Showing posts from May, 2009

Interesting Fact # 1077 - The G20 - Podcast

There are only 19 countries in the G20.

(There are actually 20 members of the G-20, but these include the finance ministers and central bank governors of only 19 countries. So who gets double billing? Well the 20th member is the European Union, which is represented by the rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank.)

Interesting Fact # 1076 - Chewing Gum

You can overdose on chewing gum.

(According to the Lancet, a teenager was admitted to hospital suffering from a rapid heart beat, prickling sensations in his legs and raised blood pressure. He had eaten two packets of gum within a four hour period while at school, taking in 320 mg of caffeine, more than contained in three cups of coffee and was suffering from caffeine intoxication.)

Interesting Place # 104 - Finland

Finland is estimated to have more than two million saunas.

(Almost everyone in Finland visits one every week. I've got one in the cellar, and I visit it about once a year.)

Interesting People # 129 - Mohamed Altoumaimi

16-year-old Mohamed Altoumaimi, an Iraqi immigrant living in central Sweden, has written a formula to explain a number of complex relationships dealing with Bernoulli numbers.

(Mohamed, who moved with his family to Sweden six years ago, figured out the Bernoulli sequence of rational numbers, something that is normally reserved for much more seasoned mathematicians.)

Interesting Fact # 1075 - The Senses

According to researchers at Oxford University we are all capable of "hearing" shapes and sizes and perhaps even "tasting" sounds.

(Synaesthesia is a physiological or psychological condition whereby a particular sensory stimulus triggers a second kind of sensation, it's thought to affect less than 1% of the population, but according to Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, we are all "synaesthetes" up to a point. I just found my point as I walked into a wall whilst munching on a Nirvana song.)

Interesting Fact # 1074 - UK Life - Podcast

According to the Daily Telegraph, Britons spend, on average, six months of their lives queueing.

(The average adult wastes around five hours and 35 minutes each month queueing, and queueing at the supermarket takes up the most time. Waiting for a bus or train, queuing to get a drink at a bar and paying for goods in a shop also emerged as things we spend the most time waiting for. I'm surprised it's only six months, sometimes it seems much, much longer.)

Interesting Fact # 1073 - The Internet

Official statistics in the UK say that 29% of women have never used the internet, but only 20% of men.

(I wonder why that might be.)

Interesting Word # 91 - Butterfly

According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's International Dictionary, the word butterfly came about either because the instect was supposed to like butter or because its excrement resembles butter.

( The link with dairy products is not only evident in English: the German name "Schmetterling" is derived from "Schmetten", the word for "cream" in some German dialects. Still, many websites claim that butterflies were originally called flutterbies, which is much cuter. Some even claim that Shakespeare was responsible for changing the name from flutterby to butterfly. The truth, as ever, is a bit less interesting and this case a bit disgusting.)

Interesting Invention # 31 - Security Robot

A security robot that can be operated remotely by cellphone and launch a net to capture an intruder has been invented in Japan.

(The robot, jointly developed by robot developer tmsuk Co. Ltd. and security company Alacom Co. Ltd., is loaded with sensors that detect anything untoward in an office building. It can move at a 10 kilometres (six miles) per hour. The average human is loaded with sensors, and we're faster.)

Interesting Place # 103 - Anstruther

The small Scottish seaside town of Anstruther, northeast of Edinburgh, has the best Fish and Chip shop in the UK.

(They have served fish and chips to the likes of Prince William, who used to pop into the "chippy" during his university days at nearby St Andrews, Oscar-winning US actors Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks and Robert Duvall. Chippy to the stars.)

Interesting Fact # 1072 - UK Life

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics an extra 111,000 16 to 29-year-old Brits either moved back in with their parents or decided not to move out in the 12 months to December 2008.

(One in four men and one in six women in their 20s now live with their parents. I know this is true, my nephew is one of them.)

Interesting Place # 102 - Codell, Kansas

On 20 May, in 1916 the small town of Codell, Kansas was struck by a tornado. Now this might not seem that interesting, but incredibly, the same town was also hit in 1917 and 1918 on the exact same date.

(The moral of this story is, don't go to Codell on 20th May.)

