Everyone knows that calories cause weight gain. But what is a calorie? Scientists believe that the answer to this question will not only cure obesity but also provide the key to understanding the nature of the Universe.
At school, one learns that matter is made from atoms, and that atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. Scientists have now discovered that these, in turn, are constructed from even smaller 'sub atomic' particles of which the Calorie is one of the most mysterious.
Calories are very difficult to study. A typical ham sandwich contains millions upon millions of atoms but just two or three hundred calories.
In order to examine individual calories, scientists have built 'particle accelerators' like the twenty-seven kilometre ring at CERN, near Geneva. Within this machine, blocks of lard or cream buns are collided at speeds close to that of light. Calories dislodged by these high energy impacts are then collected by detectors.
At CERN, detectors are members of the Geneva branch of Weight Watchers who for years had been disbelieved when claiming to gain weight simply by looking at food. It then emerged that they were absorbing calories from the residual background radiation caused by the sister phenomenon to The Big Bang that physicists believe brought calories into being - The Big Banger.
This ability was perfect for CERN experiments. By weighing detectors who had been sitting on the particle accelerator, the number of calories emitted during collisions could be exactly calculated.
Superficially similar experiments have occurred in the United States where volunteers from the obese community have been collided with one another. Impact speeds have been too low for the emission of calories, however, and so these experiments have had no scientific value.
The researchers involved have been sternly reprimanded by their bosses and firmly told that the joke was not funny.
The fact that calories cause weight gain illustrates that they have mass. Indeed, scientists believe that the Calorie, or Higgs Boson as some particle physicists call it, causes matter to possess mass.
Scientists have calculated that the Universe contains a significant quantity of matter which, currently, cannot be detected - so called 'Dark Matter'. Calorie research has raised the exciting prospect that this 'missing' ninety per cent of the universe could be packed in and around the arteries and internal organs of oversized Brits and Americans.
University Departments of Nuclear Physics and Dieting have explored ways to neutralise calories in the bodies of the overweight. There was initial optimism when it became possible to manufacture and contain anti-calories. These interact with calories, annihilating one another. Unfortunately, massive quantities of energy are released in this process, which led to a number of dieters leaving craters, hundreds of yards across.
Devotees of beer, chocolate and cakes are pinning their hopes on developments in Quantum Dieting. This is based on Hugh Everett's theory of parallel universes. At a quantum level it appears that calories may be able to migrate between universes. The hope is that huge quantities of yummy grub could be consumed in this universe, but that the resultant bum or gut would only be visible in another.
Who would have thought that the humble Calorie held both the secrets of weight loss and the secrets of the Universe?