Questions of a more personal nature tonight.

The enigmatic Question Man asks: What came first, nightshifts, or Nightshift Ben?

If you're asking from a global perspective, then it's definitely night shifts. After all, difficult to imagine though it may be, there's several thousand years of human existence before the Benjamin Project came along. But if you're asking about Ben, then I've been on board since day one. It just so happened that he got himself a job which would occassionally requre me to do something other than make sure he slept okay.

Jim asks Mr. Shift Ben, my question for you is this: What would be a good question for me to ask of Nightshift Ben?

That in itself is a good question, but I'd have expected you to know the answer. All questions are good, Jim. It's a shame the same can't be said for answers. Except mine, naturally. From personal problems to cosmic conundra, I'll do my best with them all.

And Jello wants to know whether there's anything I want to ask you guys. Well, uh, how do I say this diplomatically?


Yes, you're right that I'm different from regular Ben - I'm more decisive, less introspective, and - if this is humanly possible - have an even higher tolerance of bad television than the CBU. But in terms of asking questions - well, he's the journalist, so I leave that to him.

Sure there are certain things about the old boy I'd be interested in getting your feedback on - such as why my regular duties seem to be restricted to sleep, rather than anything carnal, when there really are many people out there with much less to offer than this guy getting it on a regular basis; and whether you think he's right to be doing what he does, or should he be going in another direction - but I'm more interested in finding solutions once other people have identified the issues. It's just what I do.

So one last night before the New Year: whatcha got?


Evening all. Well, here I am for my last stint of 2003, doing my bit by earning the boy extra cash for his flat-buying lark.

But do I have any questions to answer? No, I do not. You lot have been unusually lacking in curiosity, so I'll use this opportunity to bring you an important new revelation about Ben (who is, you recall, staffed by two people during the day, and just me at night) and his lack of co-ordination and manual dexterity (or, if you will, why he's a generally clumsy fuckwit).

Our newly appointed Director of Research & Development on the Benjamin Project, Dr Lindsey Fallow, has this to reveal about the question she raised last time out:

Having had time to sit down with a pen and paper, I have calculated that whilst in proportional terms the different in velocities experienced by your lower half and your upper half is understandably small, this difference does in fact result in approximately 300 meters of linear displacement between the two halves over the course of ever hour in which you are
standing up.

Whilst sitting down this is reduced to around 150 meters per hour, and whilst lying down it is 0.

Clearly this effect is cumulative - and I'd estimate that on an average day you probably build up a further 4 km of displacement between the two - some 1460 km per year.

Please do not be alarmed. In the interests of your personal survival, I've carried out extensive calculations, and I can assure you that it will be in excess of 15,250 years before your top half laps your bottom half.

Obviously my department will now begin preparing plans to bring the two halves of the CBU into better alignment (the initial plan, which involved using a giant can crusher to reduce the extent of the discrepancy has now been rejected as there are potential negative side effects). In the meantime, you may wish to consider carrying out potential dangerous actions which require co-ordination between the two units, for example cutting your toenails, whilst lying down.

So there you have it. A great mind at work.

Any questions? Anything! Please?!


Tomorrow night, for the last time this year, we're letting Nightshift Ben out of his box for the weekend. We don't yet know when he'll next be out to play, so make the most of him while you can.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating. :)
Had a real panic today. Looking 25 years down the road, and all the money that one pays back to the people lending a mortgage really made me wonder whether buying was a good idea. The interest, my goodness! An interest only mortgage allows you to pay them quarter of a million, and then still owe them what you borrowed at the end of 25 years. The bastards bleed you dry!

My parents seemed to think that purchase was still a good idea, though, and talked me down.

But I tell you, folks, we're all in the wrong game. We should be in property. And not just buying and selling either. Nope, the real money's obviously made in enabling people to buy or sell. Just to be able to buy this biscuit, sorry, flat, I'll have to lay out somewhere in the region of £3,500. And that's before I spend anything on the flat itself.

This game isn't for the faint-hearted. Hell. This isn't a game.


If I seem a little out of sorts over the next few weeks, please don't worry. I've just had an offer accepted on a biscuit.

It's a good biscuit, in an area of the tin that I'm comfortable with, friends owning and borrowing biscuits nearby while still providing easy access to the rest of the cupboard.

