Michael Owen eyes up a new career in cryptocurrency

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Humans 30 March 2022

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Josie Ford

On Earth …

As a fresh-faced 18-year-old, Michael Owen’s mazy run from the centre circle to score against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup round of 16 raised hopes of a new golden era of English football – “soccer”, we add, looking in no particular direction – just as surely as David Beckham’s subsequent sending-off and the inevitable loss on penalties dashed them. Back then, it was only 32 years of hurt; by now it is getting silly.

Altogether more forward-facing is Owen’s recent reinvention as a crypto guru. “Looks to me like blockchain is here to stay,” he announced last month on Twitter, hence he was working with a blockchain specialist on “a really exciting new football project”.

Rapid reaction on the social media site renowned for rapid unkind reaction was predictably unkind, largely along the lines that Owen possibly didn’t actually know what blockchain is. If so, he is welcome to join our club any time.

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This seems to follow a trend of ex-elite sportspeople advertising cryptocurrency projects, something we can associate with the ennui and need for new revenue streams associated with being an ex-elite sportsperson. We click further, on our eternal quest for both excitement and enlightenment. “The first Michael Owen official NFT collection comprises of 1233 NFT’s that are available across 5 increasingly exclusive tiers,” we read. We are somewhat the wiser: the blockchain is about football stickers. Welcome to the future.

… as it is in heaven

And much, much good may come of this sort of thing, going by a press release on behalf of a “visionary NFT production house” thrust our way by a colleague with eyes not so much rolling as whirling like pulsars.

collection – although the words quoted are from a press release so don’t appear there. Richard says he didn’t include it as it’s a money-making operation; up to you if you still want to put in, I think it’s fine without “On April 3, they’re launching 30 NFTs from their bestselling ‘Greatest Minds of Our Time’ – pop-art images of inspirational figures, such as Oprah, Elon Musk, and the Dalai Lama – into orbit on SpaceX,” the PR puff breathlessly informs us. “Once in space, passenger Israeli air force pilot Eytan Stibb [sic] will call them up on his tablet and bless them with starlight and cosmic rays. He’ll then ‘drop’ them from space directly into the blockchain collection.”

The selection of great minds of our time is interesting, but the ultimate aim – to auction the widgets off for the benefit of clean-water charities – is laudable. The whole process does strike us as a mite overcomplicated, though, given that starlight and cosmic rays are freely available on Earth. An interesting metaphysical question is, if digital art exists only when constituted as pixels, and is called into life only when in orbit, has it been launched into orbit?

No matter. We detect a whiff of good old performance art in all this, so we will politely just nod and smile.

Small island far away

Ceri Brown writes from Haverfordwest in Wales, querying a Sky News story about the position of Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn group in the South Pacific that through historical accident finds itself a UK Overseas Territory. Populated largely by native crabs and non-native plastic waste, it is perhaps a measure of the seriousness with which the UK has taken its stewardship up till now that the Royal Navy recently found it situated about 1.5 kilometres to the south of where it thought it was.

“Henderson Island is uninhabited and is about the size of Oxford,” the article states, presumably following the principle of British units for British places. “Could you convert that to fractions of a Berkshire please?” asks Ceri, catching us slightly off guard. No, but in standard Imperial units, it is a smidgen under 2 milliWales. That is if anyone is actually sure how big Henderson Island is.

Atmospheric surge

This admirable effort to make global news local sends us rootling in our piles for a headline from the Essex Live website in the UK sent in by Anthony Jamieson in January. “Essex sees huge atmospheric pressure surge as Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption felt across East Anglia”, it screams, adding in smaller typeface that the pressure in Heybridge, Essex, jumped “from just over 1,023 millibars of pressure to 1,024”. No eardrums burst, we hope.

Out of time

Gerben Wierda writes from the Netherlands currying favour – quite our favourite curryable material – and challenging the orthodoxy that true New Scientist aficionados read the magazine back to front.

“I read NS from front to back,” he says, “but Feedback plays an important role in my NS backlog management. If I come across an issue and I am uncertain if it has been read, I check the first entry in Feedback.” We are thus not only the most memorable bit of the magazine, he says, but “like dessert: that most enjoyable end of a good experience.”

Your cheque is in the post. Of course, we recognise that the true measure of an aficionado of this magazine is a backlog of issues that you always convince yourself you are going to clear. Being stuck on the issue of 9 October 2021 has its advantages, says Gerben. “One can read news articles about the possible rise of the new delta variant of covid-19 and remain in a world that is still blissfully free of war crimes being performed in Ukraine.” We hear you.

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