Showing posts from 2009

Interesting Place # 123 - Germany

Every New Year's Eve, thousands of Germans sit down to watch an English comedy sketch that hardly anyone in England has heard of.

(The sketch is called "Dinner for One" and it stars the late Freddie Frinton, who plays James, butler to an elderly upper-class English woman called Miss Sophie who is celebrating her 90th birthday. There's even a catchphrase that most Germans would instantly recognise "The same procedure as every year". But the whole thing was produced by a German TV company. Even so, many people are surprised that I had never heard of it before coming here.)

Interesting Fact - Friendship

According to a study carried out by a team at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) the wealthiest people are those that had the most friends at school.

(They studied 10,000 students over a period of 35 years and the results suggest that each extra school friend adds 2% to your salary. I wonder how many friends Bill Gates had.)

Interesting People # 145 - Charles Osborne

American Charles Osborne, of Anthon, Iowa, holds the world record for the longest ever bout of hiccups.

(He hiccuped for 68 years from 1922 until 1990. Poor guy! Seemingly you can even hiccup while you're asleep.)

Interesting Fact - Buildings

The world's newest, and to date, tallest building, Burj Dubai can be seen at a distance of 95 km.

(There are 28,261 glass panels on the exterior of the tower, and it has 57 lifts, the main service lift goes up 504 metres. There are 49 office floors with 1,044 residential apartments. The fountain at the foot of the tower is 900 feet long, and is the world's tallest performing fountain.

 It is a superlative building.)

Interesting Fact # 1223 - Language

Spanish is spoken by around 500 million people in more than 20 countries.

According to the Spanish in the World website, the following countries have a Spanish-speaking population greater than 100,000.

Mexico - 106 million
Colombia - 44 million
Spain - 44 million
Argentina - 39 million
United States - 31 million
Venezuela - 25 million
Peru - 25 million
Chile - 16 million
Guatemala - 14 million
Ecuador - 13 million
Cuba - 11 million
Bolivia - 8.7 million
Dominican Republic - 8.5 million
El Salvador - 6.8 million
Honduras - 6.8 million
Nicaragua - 5.5 million
Paraguay - 4.5 million
Costa Rica - 4 million
Puerto Rico - 3.6 million
Uruguay - 3.4 million
Panama - 3 million

Interesting Fact # 1222 - Christmas Fact - The 12 Days of Christmas

According to the PNC Financial Services "The Christmas Price Index", buying all the presents in "The 12 Days of Christmas" song will cost nearly 400 dollars more than last year.

(The reason is the price of gold rings and French hens are up sharply. The total price tag would be $21,465.56 this year.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - A Typical Christmas Day

Happy Christmas!

According to research by, of all things, Jarlsberg cheese company, a typical Christmas Day in the UK runs like clockwork. By 9.00 the presents have all been unwrapped, and the first (alcoholic) drink is drunk at 11.48, dinner follows at 3.24 (after the Queen's speech) then 8 hours later everyone is in bed.

(As a child I experienced a slightly different Christmas. We were always woken up by "Oh come all ye faithful" played on the radio, then we were allowed to unwrap Santa's presents, but we had to wait until after we had eaten dinner and the washing up had been done to open the other presents. My mother wasn't stupid. It guaranteed good behaviour for most of the day.)

Interesting Fact # 1220 - Christmas Fact - The Christmas Row

A typical British family has its first festive row at precisely 9.58 on Christmas morning.

(The presents have been unwrapped, overexcited children row with their parents, who are trying to tidy up the discarded wrapping and packaging material before rushing round trying to shove an oversized turkey into the oven. Arguments start about what to watch on TV and the average parent ends up losing it, and telling off their children for the first time by 11.07am.)

Interesting Fact #1219 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Turkey - Podcast

According to the Recycling Consortium, nearly 3,000,000 kg of aluminium foil will be used to wrap Christmas turkeys.

(A Peugeot 307 only contains 75 kg of aluminium.)

Interesting Fact #1218 - Christmas Fact - Aluminium

According to the Recycling Consortium the UK will get through an extra 500 million aluminium drinks cans over the festive period.

(Add that to the next interesting fact! That's a lot of alu.)

Interesting Fact #1217 - Christmas Fact - Turkeys

During Christmas 2008 the UK consumed around 10 million turkeys.

(From free-range fresh, to frozen, it's still the bird of choice.)

Interesting Fact #1216- Christmas Fact - Cost of Christmas

People in the UK spend around £20bn on Christmas.

(£1.6bn of that goes on food and drink.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Secret Santa

The largest secret Santa event involved 1,270 participants.