When weighing up whether to try and buy it, I was given differing advice by people. Some said I should go for a good, solid cookie, one I knew could fill a hole and please me over the course of time. Others thought I should hold out for the full jammy chocolatey honeycomb hobnob caramel wafer once-in-a-lifetime biccie.

But on reflection, the former seems a better bet. One could scour the shelves of patisseries for ever without finding the baked goodie to beat all others, especially when, as I've said before, I don't know what kind I want.

Despite the fact that it didn't knock my socks off, this biscuit was the best I saw and will, I think, do well for me over the next few years. I'll have some work to do on it as well - nothing much, only cosmetic, a sprinkling of sugar here, the addition of a few nuts there. Much better than not being able to justify making my mark on an already perfect biscuit.

Of course, it could still all go pear-shaped, someone could try dunking it in their tea and let it fall to pieces, and I may have to go in search of another. Not for nothing is biscuit purchase considered one of the most stressful events of one's life.

There are still things I want to write about Bush and Iraq, the glory of England's rugby world champions and the cheese of Project X, and while I'll try and keep things ticking over here as well and normally as possible, if - and I mean if - abnormally large gaps appear or I don't pay as much attention to the news as usual, then I suggest you just blame it on the biscuit.


Apologies for the silence. There is much I want to say, not least about George's Day Out in London. However, I'm currently in South Wales, embroiled in a covert operation known only as Project X.

In time I will be able to reveal all, but for now I can disclose nothing save this: cheese is involved.

Later, Angels.


I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion that trying to buy a flat is bad for the soul. I agree this may sound melodramatic, but after seeing five properties this morning, I've had something of an epiphany.

I've never made any secret of my religious atheism, although I manage to keep my militant streak subdued unless faced with mass outpourings of faith.

However, the evangelism that surrounds the drive to keep the housing market afloat is making me feel more threatened than any of the major world faiths have managed in a good while.

The Cult of Property wants to claim me for its own. At every turn I find myself confronted by the holy agents of realty, estate acolytes, coaxing me away from eternal damnation as a lessee, and towards the promised land, offering me bricks and mortar in place of milk and honey.

And even those fortunate enough not to be officers of the church tell me how elated I'll feel once I have converted. Though the road may seem hard to the novice, for the enlightened the journey holds much excitement, the ultimate reward being the greatest prize I could ever hope to win.

All of them repeat the mantra that despite vile lies about the evils of recession gathering strength, now is the time to join, that salvation is near, that house prices are pushing upwards, ever upwards, towards nirvana. Do I want to be left behind on Completion Day?

But, much like with the theological promise of paradise, I have to make that leap of faith to discover the truth.

None of us knows whether our religion has been right in its teachings until we die - by which time its too late, an equation highlighted by the fact even Monsieur Pascal couldn't resist a little flutter. Equally how can one know whether a flat is right until one's lived in it?

Of course I understand the fiscal reasons for investing in land - I just can't stand everyone telling me that flat-hunting is fun. It's not. It's gruelling, confusing and depressing. There is no fun.

I'm still waiting for my Damascene conversion. The light has yet to shine.


Questions are usually the nightshift's detail, but he won't mind if I answer this one (being the boss, and all) from Jim:

With all due respect, Ben, I'm about to slit my wrists from boredom here. Isn't there a politician or something you can mock? Or a situation to wryly comment upon that involves some American's over-the-top zeal for patriotism? For god's sake, you're discussing the intricacies of the ISBN.

It's your journal, do with it what you will, but I'm DYING here.

Well Jim, while you're not enjoying the great ISBN debate, it's a new future we're trying to forge, so we'll continue.

And what with the 80-hour week I'm working, plus the whole flat-hunting rigmarole, blog time has been a little scant of late.

Having said that, cataloguing and classification aren't everybody's cups of tea, so your point is well taken.

Oh, and look who's just about to fly into town. Surely there's something I can find to write about that. :)


In my three years at library school, they never taught me what Samantha did today about the ISBN, or International Standard Book Number you find on the back or dust cover of most books.

Spot, if you will, the difference:
Little Green Men, paperback, published by Allison & Busby, available in the UK: ISBN 074900505X
Little Green Men, paperback, published by Random House Inc, available in the USA: ISBN 0060955570

Tell me, which part of international standard do people have trouble with?

* * *

I have a friend, in her early twenties, whose mother was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. My friend is understandably distraught but very strong. She gives the impression that her mother is much the same. Yet despite her mother's deadly condition, my friend still smokes quite heavily.

