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Showing posts from August, 2011

Interesting Place - England

A hospital in Kent is going to remove the words "do not disturb" from tabards worn by nurses on drug rounds at a hospital in Kent.

(Joyce Robbins, from the campaign group Patient Concern, said: "It gives out the wrong message, it's not meant to do this but it actually says 'don't bother me, I'm too important'. Ah, the power of words.)

PS - This might be the shortest time an interesting fact has been true.

Interesting Place - England

A hospital in Kent is providing their nurses with red "do not disturb" signs to wear when they give out drugs to patients.

(Seemingly this is an attempt to reduce the number of mistakes made on hospital wards. Well good luck to them, I have a red do not disturb sign on Skype - but no one seems to take any notice of it.) po

PS - read the next post (I honestly don't think I'm too important, but I am very busy.)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

Libel cases in the UK involving social sites, have doubled.

(According to legal information company Sweet and Maxwell, between 2008-2009 there were three cases, but from 2009-10, there were 7. Celebrities are even using monitoring services to keep tabs on what is being said about them on social sites. Whatever happened to "the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about?)

Interesting Fact - Space

Russian engineers announced plans to put a hotel into orbit 200 miles above Earth by 2016.

(A four-room, so called Hotel in the Heavens, will house up to seven guests who will be able to watch us mere mortals, as our planet turns beneath them. However it will cost them; space tourists will have to fork out £500,000 to travel on a Soyuz rocket to get to the hotel before stumping up a further £100,000 for a five-day stay. I suggest they get told it will cost them £1 million pounds to get back down.)

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Interesting Place - The Amazon

Brazilian scientists have discovered a new river in the Amazon basin, but it's not a place to go swimming with piranhas, it's actually underground, around 4km beneath the Amazon river.


(They've called it The Rio Hamza, after the head of the team of researchers who discovered it, and it appears to be as long as the Amazon river but up to hundreds of times wider.

It was located using data collected inside a series of 241 abandoned deep wells that were drilled in the Amazon region by the petrochemical company Petrobras in the 1970s and 1980s. I wonder if anyone shouted, "Hey! We've hit water!")

Interesting Words - Lèse Majesté

Lèse majesté (usually written Lese Majeste because no one can find the right symbols on their keyboard) is the crime of violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state.

(The 2007 Constitution of Thailand, and all seventeen versions since 1932, contain the clause, "The King shall be enthroned in a position of ) revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action." Thai Criminal Code elaborates in Article 112: "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years." 15 years!

Missing from the Code, however, is a definition of what actions constitute "defamation" or "insult". From 1990 to 2005, the Thai court system only saw four or five lèse majesté cases a year. From January 2006 to May 2011, however, more than 400 cases came to trial, an estimated…

Interesting Fact - Nationality

According to the UN around 12 million people do not have citizenship of any country.

(So, how do you end up stateless? It can happen when nations such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia break up, or new countries come into being after colonial powers leave, such as in parts of Africa and Asia, and without a nationality people can find it difficult to acquire any kind of legal status, including issues like property rights, getting married legally, registering the birth of a child or simple things like opening a bank account. It makes me value my passport a bit more.)

Interesting Fact - Education - Podcast

According to research from the Office for National Statistics, one in seven university graduates in the UK ends up earning no more than people in work who left school with just GCSEs (typically taken at the age of 16).



(The same study shows that one in five graduates earns less than a worker whose education ended with A-levels (typically taken at the age of 18). The explanation is that the financial advantages of a degree have fallen as the number of graduates has risen. It makes me wonder why I ever went to Uni, but then I work for nothing most of the time, so it's lucky they didn't ask me.)

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Interesting Fact - Cooking

Researchers at Harvard University have deduced that early humans cooked up their first hot meals more than 1.9m years ago.


(They base their findings on tooth size and how much time was spent actually eating (cooked food requires less chewing than raw). Homo erectus, who emerged in Africa around 1.9m years ago, spent 6.1% of its time eating and Neanderthals, spent 7% of their time, but more primitive species, such as Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis, who emerged before Homo erectus and the Neanderthals, spent 7.2% and 9.5% of their day eating. If the estimates are right, it suggests they may have been less accomplished cooks than Homo erectus and the Neanderthals. Maybe the English are more closely related to them.)