(It was organized by Boots UK Limited in Nottingham, UK, on December 18, 2008. Secret Santa is a tradition in which members of a group are randomly assigned other members to whom they anonymously give a gift. All the participants agree on a price limit and then they write their names on small pieces of paper and put them in an envelope. Each person then draws a name. The name drawn is the recipient of the gift. You'll usually find secret Santa events in workplaces, because it helps to limit the number of gifts people have to buy.)

Interesting Fact #1214 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Stocking

The largest Christmas stocking ever made, measured 106 ft 9 in long and 49 ft 1 in wide (heel to toe).

(It was made by the Children's Society (UK) in London, UK on December 14, 2007. I don't know if anyone filled it though.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Mince Pies

According to the All About Christmas web site, the largest mince pie ever made weighed 2,260 pounds (1.02 tonnes) and measured 6.1m X 1.5m. It was baked in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire on 15 October 1932.

(I don't know if anyone ever ate it though.)

Interesting Place - Christmas Fact - Latvia

In Latvia a traditional Christmas dinner is cooked brown peas with bacon sauce, small pies, cabbage and sausage.

(Mmmm peas!)

Interesting Place - Christmas Fact - Austria

Austria is campaigning to save the Christkind, their traditional Christmas gift giver, from the red and white menace of Santa Claus.

(Traditionally the Christkind leaves a fully decorated tree and presents after dark on Christmas Eve, but Santa has been dropping down the chimney and is better at self promotion. This has caused a bit of a fuss, as Santa is seen as an American usurper, but according to the curator of the Joanneum museum in Graz, even the Christkind is not really an Austrian tradition. It all started in the Protestant areas of Germany in the 16th Century, and only arrived in largely Catholic Austria in 1870. Before that Austrians would make seasonal offerings to household spirits. If the children of Austria are canny, they'll invite the Christkind, Father Christmas, Santa and any little sprites or spirits to leave presents.)

Interesting Place - Christmas Fact - Covent Market

According to Time Out, this year’s Christmas lights in the Market Building at Covent Garden, London will be spectacular chandeliers made from 600 LED tubes.

(The seasonal transformation also features a 40ft christmas tree, and a 37ft topiary reindeer. There will be occasional visits by live reindeer, who hopefully won't eat their shrubby cousin.)

Interesting Place # 119 - Christmas Fact - London

This Christmas it is estimated that Londoners will send around 123 million Christmas cards, consume around 1.5m jars of pickles, put up 976,000 trees and use enough wrapping paper to cover Hyde Park four times!

(I couldn't find out how much beer and wine they'll drink. They probably lost count.)

Interesting Fact #1212 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees

The 21m tree in Trafalgar square is turned into mulch which is then used as fertiliser in Parliament Square.

(The tree is taken down after Christmas and fed into a chipping machine. It makes about 15 bags of mulch.)

Interesting Fact # 1212 - Christmas Fact - Packaging

According to the Recycling Consortium, around 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away over Christmas.

(That's the equivalent weight of more than 50,000 polar bears! And that's not counting all the cardboard boxes.)

Interesting Fact #1211 - Christmas Fact - Christmas

According to the Recycling Consortium, in the UK we will go through an extra 750 million glass bottles and jars over Christmas and the New Year.

(That's a lot of wine and pickled onions.)

Interesting Fact #1210 - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees - Podcast

According to the Recycling Consortium, people in the UK will put up about 8 million Christmas trees.

(Unfortunately most of them will be thrown away in January, generating over 12,000 tonnes of rubbish. Hopefully most people will recycle them. Once a tree has been chipped it takes about 10 weeks for the wood to become compost.)

Interesting Fact #1209 - Christmas Fact - Presents

According to the Recycling Consortium we use about 83 km2 of Christmas wrapping paper in the UK.

(Some people unwrap their presents carefully so that they can save the paper till next year, other people simply rip it off into confetti sized pieces to get at the goodies inside. What do you do?)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Cards

One tree makes enough card for about 3,000 Christmas cards.

(If you look at Interesting Fact 1207, that means around 333,333 are felled to produce the Christmas cards for the UK alone.)

!Note - Card, the material is uncountable. Cards are made of card and are countable. Don't you love English?

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Cards

According to the recycling consortium, one billion Christmas cards end up in bins across the UK over Christmas.

(That's 17 for every man, woman and child in the UK.)

Interesting Fact - Banking

According to a watchdog report the great bank bailout for banks in the UK has hit 850 billion pounds.