What can you do?


I've just been drawn into the Bookcrossing phenomenon. Perfect for a former librarian, you'd have thought.

But while it seems to be a great scheme, I'm participating in spite of myself. There's something not quite right about giving away books. Depleting one's collection rather than increasing. It all feels distinctly unnatural.

I've always been a hoarder by nature, unwilling to let things go, allowing them to grow around me, and carrying everything from home to home as I move through life. Consequently I have thrown away precisely one book - a freebie handed to me on the street by a Hare Krishna evangelist. And I agonised over that for days before finally lobbing it binwards.

It wasn't just chance that led me to library school. I have an innate respect for and love of the medium of the book. Old ones turn me on. One of the biggest buzzes I had during my time at University was being on the second floor balcony of the old British Library, being able to touch 14th century tomes.

So getting rid of books... creepy.

But every library needs refreshing or culling from time to time, and with a move in the offing, Bookcrossing allows me to move surplus stock or find room for new volumes with a clear conscience.

However, despite my collection being anything but high literature or learned, there are certain things staying put. No one's having my Hiaasens, neither my Bankses nor Brysons, and Douglas Adams is strictly off limits, as is Nick Hornby. And although I moved on from Pratchett some years ago, to lose touch with those parts of Discworld I know would feel like an abandonment of one of few things from my teens that I actually enjoyed. Then there's the reference books, the early Rankins, and the odd Coupland.

So all that's off limits. Not forgetting, of course, the stuff I can't remember or can't find. As for my treasured Noel Sainsbury, Jr - forget it.

But the rest - it'll have to make way for other, better, newer, older books.

So where do I start?


It's been a very depressing day. Not the real "thousands dead, world in peril, split up with girlfriend, lost my job, lost a limb" kind of depressing, but a complete downer all the same. My sports teams all ganged up for one great big suck.

My betrothed, Newcastle United travelled to take on the superstars of Chelski, and came away on the wrong end of a 5-0 scoreline. I was expecting them to lose, so that was no great shock, and in going down by a couple of goals to players of the class of Crespo and Duff, one leaves with one's dignity intact. Not today were we afforded that honour. The bastards took our pride along with all the points.

And then my first love, my teen crush, the Miami Dolphins managed to score 7 against the Tennessee Titans. Unfortunately, the home team notched up 31. The Fins, like the Magpies, were served a can of whupp-ass by their hosts and stank the whole place out.

Evidently I'm drawn to losers.

Newcastle United have not won a major trophy in my life. In fact I'd have to be approaching my 50th birthday to claim anything different, when the FA Cup went back to St James's Park. And for the league title one has to return to the days of photography in black and white to see champions in black and white, all the way back in 1927.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, do allow me a little association with their glory days, having gone undefeated all season in winning the Superbowl in 1972, the year of my birth, and then taking home the Lombardi Trophy as NFL champions once again the following year. Since then, pretty much nada.

The Dolphins quarterback, their leader, in those glory days was a guy called Bob Griese. Now his son Brian is doing that very same job. Brian is not his father. Brian gave the ball away five times this afternoon. (For those of you not versed in the ways of American Football, that is considered Very Bad Indeed). Brian will be leading us nowhere soon.

But it's not like it stops there.

In recent times, I've seen the Canucks lose at hockey, started taking an interest in rugby union only to see England play some of their worst games in recent years, and on my final day in the States, the three teams I rooted for over the stretch of eight hours (baseball's Braves, football's Falcons and the USA's women footballers) all decided that it wasn't the winning but the taking part that counted. And only the Falcons could claim they were playing a team recognised as being better than themselves.

In fact, the only team I've paid to see win in the last 10 years is the University of Washington Huskies.

I blame my father. He never took the least bit of interest in sporting endeavours, and so I was left to find my own affiliations. I should have been easy pickings for the medal-laden glory boys, but instead of making hay, the boys I chose were making weight. And because of Dad's athletic apathy I can't even blame my choice having been made on some misguided sense of loyalty to the family cause.

One can see why so many people flock to Manchester United. The thrill of being a winner must be something special.

I guess I'm just going to have to wait.

But you victors out there, savour your feast while you can, because one day you'll need the memory of its sweetness to disguise the bitter taste of defeat.

So there!

Is it our turn soon?


I'm in the middle of getting pissed with colleagues, but just wanted to show you that occasionally they let me out of the box for a little fun. Hate the voice, but the script and pictures stand up, which is all that really matters to me.


