Showing posts from December, 2011

Interesting Facts - The Internet

According to file-sharing blog Torrent Freak, the action film Fast Five was the most pirated film of 2011, having been downloaded illegally 9.2 million times.

(The Hangover II was second, followed by Thor, Source Code and I am Number Four. I can only say that it just shows people who pirate films don't seem to have very good taste.)

Interesting Fact - Hair

According to a recent study carried out at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, has concluded that our hair can't turn white overnight.

(The study, called "Sudden Whitening Of The Hair: An Historical Fiction?" concluded that people's hair, does not all of a sudden turn white. It just doesn't. Hair whitening – "canities" in medical lingo – takes longer than days or even weeks. So all those stories of Queen Marie Antoinette of France and Sir Thomas More of England turning whitehaired the night before being beheaded are just historical urban myths. Or maybe the study just didn't scare any of its subjects sufficiently.)

Interesting Place - Saudi Arabia

A royal decree issued by King Abdullah in 2011, means that from 2012 only female staff will be able to sell women's lingerie in the 4,332 lingerie stores in the kingdom.

(The ban on male staff is to be extended to cosmetics shops from July 2012. For years Saudi women had complained about being forced to buy their underwear from men, and they started a Facebook campaign called "Enough Embarrassment." When I think about it, I can't remember ever being served by a man when buying knickers or bras in the UK, or in Germany, I think I would feel awkward too, we don't call them unmentionables for nothing.)

Interesting Place - China

Hundreds of Chinese people gathered in Shanghai to stage a massive pillow fight.

(The pillows bore the names of bosses and teachers in order to help students and workers let off steam. I do hope my name wasn't on any of them.)


Interesting Fact - Transport

In the UK you need a professional licence to drive a motorhome.

(A motorhome is about the size of a single-decker bus and powered by a 450-horsepower engine.   The latest models can include ceramic tiled floors, an en-suite bedroom with a king-sized bed, a full sized double-door refrigerator, and six widescreen high-definition TVs, and one or two RVs are built these days with an on-board garage space at the back, big enough to accommodate a small car.  Think of your house, but with wheels underneath it.

Anyone with a normal licence can drive one in the US!)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree at St Pancras railway station in London is ten metres high and made completely out of Lego bricks.

(It took two months to build and contains 600,000 bricks.  There are more than 1,000 Lego baubles attacked to its 172 branches and according to Lego it is the tallest tree ever made using the Lego.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Games

According to developer Rovio, their popular game, Angry Birds, was downloaded 6.5 million times on Christmas Day 2011.

(This is over three times the two million downloads Rovio managed over Christmas 2010. It's my favourite game, but it makes you wonder. Is there any device left that doesn't have Angry Birds on it?)

Interesting Fact - Money

Child benefit costs UK taxpayers £12 billion a year.

(Anyone with children can claim child benefit, regardless of their personal circumstances. About 7.7 million families currently get it, but that could be about to change as Chancellor George Osborne has announced it will be axed for higher-rate taxpayers from 2013. Unlucky 13 for some then.)

Interesting Fact - Age

It's official, old age starts at 54 and youth ends at 32.

(Good news for me - I'm not old, yet. However, I'm not sure who came up with these definitions, but it must be true - it was in the Daily Mail.)

Interesting Place - China

In 2010 China reported 3.9 million road accidents that killed 65,225 people and injured 254,075.

Interesting Place - Canada

Canada has the world's longest coastline.

(243,000 kilometres long to be exact, so if you were to try to walk around Canada, following the coast at a reasonable pace of 20 kilometres each day, it would take you 33 years to complete the journey.  I can think of worse ways to spend your time.)

Interesting Fact - School

China has the longest school day, which often lasts from 7:15 am to 7:15 pm.

(Just remember though, it’s not just about the length of time spent at school, but how it’s used, and all work no play makes Jackie a dull boy / girl.)

Interesting Fact - Money

The word 'dollar' is usually associated with the name of the currency used in the USA.

(There are other countries that use the word 'dollar' in their currency. The most well known are Canada and Australia, but there are 26 other countries that use the word dollar in their currency, these are:-

Antigua and Barbuda
El Salvador
New Zealand
St Kitts and Nevis
St Lucia
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Solomon Islands
Trinidad and Tobago

Interesting Place - Bishop’s Stortford

The Conservative council in Bishop’s Stortford has ended its twinning programme with Friedberg in the German state of Hesse.