Interesting Fact # 1071 - Sociability

Scientists at Cambridge University say they have located the brain areas that may determine how sociable a person is.

(Warm, sentimental people tend to have more brain tissue in the outer strip of the brain just above the eyes and in a structure deep in the brain's centre. Interestingly these are the same zones that allow people to enjoy chocolate and sex. So, being sociable has its own rewards.)

Source: European Journal of Neuroscience.

Interesting Invention # 30 - Velcro

Velcro was inspired by the burrs (seeds) of burdock that kept sticking to the inventor, George de Mestral's clothes and his dog's fur.

(Originally people refused to take him, and the idea, seriously, but he ended up selling around 60 million yards (about 55,000 km) a year. Much more Velcro is made than that now, but it is no longer under patent. He took out the patent in 1955 and it ran out in 1978, unlike pop songs and books which seem to carry a copyright forever, somehow it seems unfair.)

Interesting Fact # 1070 - Weight

According to researchers from the University of Sydney and Canberra's Australian National University (ANU) being obese in Australia does not mean you get paid less.

(They found no wage penalty to being overweight or obese in the Australian labour market. Strangely this is in contrast with previous studies that used older data from the United States and Germany and found that people with a higher BMI (body mass index) earned lower wages. One explanation may be that because fat Australians are now in the majority, they don't face discrimination any longer.)

Interesting Fact # 1069 - Height

According to researchers from the University of Sydney and Canberra's Australian National University (ANU) tall people in Australia earn higher wages than their vertically-challenged colleagues.

(They found a strong link between wages and height, particularly for men, with each additional 10 centimetres (four inches) of height adding three percent to hourly wages. I guess you can just tower over your boss and demand more money.)

Interesting Fact # 1068 - Anger

Britons get angry more often than anyone else in Europe.

(According to a survey commissioned by TV comedy channel GOLD, Brits fly into a rage an average of four times a day by things like queue jumping, traffic jams, rude service in shops, foreign call centres and having to deal with ill-mannered neighbours. In contrast Italians only get angry three and a half times a day, the French three times and apparently those living in Sweden, Norway and Denmark said they get irate just once every five days.)

Interesting Fact # 1067 - Flu

According to research at Imperial College London, bird flu may not have become the threat to humans that some predicted because our noses are too cold for the virus to thrive.

(Seemingly at 32° Celsius, avian flu viruses lose function and cannot spread. I'll never complain about having a cold nose again.)

Interesting Place # 101 - Spain

Spain is Europe’s largest consumer of cocaine and hashish.

(A new study has found the air in Madrid and Barcelona is laced with large amounts of drugs - most prominently cocaine. In both cities the studies were carried out close to universities and concentrations were higher at the weekend.)

Interesting Fact # 1066 - Smiling

When we smile genuinely, there are two major muscles that move. A Duchenne smile or Zygomatic smile involves contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle (which turns the corner of the lips up to meet the eyes) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (which raises the cheeks and forms crow's feet around the eyes). A non-Duchenne smile involves only the zygomatic major muscle and looks fake.

(Many researchers believe that Duchenne smiles indicate genuine spontaneous emotions since most people cannot voluntarily contract the outer portion of the orbicularis oculi muscle. As for the crow's feet, I prefer the term "laughter lines".)

Interesting Fact # 1065 - Nuclear Fallout in the UK

The UK government has admitted that nearly 370 farms in Britain are still restricted in the way they use land and rear sheep because of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident 23 years ago.

(Dawn Primarolo, the minister for health, revealed 369 farms and 190,000 sheep were affected.

In 1986, approximately 9,700 farms and 4,225,000 sheep were under restriction across the United Kingdom. So much for a cleaner, greener future.)

Interesting Place # 100 - Cornwall - Podcast

Cornwall has a legal right to its own Parliament.

(Cornwall, once a separate country, has never formally been integrated into England, and the right to its own parliament, confirmed and strengthened by the Charter of Pardon 1508, was granted in perpetuity and cannot be lawfully rescinded.)

Interesting Fact # 1064 - Swiss Army Knives

The world's largest Swiss Army Knife contains 85 tools.