(This involved buying shares, underwriting debts and lending money to banks including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) during the crisis. Northern Rock was nationalised outright. Now LBG is 43-percent owned by the taxpayer while RBS, ravaged by the credit crunch and the takeover of Dutch giant ABN Amro at the top of the market, is set to become 84 percent state-owned after the latest bailout. From a nation of shopkeepers, to a nation of bankers.)

Interesting Fact #1205 - Games Consoles in the UK

According to gadget magazine T3, the Nintendo Wii is the UK’s fastest selling games console.

(I mocked the name when it came out, but now nearly a quarter of all households in the UK own one - more than six million homes. And just think, this number will probably go up on Christmas day.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - The White House

The White House' traditional Gingerbread house is a white chocolate-covered replication of the White House.

(It took six weeks for executive pastry chef Bill Yosses and his staff to create it, with green royal icing wreaths adorning its windows. They even recreated Mrs Obama's garden, complete with marzipan vegetables, and a cutout that gives viewers a look inside the gingerbread State Dining Room, with a lit chandelier and furniture made of dark chocolate.)

Interesting Fact # 1203 - Christmas Fact - The White House

It takes 3,400 man hours to decorate the White House for Christmas.

(It's all carried out by volunteers, who then get to attend the first party hosted by the President and First Lady. Now that's the spirit of Christmas.)

Interesting People # 144 - Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher only suffered one parliamentary defeat during her "reign" as prime minister - on Sunday trading laws.

(The UK trading act was eventually passed eight years later. But it still faced stiff opposition, and not just from religious groups, trade unions, and even some large stores such as Marks and Spencer and Waitrose were also opposed to the idea. Before Sunday opening, an interesting quote from a fictitious source stated: "If England has not been invaded since 1066, it is because foreigners dread having to spend a Sunday there.")

Interesting Word # 95 - Word of the Year

The Global Language Monitor has made "Twitter" the top word of 2009.

(Not "twitter" the noise a small bird makes, but the 140 character chattering you do online. "Twitter" was followed by Obama, H1N1, stimulus and believe it or not, vampire.)

Interesting Fact - Tea

The earliest authenticated record of commercial cultivation of tea can be found in 4th century Chinese documents.

(But it was considered a medicinal drink. Actually infusing tea leaves in a teapot only became a widespread practice in China early during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).)

Interesting Fact # 1200 - Comets

Comets and human beings contain roughly the same amounts of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.

(I guess Moby was right when he sang, "We are all made of stars.")

Interesting Fact # 1199 - The Galaxy

If you attempted to count all the stars in a galaxy at a rate of one every second it would take around 3,000 years to count them all.

(So I'd better start now. 1, 2, 3, ...)

Interesting Fact # 1198 - Genetics

The Pinot Noir grape, used to make some excellent red wines, has about 30,000 genes in its DNA.

(That's more than the human genome, which contains 20,000 to 25,000 genes. I do hope they never prove a link between intelligence and the number of genes, otherwise I have broken my own cardinal rule - never eat anything that might be more intelligent than you are.)

Interesting Fact # 1197 - Disney

Over the past 70 years, Disney studios have created eight princesses - Snow White, Cinderella, Princess Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan.

(The great news is that the ninth princess, in the new Disney cartoon The Princess And The Frog, will be a bit different from those who have gone before. Her name is Tiana and she is African-American. I bet Walt is spinning. He he.)

Interesting Fact # 1196 - Babies

According to research carried out at Leicester University, babies can remember sounds they heard in the womb more than a year after birth.

(Seemingly the foetus in the womb is able to hear fully only 20 weeks after conception. But the memory thing doesn't seem fair, because I can't remember something I was told 10 minutes ago.)

Interesting Invention # 33 - Multi-Track Recording

Musician Les Paul invented multi-track recording.

(He started to tinker around with different taping techniques after World War II, when Bing Crosby gave him a tape recorder. Imagine if he'd given him an iron instead.)

Interesting Fact - Swearing

According to software specialists Corizon, the Welsh are the worst swearers in the UK (when phoning call centres).

(About 15 per cent admitted turning the air blue when arguing with call centre staff. Londoners were second in the foul-mouthed league, with 12 per cent confessing to losing it with "inappropriate language". The Welsh are also the most likely to hang up in a huff, whilst those in the Midlands and South are the least patient, with 61 per cent ringing off without managing to speak to anyone. And unsurprisingly men are twice as likely to swear as women.)

Interesting Fact # 1194 - Hair

If you're strapped for cash you can sell your hair in Spain for between 50 and 150 euros (75 and 220 dollars).

(The price you get depends on the length and the weight, but generally it should be more than 40 centimetres (16 inches) long and have never been dyed. They probably wouldn't pay much for my grey locks though.)