In the words of Swedish poodle rockers Europe, it's the final countdown.

One month from today, the flat that has been my home since March 1st 2001, some 979 days ago, will no longer serve that purpose. Long, possibly boring, financially embarrassing (though for someone else rather than me) story, so I'll spare you the details.

In the short term I'll be staying at Thomas's while he's down under for Christmas. In the long term, however, it means I'm looking for somewhere to live. And this time it's serious.

We're talking purchase.

And so begins an inestimable period of vulnerability and uncertainty, before there comes a life-changing decision that only I can make. Oh joy.

Anyone who knows me well will recognise that these are probably my least favourite states of mind to be in. In my personal circumstances much more than my professional life, uncertainty makes me tense. I feel safe in familiar surroundings. I have trouble even adapting to change in the living room. Do I want a throw over that sofa? I've never had one before. The place will look different - I'm not sure I can cope.

Though my rented accommodation of the past two years and nine months isn't the world's greatest flat - nor even the neighbourhood's - if I could stay here forever I would, if only because it would mean never having to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings ever again. The known is secure. The unknown is wild and random and threatening.

And anyone who's seen me try to order lunch will know how deftly easy decision-making avoids me. So spending the best part of £200,000 on a flat? Me? How am I supposed to trust my judgement on which one is right to pursue if I can't even commit to chicken mayo over tuna melt? Woah, as they say, Nellie.

There are currently two places in the running. A very nice, affordable one near friends which, given the correct and considered use of space, I would probably be very happy in. And a gorgeous, light-filled, slightly bigger, almost certainly unaffordable one, with a cute kitchen and one of the very best bedrooms in the world, which I think I'd love to live in, even if the bathroom is slightly eccentric.

I am, then, facing a very taxing time. I'm not looking forward to this responsibility. It may affect my mood or thinking. So if I come across a little odd in the next few weeks - well, discernibly moreso than usual - you'll know what's on my mind.


First things first (in case I don't survive my encounter with a xenomorph later this evening): Happy Birthday Dunc. Use this last year of your twenties wisely - you won't have time for wisdom once you hit Th, cos it just gets better from hereon in. May sexy hitchhiking angels fly you to the arms of the woman you love.


Well, that's about it for this session of Ask the Nightshift. Tonight's Q&A can be found below, but as soon as I hit publish on this post, I'll be back on Hair and Wake-up detail, and the CBU will have its blog back.

But those of you with an insatiable appetite for knowledge need not fear, for I shall be returning three weeks on Friday for another stint of fact-finding. Be sure to mark 28th November in your diary, and get your questions in in good time.

Oh, and Samantha: don't think I've forgotten about Tom Sizemore. I'll have some of my best people working on it while I'm away. The wait is regrettable, but should be worth it.

Until late November then, my friends...
Tonight's first question comes in the form of a heart-rending plea from a confused youngster with something of a Washington State twang:

Mr Night Shift Ben sir, I was wondering if you could explain something for me. My daddy was telling me that there are really people out in the world who think that Mallrats didn't suck bad bad bad.

I think these people probably also are responsible for the hole in the ozone, clubbing baby seals, and killing my kitten "mitsy".

Why, Mr Night Shift Ben sir, why would people like Mallrats and kill kittens?

Hey there, li'l buddy, don't cry.

Sit yourself down, and let your Uncle Nightshift explain the facts of life.

Now it's true that some people don't particularly dislike Mallrats. But you know what? That's okay. The day guys have made Ben watch it more than once. Despite the film's obvious flaws, it doesn't make them bad people.

Look at it this way. A lot of people didn't like The Matrix Reloaded as much as The Matrix. Expectations were very high after an astounding debut - and when they didn't feel the same way after seeing the second film, they got sad and angry. The second film wasn't as good as the first, but nor was it a truly bad movie. People were just disappointed.

I think the same happened with Mallrats. There are many far worse movies than Mallrats out there, it's just that this one was made by a talented writer and director, and it didn't come close to what his fans had been hoping for.

Me, I'm more of a Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back man.

But those Mallrats likers, although they may not have the world's greatest taste in movies, they're allowed to like whatever they want. You and I know they're wrong, but the fact is, their right to talk about and enjoy Kevin Smith's second film is protected in your constitution. And that's something for which you should be grateful.

