Showing posts from November, 2009

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.)