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Showing posts from January, 2009

Interesting Animal - Locusts

All locusts are grasshoppers, but not all grasshoppers are locusts.

(The locust is the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These grasshoppers usually spend their life as harmless hermits, who avoid their fellows like the plague, but these cute green guys turn into a swarming plague of biblical locusts when the brain chemical serotonin kicks in.

The molecule serotonin is best known in humans as a target of anti-depressant drugs. I always thought they were two different species. One nice little green one who never did anyone any harm, and the other a rapacious beasty to be stomped on, but seemingly prior to swarming, the grasshoppers undergo a series of dramatic physical changes - their body colour darkens and their muscles grow stronger for flying. The daft thing is that the change takes place when food becomes short, and they slowly start to cluster together and before you know it there's a real food shortage. Isn't nature weird?)

Interesting Fact # 978 - Unemployment

The number of young people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in employment, education or training has risen by 94,000.

(According to the Prince's Trust, NEETs cost tax payers in the UK over £20 million per week in Job Seeker’s Allowance, but the loss of productivity to the UK economy is over £70 million per week. I don't like to think of humans as being "productive units", but I do know if I didn't work, or do "something", I'd be bored out of my skull.)

Interesting Fact # 977 - Cloning

S Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk cloned the first dog back in 2005.

(It is called Snuppy, and has since fathered 9 puppies. I keep looking at Sam and wondering...)

Interesting Fact # 976 - Attraction

A study at Stirling and Aberdeen Universities found that averting the eyes by even a fraction can make you appear less attractive.

(You can increase your attraction to the opposite sex simply by looking straight at them and smiling. Of course as I'm completely boss-eyed this advice is completely useless to me.)

Interesting People # 121 - Thomas Allinson

Thomas Richard Allinson (1858 – 1918) was a British doctor, dietetic reformer, business man and journalist. He was struck off the Medical Register in 1892 because he opposed doctors' frequent use of toxic drugs.

(He was a proponent of whole grain (or "wholemeal") bread consumption, and his name is still used today for a bread popular in the UK, Allinson bread. He was also an advocate of equal rights for women and he promoted health through diet, exercise, fresh air and bathing. No wonder they struck him off.)

Footnote: During World War I, the food value of whole grain bread was recognised and he was offered the right to re-register as a doctor but refused.

Source: Wikipedia

Interesting Place # 93 - India

India is the most populous democracy in the world.

(India has a population of 1,147,995,904 people and rising.)

Interesting Invention # 28 - Dental Drill

The electric dental drill was patented by Dr George Green of Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA in 1875.

(Imagine if they'd called it a Kalamazoo.)

Interesting People # 120 - Walter Raleigh

A £30,000 statue of Sir Walter Raleigh that stands in the Devon village of East Budleigh, his birthplace, was sponsored by British American Tobacco.

(Raleigh brought tobacco from America, so I guess BAT are very grateful to him.)

Interesting Fact - Accents

According to David Crystal, professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, everyone has an accent and, within the UK, accents change noticeably about every 25 miles.

(I'm not sure what my accent is, because I've travelled more than 25 miles.)

Interesting Fact # 974 - Advertising

A poster campaign proclaiming "There's probably no God" does not breach British advertising rules.

(More than 300 people complained about the the atheist campaign where the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," was stuck on around 800 buses. Now that's free speech.)

Interesting Fact # 973 - The Inauguration

At the inauguration of Barack Obama around two million people packed into the Washington National Mall to see the ceremony.

(I watched it on TV along with two billion other people.)

Interesting Fact # 972 - Climate Change

According to a report in the journal Nature Geoscience the number of foggy and misty days in Europe is falling.

(Scientists say that these changes may have increased the temperatures across Europe, just not this winter.)

Today

Is Blue Monday.

(Why?

Well according to Cliff Arnall, a former psychology academic at Cardiff University:

Lousy weather
Post-Christmas debt
Failed New Year's resolutions
Time elapsed since Christmas festivities
Motivation levels
The need for something to look forward to

For me it's Blue Monday because I locked myself out and had to break into my own house!)

Interesting Fact # 971 - Money

According to David Cameron, the Tory leader, every child born in Britain starts life owing £17,000.

(Seemingly this is the result of record borrowing under Labour. How accurate the figures are, I couldn't say. It's all part of a poster campaign, the poster reads: "Dad's nose, Mum's eyes, Gordon Brown's debt." Which is quite clever for the Tories.)

Interesting Fact # 970 - The Moon

The Moon's distance from the Earth can vary by about 30,000km.

(The Moon's orbit is eliptic, it does not follow a circular but rather an oval path. This means that its distance from the Earth is not constant.)

Interesting Place - England

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, England is now the most densely populated major country in the European Union.

(This doesn't surprise me. You only have to go shopping in Nottingham on a Saturday to realise there are too many people.)

Interesting Place # 91 - Alaska

In Fairbanks, Alaska: its illegal to give alcohol to a moose.

(I'm not sure if this is true, but most laws come about through precedent. So, who did it?)

Interesting Fact # 969 - Climate Change

Scientists say that in 2008 the world was cooler than at any time since the turn of the century.