Interesting Fact - Art

A neon artwork sign by British artist Tracey Emin has been installed inside Prime Minister David Cameron's official residence.

(The sign reads, "More Passion". I wonder if his wife asked her to put it up in the bedroom?)

Interesting Fact - eBay

The first product sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer.

(It sold for $14.83, which just goes to prove, some people will buy anything. I wonder if they fixed it?)

Interesting Fact - Languages

"Hok-oo" means "watch out, other monkeys about!" in monkey language.

(I know you don't need to know this to improve your English, but you'll thank me if you ever meet a troupe of monkeys.)

Interesting Food - Kit Kat

The UK's best-selling chocolate biscuit bar, Kit Kat, carries the Fairtrade quality mark.

(As well as providing a fairer price for cocoa farmers, organisations receive additional Fairtrade premium payments to invest in long-term community and business development projects of their own choice, such as education and healthcare, the environment or their businesses. So have a break, give a helping hand.)

Interesting Fact - Health

There is a rare medical condition called Hair Brushing Syndrome.

(The syndrome means that sufferers have to avoid static electricity, which can shut down their brain. As a result people with this condition cannot wear polyester, or play with balloons or, of course, brush their hair - hence the name. I guess they have to avoid going shopping in department stores too. I don't know if it's just me, but I'm always getting little shocks when I take the escalator or grab hold of a handrail, and sometimes I even pass the shock on to innocent passers-by.)


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Interesting Fact - Television - Podcast

According to research by TV Licensing, people in Scotland watch an average of five hours’ television a day.


(Tick tock, tick tock. You need to look at the previous post to make any sense of that.)

Interesting Fact - Television - Podcast

According to the results of a study published by the University of Queensland, watching too much TV is as bad for your health as smoking.


(They calculated that over the age of 25 an hour of TV shortens the lifespan by an average of around 22 minutes, so >six hours of daily television viewing can cut a person’s life expectancy by five years. Tick tock, tick tock. Oh dear, I wonder if the same is true for staring at a computer monitor, or sitting behind a camera?)

Interesting Place - London

The Metropolitan Police Force in London has arrested about 1200 people following the rioting that blighted England last week.

(They say they expect the number of people arrested to rise to 3000.)

"I lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home." Tariq Jahan, England 2011

Interesting Fact - Money

Up to 70% of Wall Street trading is now run by so-called black box or algo-trading (algorithm trading).

(In the so-called Flash Crash of 2:45 on May 6 2010, a five minute dip in the markets caused momentary chaos. A rogue trader was blamed for the 10% Dow Jones index fall but in reality, it was the computer program that the unnamed trader was using that was really to blame. The rogue algorithm sold 75,000 stocks with a value of £2.6bn in just 20 minutes, causing other super-fast trading algorithms to follow suit. The market recovered minutes later, and all the chaos forced regulators to introduce circuit breakers to halt trades if the machines start misbehaving, but what really worries me is that no-one has ever managed to figure out what happened.)

Interesting Fact - Books

"The Making of a Fly" - a book about the molecular biology of a fly from egg to fully-fledged insect was advertised on Amazon for $23.6m (£14.3m).

(Now, I'm sure it is a fabulous book, but did it really deserve such a high price tag? No, it didn't. It hit that figure briefly on the Amazon site after the algorithms used by Amazon to set and update prices started outbidding each other. Yes, an algorithm written by a human went haywire. An amusing insight into the chaos that may be caused if we put all our trust in the machines we use every day.)

Interesting Words - Dictionaries

The Romanian Academy, Romania's linguistic watchdog, has promised to change the definition of an anti-Semitic word included in a widely-circulated dictionary.

(The offending dictionary gave the definition of the word 'jidan', (a pejorative term for Jew), as merely a "familiar" term. A Jewish group, The Centre for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania, slammed it as "shameful", and the academy promised in a letter, "In future editions of the dictionary, definitions will be worded so as not to leave room for discriminatory interpretations. Hmm - I wonder what they'd make of the Urban Dictionary.")

