I was once witness to a spectacular but non-fatal and non-crippling crash. The sequence of events was shockingly clear in my mind. A careless driver was turning right into the road where I lived. He drove straight across the path of an oncoming motorcyclist who was certainly not speeding. I know he wasn't speeding because he didn't die when, after the impact, he was thrown off his bike and hurled against a wall.

I ran towards the victim, checked that he was okay (he actually tried to stand up), rang 999, and, perhaps foolishly, gave the police my name and address when they also turned up at the scene with the ambulance. Inevitably I was asked to give a statement and testify in court. At the hearing, after some confusion caused by my arriving at security in a three-piece suit and giving my name as “Counsell”, I went into the waiting room to discover I had been completely wrong about the colour and age of the driver and the colour of the motorcyclist. For all I remembered of their appearance, they might as well have been crash test dummies.

Fortunately for the feeble lawyer cross-examining them, the driver and his passenger girlfriend were deeply stupid. They had concocted a story about the incident that Jeffrey Archer would have scoffed at. No one thought to mention that the star witness couldn't have identified the driver in a line-up of Marilyn Monroe lookalikes. Her Majesty won.

My first scientific job was with a group working on HIV. As well as studying a lot of immunology papers, I read plenty of academic work about sexual behaviour, and even visited the local STD clinic rather more often than a good Catholic boy ought to. Both of these activities were somehow more interesting than the pure biology, and, until we have a vaccine, changing people's sexual habits will also be more important to our controlling the spread of AIDS than the science. The United States government could have saved millions of dollars if they had accepted the conclusion of my research:

No one tells the truth about sex.

No one tells the truth about road accidents either. And they certainly don't tell the truth about sex during road accidents. [via Arts and Letters Daily]