(Cooling La Nina conditions in the Pacific brought temperatures down to levels last seen in the year 2000. That said the average global temperature is still about 0.7C above pre-industrial times. So, is it global warming or global cooling?)

Interesting Words # 84 - Quantitative easing .

Quantitative easing is the act of printing more money to increase the supply.

(It effectively means that the central bank prints new money, in order to increase the supply of money. 'Quantitative' refers to the money supply; 'easing' essentially means increasing. I tried it once, but I was arrested.)

Interesting Fact # 968 - Etiquette

At a dinner party, etiquette dictates that a man should always talk to the woman on his left during the first course, and on his right during the main course.

(Leaving the woman on his left wondering what she said wrong!)

Interesting Fact # 967 - Law

In Australia it's legal to serve legal papers by Facebook.

(The Australian courts have granted permission for people to be served with legally binding papers via email and text messages. I wonder if they'll do it via forums next too.)

Interesting Fact # 966 - Writing

80 years since the last one, a new Winnie-the-Pooh story is to be published.

("Return to the Hundred Acre Wood", written by David Benedictus, is to be released in Britain and the United States on October 5. Well, I've heard of milking the cow, but never of milking the bear.)

Interesting Fact # 965 - Education

According to a paper, published by the British Medical Journal, children who badly misbehave in school are likelier to end up with a dud job, have poor mental health, end up in a teen pregnancy or get divorced.

(Forty years after monitoring Britons born in 1946, a clear link was found between misbehaviour at school and difficulties in adult life. I'm going to look at some of my old school reports and see where I went wrong.)

Interesting Fact - Houses

Councils in the UK are banning the number 13 from council houses on new developments.

(Some people are just reluctant to live in a house with an "unlucky" number. And before you mock British superstition, they are not alone. Seemingly in Japan, hotels, hospitals and apartment blocks often skip the unlucky number four. And in the US, skyscrapers often leave out a 13th floor.)

Interesting Fact # 963 - Energy

Only 2% of gas in the UK comes from Russia.

(Britain still uses its North Sea reserves for most of its gas supply, supplementing it with imports from Norway. However, that hasn't stopped the wholesale price of gas from rocketing 26% in the last three days whilst the continuing gas wrangle between Russia and Ukraine has reduced supply to Europe. I guess it was just too good an opportunity to miss.)

Today

Today is known as D-Day. It's nothing to do with the war, the D stands for divorce, because today more people file for divorce than the rest of the year. The stresses of Christmas and the New Year take their toll.

Interesting Fact - Music

According to a three-year study, carried out at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, on the links between personality and music taste, classical music fans have high self-esteem while heavy rock fans lack self-belief. Indie music listeners lack self-esteem and lovers of pop music are uncreative, while country and western fans are hard-working and rap fans have an outgoing personality.

(I wonder what they'd make of me. I like most genres. Maybe that makes me a full of self esteem whilst lacking self belief, uncreative, creative, hard-working, outgoing schizophrenic.)

Interesting Fact # 961 - Music

According to a three year study published by a university in Edinburgh, heavy metal fans and lovers of classical music have more in common than they may like to think.

(Although fans of heavy metal bands like Metallica are traditionally portrayed as work-shy, long-haired students, and lovers of Mozart are seen as sober and hard-working, researchers found that both music types attract creative people who are at ease with themselves but can be introverted. I must say I've never seen anyone head banging to Mozart though.)

Interesting Fact # 960 - Law

Defaming the royals in Thailand carries a a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.

(Just as well the Royals in the UK don't enforce such a law. The jails would be overflowing.)

Interesting Fact # 959 - Suicide

According to a report in the British Journal of Psychology, the number of suicides in England and Wales fell by about 40 percent after the July 2005 London bombings.

(This echoes a trend recorded after the attacks on September 11, 2001, in New York, where suicide rates also dropped by about the same percentage. Psychologists believe traumatic national events such as these help potentially suicidal people to feel less alone and more a part of society. Or maybe they just realise how sacred life is.)

Interesting Food # 45 - Chips

According to figures from RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)chip pans are the second biggest cause of accidental house fires in Britain.

(Seemingly most chip pan fires are caused by men cooking after they have been drinking. The moral of this story is don't drink and fry.)

Interesting Fact- Time

The world's official timekeeper, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) in Paris, decided to prolong 2008 by one second.

(We all know about leap years, which occur once every four years because it takes 365 days plus six hours for our planet to complete an orbit around the Sun, but seemingly leap seconds are added on a strictly at need basis, because satellites orbit at speeds calculated in miles per second, and the Internet, (GPS) global positioning systems etc all need to know exactly what time it is.

So the countdown to 2009 went something like this: "...3, 2, 1 and a half, 1... Happy New Year!")

Today

The euro is ten years old.

The euro was launched on the world financial markets as an accounting currency on 1 January 1999.

Happy Birthday euro.

Interesting Date - 2009

2009 has been designated as the International Year of Astronomy and the International Year of Natural Fibres.

(So, cotton in space anyone?

Happy New Year)

More Interesting Stuff