Interesting Fact - Transport

6.9 million passengers flew in or out of Heathrow in July 2011, up 2.5% from July 2010.

(Its all-time busiest day was Sunday July 31. I wonder if they were arriving or leaving.)

Interesting Fact - Money

As of today Apple is the most valuable company in the world based on the value of its stock.

(It has stolen this dubious crown from ExxonMobil as its stock price rose to $363.69 per share for a total "market capitalization" of $337.2 billion. ExxonMobil's stock price slipped to $68.03 per share to give the international petroleum giant a valuation of $330.8 billion. Of course how long Apple keep their crown, will depend on their next product.)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

@Google’s first tweet on Twitter was: “I’m feeling lucky”.

(But they didn't write it like that, instead they wrote, "I’m 01100110 01100101 01100101 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101100 01110101 01100011 01101011 01111001 00001010” which means the same in binary.)

Interesting People - George Washington

George Washington grew marijuana in his garden.


(In fact, he was forced to do it, allegedly for the fibre. In 1762, Virginia awarded bounties for hempculture and manufacture, and imposed penalties upon those who did not produce it. But there is some suggestion that he had other properties in mind, as he wrote in his diary:-

May 12-13 1765: "Sowed Hemp at Muddy hole by Swamp."
August 7, 1765: "--began to seperate (sic) the Male from
the Female Hemp at Do--rather too late."

George Andrews argued, in _The Book of Grass: An Anthology of Indian Hemp_ (1967), that Washington's August 7 diary entry "clearly indicates that he was cultivating the plant for medicinal purposes as well for its fiber." How times have changed.)

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Interesting Fact - The Internet

According to a report by Ofcom, nearly half of UK adults said they used social networking sites in the first three months of 2011.

(So, if you want to catch yourself one of those elusive "native speakers", you need to start networking. Of course once you start doing so, you might realise that native speakers aren't all their cracked up to be.)

Interesting Fact - Communication

According to a report by Ofcom, in 2010 an average of five text messages per day were sent for every person in the UK.

(Of course not every person in the UK sent a message, I very rarely text people, but the rest made up for it. No wonder texting isn't free any more.)

Interesting Fact - Communication

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According to a report by Ofcom, half of all UK teenagers own smartphones.

(Yes, the Communications Market 2011 report from Ofcom shows that that smartphone ownership is still on the rise and that teenagers are obsessed with their phones. The report findings show that teenagers are much more likely to own a smartphone than adults and are more obsessed with them.

48 per cent of teenagers own a smartphone compared to just 27 per cent of adults. 60% of teenagers who owned a smartphone described themselves as “highly addicted” to their handsets. Only 37 per cent of adults felt that way. I'm really glad I'm not a teenager any more.)

Interesting Fact - Space

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Experts from the University of Bern in Switzerland, believe that the Earth was originally orbited by two moons.

(The researchers are attempting to explain why the far side of the Moon has a thick, mountainous crust while the near side is flat.

The mountainous far side of the moon:-


The smoother near side of the moon:-



The theory is that the smaller moon was absorbed into the larger when they smashed together in slow motion, around 4.4 billion years ago.

Interesting Fact - Toilets

According to the World Toilet Organization (yes, there is one), the average person goes to the toilet 2500 times year.

(If you add it up it means that your average human spends about 3 years over their lifetime.)

Interesting Fact - Sentences - For Hermine

We've had the shortest sentence, but what about the longest sentence? Well in literature seemingly it is 469,375 words long. It appears in Nigel Tomm's "The Blah Story".

(For many years people regarded the last section of James Joyce's Ulysses, Molly Bloom's soliloquy, which consists of two sentences to be the longest. The first sentence is 11,281 words long, and the second 12,931 words long. This held the record for the longest sentence until The Rotter's Club was published in 2001, which contains a 13,955-word sentence.

There have been other contenders over the years. The Guinness Book of World Records had an entry for what it claimed was the longest sentence in English, from William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom! containing 1,287 words.

There is also a Polish novel “Gates of Paradise” written by Jerzy Andrzejewski, and published in 1960, with a 40,000 word sentence. And finally, there is a Czech novel that consists of one long sentence (128…

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