After all, what if the people who liked Mallrats decided that Clerks or, just picking a movie at random, The Fellowship of the Ring should be banned? If you weren't protected by these laws, those people could make it illegal for you to see your favourite films. And then where would we be? Stuck with mediocre movies, that's where.

So here's what you should do. Rather than use your energy to hate Mallrats and the people who like it, you should put it to positive use. Tell folk why Clerks is a better film, or what there is to love about JRR Tolkien, or why they should still be excited about Neo. If you're kind and patient towards people, rather than cross and shouty, they are more likely to come around to your point of view, or at least understand it.

People could learn a lot from this guy and his friends, as opposed to the sillies who keep telling them that what they're doing is wrong and threatening to stop being their friends.

As for the kitty killers, seal clubbers and ozone depleters, well, we've just got to hope they see sense before I have to get medieval on their arse.

More time-shifting shenanigans
This second question comes from renowned space-efficient mastermind Lindsey, housed within the walls which Fagin and the Artful Dodger once called home:

Regarding the issue of days / nights and the uneven (or it now seems, even) loss and gaining of daylight.

Thanks for that Ben - I've always been inclined to believe that perception is the source of most nonsense (with the obvious exception of my coding work, where spelling and pathing are the source).

My question to you now is: Could you calculate the effective difference in linear velocity of your head and my head? I am precisely 1.52 meters tall, and I would estimate that the center of gravity of my head is approximately 20 cm below this.

The thinking behind this question is that perhaps this difference in velocities, which must be more extremely experienced by the two halves of the CBU, is behind some of the co-ordination issues between the units?

As any good action movie watcher knows, to jump from the train to the car, the two must be going at the same speed...

Um, right, calculate the... hey, Lindsey, did you see the kittens already?

You know, you may have a great theory there. I'm sure Professor Martin will find your input most valuable.

In fact, we could really do with someone like you on the project. A big science brain like yours will always come in useful on pioneering work like this.

Say - what would you think about the idea of heading up our R&D division?



Robin writes with an question of astronomical proportions from Dick van Dyke's Cockernee East End:

I remember my mum asking this question of a astronomer many years ago and he declined to give an answer. Can you do better?

Days drawing in for winter seems to take less time than days drawing out for summer. We seem to have lost 3 hours from sunset in the last two short months, but it will be a more gradual process leading up to the summer solstice.

The astronomer said that this was true but said no more.

We know that the earth does not spin perpendicular to its orbit - this explains seasons and short/long days, but not the rate. I am assuming also that the southern hemisphere also experiences the opposite effect.

So, NSB what could it be?

Well Bobs, if I'm right, the answer is actually incredibly simple.

As you say, the earth isn't straight, it spins at a 23.5° tilt on its axis, which has some effect on our experience of day and night, summer and winter.

You also have to bear in mind that the earth's orbit of the sun is not a perfect circle, but actually an ellipsis. We move towards and away from our star throughout the year, coming closest to it in early January. The ellipsis also has a varying effect on the planet's speed over the course of the year, and we'll hit top speed in the next few weeks.

(This movie from Analemma shows how the Earth moves throughout the year in reality (the blue planet) as opposed to if the orbit was a perfect circle (the green planet).).

According to notes for the Earth & Sky radio show in the US, all these elements - the tilt, the trajectory and the speed, plus our location in relation to the equator - have an effect on when we see the sun rise and set. It's well worth a read if you want to know more about the science behind our experience of time.

However, none of this is really relevant to your question: why do sunsets come in in winter quicker than they go out in summer?

Sunday morning sees the sun rise over London at 6.53am, and setting at 4.34pm. Half four? Those nights really do seem to be drawing in quicker and quicker.

Except they're not. Well, no more quickly than they stretch out towards the summer.

The clue was in your original question, and it was just one word: seem

To understand what I mean, look at these sunset times for the period two months either side of the shortest day:

Oct 21, 2003: 5:56pm BST
Nov 21, 2003: 4:04pm GMT
Dec 21, 2003: 3:52pm
Jan 21, 2004: 4:27pm
Feb 21, 2004: 5:23pm

So you see we lose another half hour of sunset between today and November 21st, but then only 12 minutes over the following month. Then we pick up 35 minutes of afternoon by January 21st.

Compare these with London's sunset times for the two months leading up to the summer solstice.

April 21, 2004: 8:05pm BST
May 21: 8:53pm
June 21: 9:20pm

From April 21st to June 21st we actually acquire 1h15m of evening, compared to losing 1h4m in the two months up to the winter solstice.

