that? Although I think she went into knitting after that."

"Which is fiendishly difficult, and doesn't alter my argument."

"Hold on," I say, "you're forgetting all those really fit forensic scientists on 'CSI'."

"That's what I mean," says Alice. "They're not role models, they're swimsuit models. They'd never be allowed near the computer, there'd be someone from Storm modelling agency standing outside the lab, barring the way, shouting 'NO! I'll pay you much more for getting your kit off!'."

"Alright, alright," I say, "how about the goth chick from 'NCIS'? She is funny, she's troubled, she's kooky, she's got issues, she's a bit on the porky side, and she always nails the suspect. She's gorgeous."

"Everyone's so much sexier now," agrees Dad. "Gabriella... Richard Hammond. Who did we have? Magnus Pyke and Professor Heinz Wolff. And Johnny Ball."

"But you know what they all have in common?" asks Mum. "Good hair. Good science hair."

"I'm not sure Heinz Wolff has good hair. He always looks like he's spent too much time with the Van der Graaf generator."

"Richard Hammond looks like that on one of his really spiky days," says Amy.

"No, that's hair gel. There have been amazing scientific advances in hair gel since my day. We still used sugar water."

"Dive!" I shout, as I could see Dad was going to explain the precise proportion of sugar to water that would allow you to attend a Sex Pistols gig without it looking as if you had sugar crystal dandruff in your hair, not that I believe early punk rockers really cared. Although I may be wrong, maybe they were all examining each other's hair in the loos at the gig and saying, 'Look, Jake Snot or whatever your punk nickname is, you've got sparkly crap in your hair. Let's drown you in the toilet to get it off.' And they think the youth of today has problems!

Mum joins in. "We used to boil up sugar and water and nick vodka from my mum's secret stash [secret stash? Did Gran have a DRINK problem? Why don't I know?] to add to it because it preserves it – that way you've got hairspray for weeks without having to boil up a new lot every Saturday afternoon. Also, if you added lemon juice, it was like a mini-bleach; made you look like Bananarama without even trying."

"I bet Gabriella doesn't know that formula," sighs Dad, wistfully.

No," says Mum. "She's obviously a natural scientist."

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