Showing posts from September, 2011

Interesting Place - Nowhereisland

Devon sculptor Alex Hartley and a team of artists are going to drag a small island around the coast of the UK, from Weymouth to Bristol, as part of the Cultural Olympiad 2012.

(The land mass,which is the size of a football pitch, has been called Nowhereisland and it was discovered in 2004 off the coast of Svalbard.

You can become a citizen of Nowhereisland on their website - Something the millions of stateless people round the world might be interested in.)

Interesting Place - Denmark

Denmark has introduced what is believed to be the world's first fat tax: (Now this isn't a tax on fat people, it's a surcharge placed on foods that are high in saturated fat. Foods that contain saturated fat include, butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed foods, which are all subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat. So, not so much a stealth tax, as a health tax.)

Interesting Fact - Children

According to child expert Professor Richard Tremblay, three and four-year-olds are more violent than most adults.

(He added that children have to learn to regulate their use of violence in the early years, and whether or not they manage to do so depends on a range of environmental and genetic factors.  Those who do not are more likely to become aggressive adults. No wonder kids terrify me!)

Interesting Animal - Monkeys write Shakespeare

Well, virtual monkeys. Seemingly a computer programmer, Jesse Anderson, programmed a few million virtual monkeys to randomly bash keys on virtual typewriters in an attempt to re-create Shakespeare.

(He set out to prove or disprove the long-standing saying of how an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time could write Shakespeare.  
The virtual monkeys are small computer programs uploaded to Amazon servers. They regularly pump out random sequences of text nine characters long, each string of text is checked to see if it appears anywhere in the works of Shakespeare. If not, it is discarded. If it does match then progress has been made towards re-creating the works of the Bard.  Using these constraints, mathematicians say it would take “far, far longer than the age of the Universe” for monkeys to write Shakespeare. I haven't got that long, so I'll stick with the original.)

Interesting Fact - Health

A study of babies at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, in west London, found that overweight mothers 'give birth to fat babies'.

(Newborn babies usually have about 700g of adipose tissue (fat tissue), but for each unit increase in maternal BMI (body mass index), this increased by approximately 7g with a huge build-up in fat in the babies’ livers. Maybe we need little pre natal treadmills.)

Interesting Words - AD / BC

In English, years are designated with the letters AD (anno Domini, ‘year of the Lord’ in Latin); or, for years before that, BC (before Christ).

(But the BBC has suggested that presenters should use “religiously neutral” terms to avoid causing non-Christians offence. The secular terms they want to use are BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).

And it gets funnier, in Australia there are plans for schools to use BCE, CE and BP – “before present” – in preference to the traditional language.  Surely everything in the past would be BP.)
More vocabulary on expressing the day / date here.

Interesting Fact - Redheads

According to a report in the International Business Times, Cryos International, the largest sperm bank in the world, has closed its door to redheads.

(The sperm bank has reached its capacity of 70 liters of sperm, with 600 redheaded donors on its waiting list. Seemingly most of the demand for redheaded babies comes from Ireland, but there is more demand from men who are tall, with brown eyes and dark hair. Gosh, haven't people got fussy over the years?)

Interesting Fact - Satellite

Today, 23rd September 2011, a huge, 6 ton satellite (the size of a bus), may crash into earth at 18,000 mph.

(The satellite was launched in 1991 by the space shuttle Discovery, it was decommissioned 2005.  Nasa has warned there could be a 500-mile trail of debris, and, according to the Guardian, calculations put the British Isles within the impact path.  The odds of being hit by a piece of flying debris are 3,201 against, but this means you are 4,000 times more likely to be hit by space debris, than to win the National Lottery in the UK.  Cheerful thought.)

Update - it crashed into the ocean off the US coast, so anyone who clicked on "scary", you can relax now - until the next time.  :)


Today is hug a vegetarian day.

(Go on - they won't bite you, you're meat.)

Interesting Fact - Marriage

Common law marriage was abolished in the UK in 1753.