But 5:56 in October minus 3:52 in December equals a loss of 2:04!, says you.

True, but remember this run-in to winter includes the switch back from BST to GMT, so once you include the artificial loss of an hour caused by lending it to the morning, it feels like 2h4m - it's only our intervention that makes it appear to be a greater loss of time.

Therefore if we didn't play around with clocks over the course of the year, the lengthening of summer evenings would actually feel slightly quicker than the shortening in winter.

In other words, though the long nights may seem to fall on us quicker than the sunny summer evenings, in terms of real time, they don't. It just feels like they do.

My guess as to why we misinterpret this time is that it's psychological or even psychosomatic, and that we're more sensitive to the loss of light than an increase in its duration, and therefore notice the encroachment of night into day more than we do day into night.

And as a final snub to our received wisdom about time, all the above assumes that the earliest sunset comes on the shortest day, December 21st. Again, we're mistaken. It falls over the course of several days around December 12th to 15th, in much the same way that the sun starts rising at 4:42 am for 10 days or so from about Friday 11 June onwards.

And to explain all that, we have to go back to how we move through space.

But hey, this is all just what I make of the question. Maybe Jane's astronomer had more to say on the subject, but I get the feeling that he didn't.

I don't think I'm wrong about this whole shebang, but I could be, so if anyone knows better then by all means feel free to, ooh, look! Kittens!


Hi kids, did ya miss me?

Yes, it's been five long months, but I'm back in action.

Well, I say action, but it could hardly be further from the truth.

Weekend nights are renowned for their lack of news, and this particular one is doing nothing to dispel that prejudice. In fact, it's just doing nothing period. Nothing doing.

So this weekend even more than usual, I'm relying on your questions to keep me interested. Hell, maybe even just to keep me awake.

The boss very kindly ran a promo for me the other day, but what did it come up with? The best part of bugger all.

The enchantingly-named Arsehole did, however, address one issue when he (I assume you're a guy 'cos Arsehole's a boy's name, right?) asked:

If you had to do permanent night shifts, would you have no need for Nightshift Ben? Would therefore normal Ben live at night?

Would you also need to introduce Dayshift Ben, to cope with daylight hours?

Would you become a Vampire?

Well, Arsehole, I'll let eminent Benologist Professor Laura Martin explain:

As one of the original scientists credited with the discovery of MBS (Multiple Ben Syndrome) I must point out that further work is needed on some of the more complex issues facing this field of research and particularly where Nightshift Ben is concerned. The CBU (Combined Bens Unit, known to the layman as just Ben) is currently thought to be made up of the two daytime modules: THB & BHB (Top half Ben and Bottom Half Ben) and the singular night-time module.

This diagnosis was made based on the evidence available at the time. The size and general lack of co-ordination of the CBU could only be explained by the presence of two separate Ben modules (hence the condition was originally named PBS or Pantomime Ben Syndrome (think pantomime horse)). Later study of the waking hair arrangement led us to the discovery of Nightshift Ben (NSB).

(Editor's note: My normal tasks are carried out while Ben sleeps. These include doing his hair for the morning, producing an interesting and varied range of dreams, and conducting the appropriate amount of thrashing about. Nightshift Ben.)

The problem facing research until recently was lack of opportunity to fully study the NSB. Given the CBU is now required to send NSB out to work (and about time too, he's been freeloading for far too long) we are now asking for further data on his general behaviour, particularly his ability to control the CBU.

Should NSB have the same problems co-ordinating the CBU as the two daytime modules do then this may be indicative of there actually being two Nightshift Bens.

Clearly this is an emotive issue and may even split the world of MBS study but enquiries must be made in the name of science.

In the light of that, addressing the question's key issue, if Ben switched to permanent nights, it would probably have serious staffing implications for him. I suspect all of us would have to be retrained and shifts on nights and sleeping would be doled out between the three of us. With Ben withdrawing so much from normal life, it could even see the end of the CBU - but far greater minds than mine would need to assess the potential dangers of such a move.

So in short, there will always be a need for me, whether during the day or night. You can take the Ben out of the night shift but you can't take Nightshift out of the Ben.

And while recovering from night shifts usually leaves Ben feeling like a member of the undead, it's more often a zombie than a vampire that he resembles.

But enough about me and him. There's a whole universe of facts out there. What else do you want to know?