Interesting Animal - Elephants

Farmers in Botswana are using chilli peppers to keep elephants at bay.

(The chillies, planted around the perimeter of the crop, act as a buffer. The idea being that when an elephant wanders in, the smell of the chillies crushed under its feet will drive it away. Of course if they develop a taste for curry, there could be a problem.)

Interesting People # 143 - Michael Jackson

Do you remember that rhinestone-encrusted glove worn by pop icon Michael Jackson for his first "moonwalk" dance in 1983? Well it sold for $350,000 at an auction in New York.

(The pre-sale estimate was a mere 40,000 to 60,000 dollars, but obviously someone wanted it - a lot. I just wonder what they're going to put on their other hand.)

Interesting People # 142 - Mikhail Kalashnikov

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of what is arguably the world's most infamous machine-gun wanted to be a poet in his youth.

(Mr Kalashnikov is the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, beloved of guerrillas around the world. He told reporters at a celebration of his 90th birthday in Russia, "I wrote poetry in my youth, and people thought I would become a poet. But I didn't become one." What a shame he dropped the pen for the sword.)

Interesting Fact # 1193 - Freak Waves - Podcast

Around three waves in every 10,000 are freak waves.

(A freak wave is one that measures roughly three times higher than other swells on the sea at any one time. They can measure up to 18m (60ft) - the height of a six-storey building! Not something you want to see rushing towards you in a dinghy.)

Interesting Word # 94 - Trousers

In Victorian times trousers were called "unmentionables".

(According to the world's first historical thesaurus in Victorian times trousers were considered risqué, and so a number of euphemisms arose, including; unimaginables, unwhisperables and never-mention-ems. The Victorians were incorrigible prudes, I'm just off to iron a pair of never-mention-ems now.)

Interesting Fact # 1192 - Speech and Language

The gene FOXP2 is the first gene to be identified as being involved in the development of speech and language.

(The FOXP2 gene is required for proper brain and lung development, but it is implicated in the development of language skills too. Several cases of developmental verbal dyspraxia in humans have been linked to mutations in the FOXP2 gene. They just need to discover the gene linked to learning foreign languages now.)

Interesting People - Franklin D Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt wouldn't travel on Friday the 13th.

(The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή) (meaning Friday), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς) (meaning thirteen), attached to phobía (φοβία) (meaning fear). The term triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13, derives from the Greek words "tris", meaning 'three', "kai", meaning 'and', and "deka", meaning 'ten'. the whole word means three and ten. I'm not sure what the fear of pronouncing those phobias is called.)

Interesting Fact - The Spine

A human spinal cord is pproximately 18 inches (45 cm) long.

(It is the body's major neural tract, a thin, tubular bundle of nerves that is enclosed in and protected by the bony vertebral column. Injury to the spinal cord may result in a loss of communication between the brain and sections of the spinal cord, causing paralysis, loss of sensation, or weakness in parts of the body. According to Biological Psychology, 6th Edition, 1998, the human spinal cord contains around 1 billion neurons.)

Interesting Fact # 1190 - War

The final day - or half-day - of World War I produced about 11,000 casualties.

(If that doesn't illustrate the futility of war, I don't know what does.)

Interesting Fact - Capitalism

According to a poll by the BBC World Service, only 11% of people from 27 countries thought free market capitalism is working well.

(In the United States (25%) and Pakistan (21%) of people agreed that capitalism works well in its current form. Luckily 51% of the people surveyed believed the problems can be solved with more regulation and reform, so there's hope for us yet.)

Interesting Place - Brandenburg

The state of Brandenburg surrounding Berlin is one of the most bomb-contaminated regions in Europe.

(In Brandenburg alone, an average of 631 tons of old munitions from the two world wars and from Soviet army exercises in East German times are found every year by builders, bomb location squads or even worse, children playing.)

Interesting Fact - UXB

According to the Spiegel more than 2,000 tons of munitions from the two world wars are recovered in Germany each year.

(Barely a week goes by without a city street or motorway being cordoned off or even evacuated in Germany due to a UXB being discovered. Between 1991 and 2007 10,733 tonnes of munitions were disposed of, at a cost of €259 million.)

Interesting Fact - American Kids

According to marketing firm Western International Media, only 31 percent of American parents ignore pleas from their children to buy them what they (think they) want.

(Nagging falls into two categories: persistent nagging - the fall-on-the-floor kind, and then there is importance nagging, where a kid can talk about it and talk about it and how their life will be ruined without it. Both work, between 21 and 40 percent of all sales of jeans, hamburgers and other products targeted toward young children are bought as a result of pressure from kids. My mum used to say "I want, doesn't get." or "Ask, don't get. Don't ask, don't get." But then I'm British, maybe I should have been born American.)

