Hats off to Bob Stone. The professor of interactive multimedia systems at the University of Birmingham has received the unusual distinction of being made an honorary Cossack for his services to international virtual reality. He helped make a model of the Mir Space Station that was key to bringing virtual reality to the Novocherkassk Simulation Centre, which trains cosmonauts. However, there was nothing virtual about the presentation ceremony, in which Professor Stone was beaten with a whip, drank a huge goblet of vodka, danced with a chorus of Cossack women, wore Cossack furs and swam naked in, appropriately, the River Don. He said: "At the end of the ceremony at Starocherkassk, the old capital of the Cossack region, I was presented with a large Cossack whip and advised that it was for use on my horses and my wife."