(Newspapers have reported that they decided to end the 46-year long twinning programme with both Friedberg, which is just north of Frankfurt, and the French town of Villiers-sur-Marne – because of its “lack of relevance.” But, their decision happened to coincide with David Cameron's veto against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fiscal union plan in Brussels.   Strangely their website still says they are twinned.

Interesting Food - Cheese

According to the U.K.'s Center for Retail Research, cheese is the most stolen food in the world.

(The Center surveyed 1,187 retailers representing more than 250,000 retail outlets across 43 countries, but we all know who's responsible, don't we?

Interesting Food - Carrots

The traditional orange carrot was cultivated in the Netherlands in the 17th century.

(The carrot originated in Iran but it was a purple/violet colour. The Dutch cultivated it to be more orange in colour as an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. The orange colour results from abundant carotenes in these cultivars. While orange carrots are the norm in the UK, you can still buy purple carrots.


Interesting Fact - Class

According to the results of a BBC Lab UK survey, only 24% of people consider themselves working class.

(In 1988 when they asked the same question, it was 67%. Of course in the UK there are only two classes - Them and Us.)

Interesting Fact - Plants

Researchers from Cambridge University have found that the buttercup's unique anatomical structure is why they glow yellow under people's chins.

(The plant has evolved an epidermal layer on its petals that reflects a significant amount of UV light with an intensity that is comparable to glass, the plant has developed this to attract pollinating insects, but of course it is also used to tell if you like butter or not. In the UK a children's game involves placing a buttercup under your chin, and if your chin glows yellow, it proves you like butter.)

Interesting Fact - Crime - Podcast

According to a Royal Society report the age of criminal responsibility (currently 10 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) might be too low.

(In a scientific study scans of the brain showed that at the age of 10 the parts of the brain connected with decision-making and judgement are still developing and are not fully mature "until at least the age of 20". Looking at the way some people behave, I wonder if they should be so sure it's 20.)

Interesting Fact - Worry

According to an annual poll, run by the BBC World Service, unemployment is the world's fastest-rising worry.

(The growth in concern was found across all countries surveyed, although corruption and poverty still ranked the highest worries.  Worry about unemployment was six times the rate citing it in the first survey in 2009.

In the US, France and Japan - all wealthy, developed nations - the state of the world economy emerged as the main talking point.

By contrast, corruption was the most frequently discussed issue in Nigeria, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria and Peru.

These are all developing nations, most with poor reputations for transparency in government and business.

In another group of developing countries, including China, Russia, Kenya and the Philippines, rising prices for food and energy were the main topic.

In Latin America, however, crime and violence emerged as commonly discussed themes.

Indeed in Brazil, famous for social tensions in its urban slums, along with Ecua…

Interesting People - Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg (the leader of the Liberal Democratic party and currently the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK), has a Master's Degree in European studies.

(In fact he has some European connections: He is multilingual, and speaks English, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish. He also spent a gap year working as a ski instructor in Austria, and my favourite European link is that when he was 16 he served a community service sentence in Germany, when on an exchange trip in Munich, he and a friend got drunk and set fire to two greenhouses full of exotic plants.)

Interesting People - Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber was Bing's (Microsoft's search engine) most searched-for term in 2010.

(In fact, the Bieber also topped the list of the most searched-for musicians, but he was the only male artist in the top 10.   I think this says more about the kind of people who use Bing for search, than it does about popular music.)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

Britney Spears is among the most tweeted-about 'musicians' of 2011.

(But that's not the worst, seemingly at the top of the music list of the Twitterati is Rebecca Black and Friday, after the video for the singer's debut single was viewed more than 160 million times on YouTube.  I wonder what would have topped the list in my day, but IMHO the youth of this decade will look back and hang their heads in shame.)

Interesting Word - Polydactylism

Polydactylism is a congenital physical anomaly that involves the possession of more than the normal number of digits (fingers or toes).