Source: Reuters

Interesting Fact - Stress

According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, bad managers are the biggest cause of stress at work.

(This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has a bad manager, the stress of not punching their lights out is very high. What may surprise company owners and members of the board, who are ultimately responsible for bad management, is that these bad managers can cost the UK economy around £28bn because of work related mental illness. The report recommends giving people positive feedback, flexible working hours, and extra time off as a reward. In other words, treat your employees like human beings, not automatons.)

Interesting Fact # 1185 - Train Travel

The UK just got its first £1000 rail fare – for a return journey between Newquay to Kyle of Lochalsh.

(In fact the UK has the most expensive fares in Europe. According to the Liberal party, a £10 fare in the UK will take rail travellers 26 miles, compared to 512 miles for the same money in Serbia. But I bet they don't serve sandwiches with the corners curled up in Serbia.)

Interesting Food # 53 - Coronation Chicken

The famous Anglo Indian fusion dish, Coronation Chicken, was invented by Constance Spry and served at the Queen's Coronation lunch in 1953.

(Nowadays if you were to serve it, you'd be considered slightly old-fashioned.)

Interesting Animal # 107 - The Starfish

A type of starfish avoids overheating at low tide, by pumping itself up with cold seawater. This lowers its body temperature when it's exposed to the sun.

(It's not that remarkable though. I do the same thing, but with beer.)

Interesting Fact - The Largest Thesaurus - Podcast

The worlds largest thesaurus, The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary has nearly 800,000 meanings.

(It has been published in two volumes of 4,500 pages, organised into more than 236,000 categories and sub categories. I don't think I know 800,000 words.)

Interesting Fact # 1183 - UK Population

According to the Office for National Statistics, by 2033 the population of the UK will rise from 61m to 71.6m.

(This will be the fastest rate of population growth in over a century, but not because we're being busy little bunnies, most of the growth will be through migration.)

Interesting Fact - Halloween

About 90% of pumpkins grown worldwide are not eaten - instead they are carved for Halloween and the innards discarded.

(Here's a simple, tasty recipe for pumpkin soup to redress the balance.)

You can learn more about Halloween here.

Interesting Animal - Bears

According to US wildlife biologist Lynn Rogers, bears don't like honey.

(Even more shocking it seems they aren't even very keen on berries and nuts. So much for Winnie the Pooh then.)

Interesting People # 140 - Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong took Dvorak's New World Symphony and theremin music to the moon.

(It's quite appropriate really, because theremin music was made famous by Star Trek, it's that eerie, woo woo sound.)

Interesting Fact # 1181 - Driving

In the UK 10 million people drive to work every day.

(Luckily they don't all use the M25, although you could be forgiven for thinking that they do.)

Interesting Fact - File Sharing

According to research organisation Demos, people who download music illegally also spend an average of £77 a year buying it legitimately.

(Whilst those who claimed not to use peer-to-peer file sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay spent a yearly average of just £44. Maybe they don't file share because they don't want to pay for the bandwidth.)

Interesting Fact # 1179 - Happy Marriages

According to the European Journal of Operational Research, the secret to a happy marriage for men is choosing a wife who is smarter and at least five years younger than you.

(Which condemns us women to thick old blokes. I wonder how many men work at the European Journal of Operational Research.)

Interesting Fact # 1178 - The Universe

According to Nasa the real colour of outer space is beige.

(They have even come up with a name for the particular shade "cosmic latte". Coming to a paint shop near you.)

Here's a picture of the colour.

Interesting People # 141 - Ringo Starr

According to Terry O'Neill, a celebrity photographer, Ringo Starr's mum wanted him to work in a bank.

(All bankers take note. If only you hadn't listened to your mum...)

Interesting Animal # 105 - Bears

According to Professor Lynn Rogers, who has studied wild bears for many years, they hum when they are content.

(He doesn't mention what they hum, maybe it's "The bear necessities".)

Fact - Los Desaparecidos

Human rights groups estimate that up to 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

(In a series of systematic abductions, men women and children were methodically tortured and murdered. The disappeared have not been heard of to this day. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which came into force on 1 July 2002, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at any civilian population, a "forced disappearance" qualifies as a crime against humanity, and thus is not subject to a statute of limitation.)


Interesting Fact # 1176 - Extinction

Out of 47,677 species in an international biodiversity study, which red listed threatened species, more than a third are threatened with extinction.

(17,291 species have been deemed to be at serious risk. 21% of mammals, 30% of amphibians, 70% of plants, and 35% of invertebrates. The main threat is habitat loss, so start buying up land and keep it for future generations.)