(With over 100 functions and it's the Guinness World Record holder for "the most multifunctional penknife". Weighing almost 3 pounds, it's not something I'd carry in my pocket.)

Interesting Fact # 1063 - Swiss Army Knives

The Swiss Army knife, has undergone a new makeover. Now instead of a saw and a corkscrew, the Presentation Pro comes with a laser pointer and an integrated Bluetooth remote control that can be used to direct a slide show or a Powerpoint presentation.

(I quite like the idea of pulling a knife to give a presentation. It might make the audience sit up and take notice.)

Interesting Animal # 93 - Ducks

Ducks have three eyelids.

(Actually this isn't particularly amazing, because all birds have three eyelids, and so do dogs and cats. In ducks the upper and lower eyelids have small bristle feathers that resemble eyelashes. They only close their eyelids during sleep, and use the third eyelid alone for blinking.

The third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, lies beneath the eyelids on the side of eye closest to the nostril. It darts across the eye about 30-35 times per minute in the domestic fowl, and also moves across the eye if an object approaches the eye suddenly or if something touches the head. The third eyelid becomes scooplike and sweeps excess fluid in to the corner of the eye where it drains. In most birds, the nictitating membrane is transparent, so vision is not impaired when the eyelid blinks, which is important since so many birds are prey animals. It helps to be able to see when blinking! It is suspected that some birds may fly with the third eyelid covering the cornea o…

Interesting Fact # 1062 - Eating

According to a study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), the French devote nearly twice the time to meals than do Americans, Britons or Mexicans.

(Of course the French take eating very seriously, and whatever you do, don't try to talk about work during lunch. That said, the credit crunch is having an effect. According to the Guardian newspaper, over 3,000 traditional French restaurants, cafes and bars went bust in the first three months of 2008.)


Happy No Diet Day!
Originally uploaded by waɪ.tiː Today is International No Diet Day. So, Happy No Diet Day!

Interesting Fact # 1061 - Sleeping

According to a study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), the French spend more time sleeping than their counterparts in economically developed countries.

(On average, the French get 8.8 hours of sleep each night, enjoying more rest than Americans and Spaniards and a full hour more than South Koreans who rank last on the list with a mere 7.8 hours of sleep. Personally if I don't get 8 hours of sleep I'm like a bear with a sore head for the rest of the day.)

Interesting People # 128 - Mary Kies

Mary Kies was the first woman awarded a U.S. patent, for a technique of weaving straw with silk and thread.

(She died penniless, in the great tradition of many inventors.)

Interesting Fact # 1060 - Smoking

According to studies conducted by Oxford University, the Chinese Academies of Preventive Medicine and of Medical Sciences in Beijing and Cornell University in the US, 350 million people smoke in China.

(Nearly three-quarters of all Chinese men are smokers. Around a million people die of smoking-related diseases every year, the largest number of smoking-related deaths in the world. Unfortunately more than half of all male doctors in China smoke, so they can't really tell people to give it up for their health.)

Interesting Place # 99 - China

According to the Global Times, officials in a county in central China have been told to smoke nearly a quarter of a million packs of locally made cigarettes annually.

(The Gong'an county government in Hubei province, instead of banning cigarettes in the work place, has ordered its staff to puff their way through 230,000 packs of Hubei-produced cigarette brands a year, or risk being fined. I would look into the share holdings of the people making this ridiculous demand.)

Interesting Fact # 1059 - Britain

There is a pothole every 120 yards on Britain's roads.

(English councils filled 5,252 holes each on average last year but because of an £8.5bn funding shortfall it will take nearly 13 years at the present rate of maintenance to get them all patched up. It costs around £65 to fill one pothole, and it would cost £47m per local authority to clear the problem. The British government raises £46bn each year from the road tax, but the problem is only 20 per cent of is put back into roads. We all know what happens to the rest of the money, it's all those second homes.)

Interesting People # 127 - William Davidson

William Davidson was an Afro Caribbean who became involved in radical politics and was part of a plot to kill several members of the British government.

(He was executed at Newgate Prison on the 1 May, 1820 for high treason. The plot became known as the Cato Street Conspiracy, but it's not usually taught in British schools, I guess because there was no gunpowder involved.)