(Seemingly a cat called Daniel, a resident at a Wisconsin animal rescue centre, has two extra toes on each paw as a result of this mutation; he has a total of 26.  The Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center has been asking for small donations of $26 (£17), one dollar for each toe.  Out of a total $86,000 raised so far, $50,000 has come from small donations.  Darn it!  I knew my Pal Talk donations strategy was flawed.)

Interesting Fact - Art

New York artist Ron Piccirillo says that several animals can be seen hidden in the Mona Lisa when it is viewed horizontally.

(According to Mr Piccirillo, a lion, an ape and a buffalo can be seen around Mona Lisa’s head and a snake or crocodile is near her right shoulder.  I wonder what he was smoking when he saw them.)


Interesting Fact - Space

The Kepler space telescope has confirmed its first-ever planet in a habitable zone outside our solar system.

(Spinning around its (sun like) star about 600 light years away, Kepler-22b is 2.4 times the size of the Earth, putting it in a class known as "super-Earths", and has a year of 290 days.  The near-surface temperature is presumed to be about 22 degrees Celsius, but don't pack your bags just yet, as scientists do not know whether the planet is rocky, gaseous or liquid, so you wouldn't know what to pack - diving gear, climbing gear or breathing apparatus.

Kepler is NASA's first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours, and cost the US space agency about $US600 million, but it has already uncovered 1,094 more potential planets.  
They aren't the only ones looking of course, French astronomers this year confirmed the first rocky exoplanet to meet key requirements for sustaining life. 
To infinity and beyond!  Cough cough - sorry,…

Interesting Fact - Transport

In what is probably the most expensive car crash in history, eight Ferraris, three Mercedes-Benzes, a Lamborghini and two other vehicles crashed in the southern prefecture of Yamaguchi, Japan.

(Media reports estimate the damaged cars are worth at least 300m yen ($3.85m; £2.46m) in total. The good news is no-one was seriously hurt. As they say in Germany "Es ist nur Blechschaden" (It's only damaged metal).)

Interesting Animal - Pandas

Edinburgh Zoo's newest residents, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.

("Huān yíng Tian Tian he Yang Guang." (Chinese (I hope) for - Welcome Tian Tian and Yang Guang.))

Interesting Place - Scotland

One of the main routes in Argyl, Scotland is called Rest And Be Thankful.

( The A83 Tarbet to Campbeltown road, is actually called Rest and Be Thankful. Unfortunately the road is currently closed as a landslide plopped 100 tonnes of rocks and debris onto it. In fact it is the third time in recent years that the road has been forced to close by a landslide after similar incidents in 2007 and 2009. So I guess the name means - rest if you find yourself blocked by a landslide, and be thankful it didn't land on your head.)

Interesting Animal - Toads

Toads can predict earthquakes.

( Before the earthquake in Italy that struck the city of L'Aquila on 6 April 2009, Dr Rachel Grant of the UK's Open University was monitoring the toad population at San Ruffino Lake, around 74km from the quake's epicentre. Five days before the 6.3-magnitude shake, "the number of male common toads in the breeding colony fell by 96 per cent",  and most breeding pairs and males hopped it three days before the earth moved. Now NASA scientists think they know how the toads predicted the devastating quake, a team led by geophysicist Dr Friedemann Freund, demonstrated that rocks under extreme tectonic stress release charged particles, which travel through the surrounding rock and into the atmosphere. Their electrical charge is sufficient to ionize the air, creating "massive amounts" of positive airborne ions.  So, if you live in an earthquake prone area, it might be worth getting yourself a nice little colony of toads.)

Interesting Fact - Health

World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, the first one was held in 1988.

(According to the UK Medical Research Council a 20-year-old with HIV, who has been diagnosed and is receiving treatment, can expect to live to an average age of 66 and in years to come many HIV patients can expect a normal lifespan in years to come. Dr Steve Taylor, an HIV specialist at Birmingham Heartland Hospital said, "If they can get that medication then their life expectancy after they've been on the drug for five years is that of the general population." However, the key is early diagnosis; it is estimated that one in four HIV-positive people in the UK have not been diagnosed and half of those being diagnosed are diagnosed "late". Those classified as "late" have a severely reduced immune system and as the immune system gets weaker still, the body becomes vulnerable to opportunistic infections. So, if you think there may be a chance that you are infected, go f…


Today is World AIDS day.