Interesting Animal # 105 - Bears

Black bears make loud blowing noises and clack their teeth when frightened.

(I think that if I saw a black bear I'd probably do the same thing.)

Interesting Fact # 1175 - Wine

According to research from the Johannes Gutenberg University, white wine is bad for your teeth.

(Their studies found that white wine is acidic, and it erodes the calcium in teeth. Riesling wines tended to have the greatest impact, having the lowest pH. Luckily, my preferred tipple, red wine, isn't as acidic.)

Interesting Fact # 1174 - Meetings

According to a study by online scheduling service, When Is Good, the best time for a workplace meeting is 3pm on a Tuesday.

(Seemingly 3pm on a Tuesday is an "office diary sweet spot", it's when people are available, motivated and willing. Personally my favourite time for an office meeting is - never.)

Interesting Fact - Internet Security

According to Symantec, more than 40 million people have fallen victim to "scareware" scams in the past 12 months.

(Online criminals are making millions of pounds by convincing computer users to download fake anti-virus software. The most important thing you can do is to make sure you have genuine anti-virus software installed and keep it up to date. This will prevent most infections.)

Interesting Fact # 1172 - Life Expectancy

Scientists are promising that centenarians with the bodies of 50-year-olds will one day be a realistic possibility.

(Half of babies now born in the UK will live to be 100, but our bodies are wearing out. So, Leeds University is spending £50m over five years looking at ways we can reach "50 active years after 50". They plan to provide pensioners with own-grown tissues and durable implants; new hips, knees and heart valves are the starting points, and eventually an upgrade of any body parts. They'll have to hurry up though, otherwise it will be too late for me.)

Interesting Fact # 1171 - Work in America

According to a poll in Time magazine, women now make up nearly half of the US workforce.

(40 years ago this was only a third, but the vast majority of Americans think it's a good thing. 80 percent of women said they thought it was positive and 76 percent of men said the same. But, 57 percent of men and 51 percent of women still believe it is better for a family if the father works and the mother stays at home to look after the children. So things haven't changed that much.)

Interesting Place # 117 - London

Two churches in London have been ordered to keep their singing voices down after neighbours complained about their Sunday services.

(The churches face a fine of £20,000 if they break the order. It all seems very strange until you read what one pastor said; "Because we have had to cut down the drums and sing very low and even without a keyboard, most of our members are not enjoying their worship service, especially our youth, and so they go elsewhere," she said." Drums? Keyboard? I think church has changed since I was a lass.)

Interesting Fact # 1170 - The Human Brain - Podcast

According to scientists at Oxford University, juggling can produce changes to the structure of the brain.

(The white matter of an area of the brain that has been shown to contain nerves that react to us reaching and grasping for objects in our peripheral vision was enlarged by learning to juggle. All I need now is to find out what exercise will actually improve my juggling skills.)

Interesting Fact # 1169 - The Internet

A survey published by YouthNet, has found that 75% of 16 to 24 year olds in Britain feel they "couldn't live" without the internet.

(It's not a life support machine guys. Just switch it off and breathe.)

Interesting People # 139 - Silvio Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has described himself as the most persecuted person "in the entire history of the world".

(According to the BBC, he also said he was "the best prime minister we can find today". Me thinks Mr Berlusconi needs a reality check.)

Interesting Fact # 1168 - The Human Genome - Podcast

Scientists have discovered that long strands of DNA code are folded and tightly packed into the nucleus of a human cell.

(Unfolded, the cell's genome - those strands of DNA code - would be approximately 2m in length and it's all packed into a tight ball to fit inside a nucleus, which is about one hundredth of a millimetre in diameter. Aren't we amazing?)

Interesting Fact # 1167 - Nursery Rhymes

According to the Times Online, the most popular nursery rhymes in the UK are:-

1) Twinkle, twinkle little star

2) Incey Wincey Spider

3) Round and round the garden

4) Baa baa black sheep

5) The grand old Duke of York

6) If you're happy and you know it

7) Humpty Dumpty

8) This little piggy

9) Ring a ring a roses

10) I'm a little teapot

(What? No Lavender's Blue, Mary had a Little Lamb or Hey Diddle Diddle!)

Interesting Fact # 1166 - Nursery Rhymes

According to the Institute of Education, more than a third of parents in the UK have never sung a nursery rhyme to their children.

(Instead many parents prefer to sing pop songs to get their little ones off to sleep. I'm really glad my mother preferred "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", to "Like a bat out of hell".)

Interesting Fact - Internet Security

According to security expert Graham Cluley of Sophos about 40% of people use the same password for every website they use.

