Four Holes

Holes are great, probably. Here are four you might be quite interested in. Sorry, should have put a bit more work into this introductory paragraph.

An Unexpected Hole

Doorway

Builders renovating a property in Gloucestershire discovered a previously unknown doorway that had been bricked up for nearly four centuries. Oddly, although the doorway dated back to 1652, the building where it was found was an eighteenth century farmhouse.

"The building, the wall, even the doorframe - these were all definitely eighteenth century but the hole in the middle was much, much older," explained site foreman Duncan Grout. "It smelled really fusty, so it had to be."

Ellie Hinge, an expert in holes from Durham University, was called in to evaluate the extraordinary find, primarily by measuring it with a special ruler. At the time of writing, she has still not committed to an explanation.

"Some people claim that this must be some sort of time portal," she laughed scornfully, before getting a grip and turning all serious. "And of course, this could be a possibility. However, I think that it's far more likely that this hole comes from a much earlier building and was reused here. Builders are always doing that, the crafty gits. The bloke who did my kitchen extension used a cavity taken from a derelict bingo hall down the road, and I strongly suspect that the hole for the boiler flue was nicked from the town hall."

Despite refusing to be drawn on the doorway's origins, Mrs Hinge promised an announcement soon. "I've been taking scrapings from the masonry surrounding the hole," she said in her most recent statement. "Tonight I'm going to boil them up and take a look at them through a microscope. I don't get out much."

A Prototype Hole

Doughnut

It may surprise you to know that the first ring-shaped doughnut wasn't developed until as late at 1932. Industrial dough-making techniques were in their infancy at the time and the brittleness of the raw materials meant that the original prototype was around twelve feet in diameter - much too large to get into the paper bag.

Successive refinements were able to bring this down to roughly the size of a car tyre - although these doughnuts also had the same taste and texture as a tyre, so they didn't really catch on. It wasn't until 1948 that doughnuticians managed to perfect a product that was small enough to hold in one hand, and which your teeth didn't bounce off when you tried to eat it.

Meanwhile, although the first prototype had crumbled to dust many years earlier, the hole in the middle survived, fetching a cool $42,000 when it was auctioned in New York in 1995.

A Revolutionary Hole

Record

The phonograph record is one of the most enduring inventions of our age, remaining popular with people who want their music in a physical format rather than a stream of ones and zeroes - even if they don't actually have a record player and never take the thing out of its sleeve. It is, they say, more permanent than a download, which is ironic since early records were certainly not.

The problem arose because the first commercially available records did not have holes in the middle: they simply rested on the turntable, trusting to luck and friction to keep them in place. They rarely did - stay in place, that is. Those early discs revolved at 78rpm, which meant that they spun off the turntables at some speed; and they were made of shellac, which meant that they shattered into pieces when they landed. And when we say 'landed' we mean bounced off the dog, smashed your favourite china or got lodged in your face. This was why the recommended attire for listening to a gramophone record was sturdy goggles, a crash helmet and, for the serious music-lover, a cricket bat.

That all changed in 1961 when legendary blues singer Fats Porker released Get Off My Damn Porch, the first LP to feature a hole in the middle. Within six months all records had them, and record-player-related injuries were significantly reduced.

A Fraudulent Hole

Black hole

Not many people are paid a fat load of somebody else's cash to sit around all day, eating junk food, knocking back vodka and watching crap on TV. Professor Godfrey Manners certainly wasn't, and yet this was exactly how 'Spanners' Manners chose to spend his time after being given an eye-wateringly massive grant by Oxford University to further the frontiers of cosmology and unlock the deepest secrets of space and time.

He would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for those pesky university bosses who, after five years of not hearing a peep out of him, decided to pay him an unscheduled visit to find out why he had never published anything. He had nothing to show them, obviously; no papers, no research, no theories - not even a complex-looking but ultimately meaningless formula chalked up on a board. But what he did have was the guile and low cunning of an expert fraudster. Rat-arsed he may have been, but he was quick-thinking enough to lead them over to the window, point up at a singularly uninteresting patch of the evening sky and tell them that he had discovered a black hole.

They, of course, said that they couldn't see anything. He, of course, said that of course they couldn't, it was a black hole.

Many years later, proper scientists who didn't spend days on end smashed out of their skulls on hard liquor happened to discover an actual black hole exactly where Manners had been pointing. No doubt the Prof would have been delighted by the discovery, had he not expired in a Vietnamese crack house several years earlier.

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