(Common law marriage (aka sui juris marriage, informal marriage, the rather long-winded "marriage by habit and repute" and the rather judgmental living in sin), is legally recognized in some countries as a marriage, even though no legally recognized marriage ceremony is performed or civil marriage contract entered into. The term "common-law marriage" has been used in England and Wales since the 1960s to refer to unmarried, cohabiting heterosexual relationships. However, this is merely a social usage and in the UK the term does not confer on cohabiting parties any of the rights or obligations enjoyed by spouses or civil partners, thus when a cohabiting relationship ends ownership of any assets will be decided by property law. The courts have no discretion to reallocate assets, as occurs on divorce.)

Interesting Place - Russia

According to a report from the Foundation for Future Studies Russia is the most miserable country in Europe (geographical not political).

(The foundation released data from surveys it had conducted with over 15,000 Europeans in 13 countries, asking people to agree or disagree with the statement "I am personally happy with my life".  In Russia only 37% agreed with the statement.  In Poland (who came in second) 50% agreed, followed by:-

Germany and Turkey - 61%
Austria - 63%
Spain - 68%
Switzerland - 72%
UK and the Netherlands - 71%
France - 77%
Italy - 79%
Greece - 80%
Denmark - 96%

Interesting Fact - Jobs

For Rachel:-
According to a recent study by the UK Office for National Statistics the day you were born could be an influence on your eventual career.

(GPs (family doctors) and debt collectors had the greatest percentage of January births, while sheet-metal workers had the lowest percentage. ''

February appear to give a greater chance of becoming artists.
March was a good month for pilots.

April and May had a fairly even spread of career paths. 
Babies born in June, July and August had a much lower chance of having high-end, top-paying careers, such as doctor, dentist, or professional athlete.

September babies had a greater chance of becoming sports players or physicists, and a less likely chance of becoming bricklayers or hairdressers. 
Giving birth in December could make your child become a dentist.

They also noticed that certain jobs were spread quite evenly throughout the year; most notably CEOs of large companies and real estate agents.
Now before you say you don't believ…

Interesting People - Albert Szent-Györgyi

Hungarian physiologist Albert Szent-Györgyi, discovered Vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle.

(He won the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for 'his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion processes, with special reference to vitamin-C and the catalysis of fumaric acid.  He would have been 118 today if only he had drunk his orange juice.)


Interesting Fact - The Brain

According to research at the California Institute of Technology, parts of the human brain are hard-wired to respond to other creatures.

(The study indicates that the brain's right hemisphere evolved to deal with unexpected and biologically relevant stimuli and that covers a positive reaction to animals like fluffy kittens, as well as a negative response to creepy crawlies. Brain activity was stronger when the people studied looked at cats or snakes versus buildings or people. Maybe that is why more people view my animal vocabulary page, than my building vocabulary page.)


Interesting Food - Muffins and Cookies

An internal audit into spending at the US Justice Department found that they had spent $4,200 on muffins and cookies at a conference in August 2009.

(That's not the real scandal though. The real scandal is that the $4,200, which let's face it is more than some families spend on food for a year, only bought 250 muffins! According to the audit the muffins in question cost $16 (£10) each, and they bought cookies (biscuits or maybe they really were cookies) for $10 each!   Now, I don't begrudge anyone a biscuit, or a muffin, but someone, somewhere was having a joke.  Thank goodness I don't pay tax in the US, otherwise I'd be very, very, angry.  I'm just going to go and do some baking now, it's obviously a very lucrative business.)

Interesting Fact - Money

According to, a trip to a top West End show in London costs the average couple £1.07 a minute.

(Their pricing presumes the couple buy a bag of Maltesers, a coke, a gin and tonic and an ice-cream. Costs of tickets to shows have risen 100% over the last 15 years, 9% over the last year. You'll be glad to know that the cost of visiting the Learn English Network has risen 0% over the last 12 years. It was free then, and it's free now.)

Interesting Words - Talking

According to psychologist Campbell Leaper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, and Geoffrey Beattie, from Manchester University, men are more talkative than women.

(It gets even better (from my perspective). Professor Beattie went on to say ": ‘It is men who are more likely to talk for the sake of talking when engaged in social chitchat by recycling their words with ritualistic and redundant language that doesn’t contain new information. ‘Female “nattering” is little more than a cultural myth.’ Sometimes life is good. Now I can't wait for hubby to get home.)

Interesting Place - Denmark

Denmark is home to the world's largest sperm bank.