(I know it's tempting to do so, but really... Don't be silly. Use a variety of passwords, use a mixture of letters and numbers, the more sensitive the information, the more complex your password should be and change them on a regular basis. If you like to enter competitions online, create throwaway accounts.)

Interesting Fact # 1164 - Phishing

According to technology blog, a series of phishing attacks has targeted free mail clients.

(A list of more than 20,000 names and passwords has been posted online, including account details of Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, AOL and other service providers. The details were posted on 1 October to, a website commonly used by developers to share code. Industry advice is for users to change their passwords straight away.)

Interesting Fact # 1163 - Fraud in the UK

According to Financial Fraud Action UK, the amount of fraud being committed on plastic cards in the UK fell in the first half of 2009, and phone, internet and mail order fraud levels all dropped for the first time, but online banking fraud losses rose to £39m, up 55% on the first half of 2008.

(Losses on cards were only £233m in the first six months! Yippee! This huge sum was actually down by 23% on the previous year. The bad news is that fraudsters seem to have turned to targeting foreign-issued cards. Do you know what? I'm becoming quite fond of paying in cash.)

Interesting Fact # 1162 - Salaries in the UK - Podcast

The median salary in the UK is £20,801.

(The average salary is £26,020, and for full-time employees, that figure rises to £31,323. The top 1% of salaried earners, earn over £118,027, and people who earn £150,000 - the amount that triggers 50% income tax - are in the top 0.6%. Interestingly, in 1654, Oliver Cromwell was paid a salary of £70,000 a year. Kind of puts things into perspective really.)

Interesting Fact - World Record

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest bench in the world is 613.13m.

(The record was set on 27th August 2005 at a stadium in Szlachta, Poland. But the seaside resort of Littlehampton in the UK is trying to break the record. People seem to take this all quite seriously, with Geneva claiming to have the longest wooden bench, a 120m structure built in 1767 out of 180 boards. There's also a 501m long bench in Germany, along the Keil canal. Barcelona says it has longest park bench, a twisting, Gaudi-inspired piece of art, and Russia had the longest painted bench before they had it broken into 100 separate structures to be spread throughout Moscow.)

Interesting Fact # 1160 - Scent

Plants that smell of almond or peaches are more likely to be poisonous.

(This is because of the presence of a common plant poison, hydrocyanic acid. Peach stones, apple pips and bitter almonds are all poisonous in this way, because when they are broken up by the acid of the stomach, they release hydrogen cyanide. Luckily it's only fatal if you eat lots of them.)

Interesting Fact # 1159 - Global Warming

According to the UK government's new chief energy scientist, Professor David MacKay, greenhouse gas emissions created by Britons are probably twice as bad as figures suggest.

(The main reason for this is that developing countries manufacture the goods that Britain buys. It is increasingly difficult to "Buy British".)

Interesting Animal - The Kakapo Parrot

The Kakapo is the heaviest parrot in the world.

(Sadly they are also one of the most endangered species in the world. There are only 91 known to be alive, and each one has been given a name.

Interesting People # 138 - Nero - Podcast

Emperor Nero had a rotating dining room built.

(Archaeologists on a dig on Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy (where Roman emperors traditionally built their most lavish palaces) believe they have found the remains of the legendary rotating dining room which the Emperor Nero built to entertain his guests. According to the Roman historian Suetonius, who described the unique revolving room in his Lives of the Caesars, written about 60 years after Nero's death: "The chief banqueting room was circular and revolved perpetually, night and day, in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies. Just imagine having a huge dinner and then sitting there - rotating day and night - ugh!)

Interesting Fact - Pets in the UK

According to the Telegraph, all domestic dogs in Britain will be fitted with microchips carrying the name and address of their owners.

(It is hoped it will reduce the number of strays, the trade in stolen dogs and animal abuse. It's not a bad idea, as it should help reunite lost pets with their owners, but there are problems. I'm sure the kind of people who steal dogs, or harm or dump their pets, would not have any scruple about removing the chip before doing so, causing the pet even more suffering. Maybe the government should think about linking the chip to a DNA database. Hopefully they won't consider doing the same to us humans though.)

Interesting Fact # 1157 - Transport

According to a study carried out at Heriot-Watt University, three out of four accidents involving vehicles are caused because the driver was distracted.

(The two biggest causes of accidents were dealing with children, and believe it or not - texting. TEXTING! 52% of the respondents admitted to using a mobile phone, and 40% said they had written a text whilst driving. Who do they think they are?

Interesting Fact # 1156 - Reading

A new library scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland means that wherever you are you can borrow a book, simply by using your local library card.

(What a fantastic idea! It means that even if you're on holiday you can still use the local library. Of course you have to take any books you've borrowed back to the library you borrowed them from, but even so... I'm tempted to go back to England.)

Interesting Fact # 1155 - Exercise

According to research by the British Heart Foundation, seven in eight children in the UK aren't getting enough exercise.

(This means that only one child in eight is exercising for more than 60 minutes a day! What's even more worrying is that 20% of the children surveyed thought that you only need to exercise if you're fat. We're going to turn into a nation of teletubbies!)

Interesting Fact # 1154 - Ikea

According to Ikea 41 million "Billy" bookcases have been sold since 1979.

(I have several of them and I'm thinking about buying a couple more in the next few weeks. I can't throw books away and so I need the storage.)

Interesting Animal - The Toucan

A team of researchers from Brock University, Canada, and Universidade Estadual Paulista, Brazil, have concluded that the toucan uses its enormous beak to stay cool.

(Charles Darwin thought it might be used to attract mates, other research claimed it was for peeling fruit, nest predation and a visual warning, but the recent research used infra-red thermal imaging technology to show that the bill effectively acts as a heat sink to draw heat away from the bird's body, allowing it to stay cool. I could use one of them on my laptop.)

Interesting Place # 116 - Paris

Superstitious diners who find themselves in a group of 13 in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.

(I am available for bookings.)

Interesting Place # 115 - Moscow

According to a report by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia's capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks.

(80% had been verbally abused. The rise of the far right in Russia has supposedly been fuelled by high unemployment and low wages, but as someone who has suffered under both I can assure you, they're just excuses for the cowardly.)

Interesting Fact # 1153 - Youth Hostelling

Youth hostelling started in Germany in 1912.

(German schoolteacher Richard Schirrmann was a firm believer in the power of the “outdoor classroom”. After a stormy experience during a class trip one night on August 26, 1909 he lay awake, thinking: "What if there was a network of places offering accommodation to young people all the way across Germany, or the world?"

In 1910 he published an article saying:-

“Villages could have a friendly youth hostel, situated a day's walk from each other, to welcome young hikers. Two classrooms will suffice, one for boys and one for girls. Some desks can be stacked away, thus freeing space to put down 15 beds. Each bed will consist of a tightly stuffed straw sack and pillow, two sheets and a blanket ... each child will be required to keep his own sleeping place clean and tidy.”

It was so well received and he received so much financial support, he set up the first Jugendherberge (literally “youth inn”) in his own school in Altena, western Ge…

Interesting Fact - Wine

According to Maria Thun, a German great-grandmother, the taste of wine can vary from day to day.

(A calendar that Frau Thun first published in the 1950s categorises days as "fruit", "flower", "leaf" or "root", according to the Moon and stars. Wine is best on fruit days, followed by flower, leaf and root days. The worst day is marked as "unfavourable" in the calendar. Even businesses have started to take this seriously Marks and Spencers has started drawing attention to the calendar in its wine magazine and advises customers to avoid the dreaded ‘root’ days when opening special bottles.)

Interesting Word - Orchard

An orchard is a garden or an area of land used for the cultivation of fruit or nut trees.

(Orchards comprise fruit or nut-producing trees grown for commercial production. Orchards are also sometimes a feature of large gardens, where they serve an aesthetic as well as a productive purpose. According to some people you need 15 trees to make an orchard, but others say you only need 5.)

Interesting Fact - Paper

You can make paper from sheep's poo.

(In fact you can make paper from many different sources, wood (of course), plants (even bananas) and animal excrement, like elephant dung. Just make sure what kind of paper it is before you lick the envelope.)

Interesting Fact # 1150 - Anti Viral Drugs

Anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza, don't attack the virus.

(They attack an enzyme that allows the virus to spread within the body. The enzyme, Neuraminidase is the "N" used in identifying a flu strain.)

Interesting Fact # 1149 - Swine Flu

An outbreak of swine flu in 1976 infected 200 people in the US.

(Only one person died, but a vaccine administered to 40m people killed 25 and led to 500 others developing Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can be fatal.)

Interesting Invention # 32 - The Battery

Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist, invented the battery.

(Also known as the voltaic pile, Volta's battery was the first object that generated a constant electric current. The unit of measure for electricity was named after him: the volt.)

Interesting Animal # 102 - The Flying Fox

The flying fox isn't a fox, it's a bat.

(It's actually a fruit bat and it only eats nectar, blossom, pollen, and fruit. From the genus Pteropus, and belonging to the Megachiroptera sub-order, it's the largest bat in the world.)