(Cryos International, the largest sperm bank in the world, was established in 1987 in Aarhus, Denmark.  So, now you know.  Denmark, famous for Lego and sperm.)

Interesting Fact - The Navy

There are currently 70 commissioned ships in the Royal Navy.

(Of these only 40 are warships, and there are only 41 admirals (In 1805 there were 144 Admirals). That said, the 41 admirals will draw an estimated salary of £6.7 million. Which is probably why there are only 41 of them. Funnily enough, in 2011 the Queen conferred the title and office of Lord High Admiral to His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, on the occasion of his 90th birthday (I wonder if she wrapped it). Nice to see they are leading the way on delayed retirement though.)

Interesting Place - India

The 1st Brewhouse, in Pune, western India, was India's first licenced brew-pub.

(Beer is becoming a popular drink in India and at the 1st Brewhouse they brew a beer called Doolally, which is British slang for going mad. If someone could send me a bottle to taste, I'd be very happy.)

Interesting Fact - Work

According to research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the British executive gender pay gap has increased. Male executives in the UK are paid over £10,000 (11,260 euros, $16,270) more than their female counterparts.

(The worst thing is that at the current rate of change, they expect this inequality to last another 98 years!)

Interesting Fact - Films

There have been 16 film versions of the book, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

(Including 5 silent films made between 1915 and 1926, to the latest film which comes out this year (2011).
1915: Jane Eyre starring Louise Vale.1915: A version was released called The Castle of Thornfield.1918: A version was released called Woman and Wife, directed by Edward José, adapted by Paul West, starring Alice Brady as Jane.1921: Jane Eyre starring Mabel Ballin and directed by Hugo Ballin.1926: A youth version was made in Germany called Orphan of Lowood.1934: Jane Eyre, starring Colin Clive and Virginia Bruce.1943: I Walked with a Zombie is a horror movie loosely based upon Jane Eyre.1944: Jane Eyre, with a screenplay by John Houseman and Aldous Huxley. It features Orson Welles as Mr. Rochester, Joan Fontaine as Jane, Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Reed, Margaret O'Brien as Adele and Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns.Joan Fontaine had earlier starred in Rebecca, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based upon t…

Interesting Animal - Mosquito

Male mosquitoes don't bite.

(Both male and female mosquitoes drink nectar for energy, and the female mosquito is thought to need to feed on blood in order to obtain the necessary protein for eggs to develop. So, the female of the species really is deadlier than the male.)

Interesting Fact - The Brain

According to research published in Research in Nature Neuroscience, people with a busy social life appear to have more volume in a specific part of the brain called the amygdala.

(The amygdala region of the brain is already linked to emotional and mental well being, and now it appears to be larger in people with complex social networks.  So it looks as if size does matter.)

Interesting Fact - Gold

A study from the University of Bristol shows that the Earth's surface became enriched with precious metals by impacting meteorites.

 (Some of the oldest rocks on Earth, demonstrate that gold was delivered by meteorites in what they call, the time of the terminal bombardment, which occurred around 3.9 billion years ago. During this time, the Earth was hit with around 20 billion billion tonnes of asteroid material.  None of which landed in my back garden.)

Interesting Word - Avocado

The word avocado comes from "aguacate" in Spanish.

 (Even more interestingly the Spanish word aguacate comes from "ahuacatl" in Nahuatl, the native language of Mexico, which refers to a certain intimate part of the male anatomy, the testicle. I'll never be able to think of avocados in the same way again.)

Interesting Place - San Fransisco

Public nudity is legal in San Francisco.

(In recent years a group known informally as Naked Guys have shown unbridled enthusiasm for appearing in the nude. I think Steven Gough (aka the Naked Rambler) should be a big hit there.)

Interesting Fact - Pets in the UK

According to a poll carried out by, around 1.5million Brits plan to leave their money to their pets.

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(Unsurprisingly, most people, 29 million of them, said they would leave their money to their children, followed by partners or spouses (26million) and then other relatives (nine million). Nearly 4.5million, said they intend to leave their money to a charity, while three million plan to name a friend in their wills. The family dog or cat was sixth on the list of beneficiaries, trumping the Church and secret lovers, which were seventh and eighth.

I wondered why Sam and Laika were going through the papers on my desk the other day.)