Showing posts from August, 2012

Interesting Fact - Health

Scientists in Japan have created a microscopically thin film that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay or to make them appear whiter.

(Don't get too excited though.  It will take 5 years or more before the film could be used in practical dental treatment such as covering exposed dentin, but it could be used cosmetically within three years.  If it means I don't need to have my teeth sand-blasted every year, I'm all for it.)


Interesting Animal - Swans

It is an offence to intentionally injure, take or kill a wild swan in the UK.

(As native wild birds, swans enjoy statutory protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 It is an offence to take or possess the egg of a wild mute swan, or to damage or destroy the nest of a mute swan whilst in use or being built. 
I am writing this because one of my visitors asked me if the Queen really ate swan, and yes it seems there is an internet myth that all swans belong to the Queen, this is not true, however it is true that certain swans in certain areas are her majesty's property.  Every July a head-count of all the mute swans on the Thames is taken, this is called the Swan Upping ceremony.  They are then marked for ownership either by the Crown or by the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies, which were granted their rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century.)

Interesting Fact - Health

Gastric bypass operations in the UK are costing the NHS over £85 million a year.
(In 2011-12 there have been 1,316 gastric band insertions and 124 gastric band removals performed for obesity under the NHS, and there have been 5,407 gastric bypass procedures performed under the NHS for obesity. The figures, provided by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, show an increase of
530% in 6 years.)

A gastric band is an inflatable band that sits around the top of the stomach. Inflation of the band narrows the stomach, limiting it’s capacity to take food and increasing the feeling of fullness. This, combined with lifestyle changes, leads to weight loss.

Interesting Place - Loch Ness

The earliest report of the Loch Ness monster appeared in the 7th century.

(It appears in the Life of St. Columba by Adomnán, written in the 7th century.  According to Adomnán, the Irish monk Saint Columba was staying in the land of the Picts (Scotland) with his companions when he came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man had been swimming when he was attacked by a "water beast" that had mauled him and dragged him under. They tried to rescue him, but were able only to drag up his corpse. Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by sending his follower Luigne moccu Min to swim across the river. The beast came after him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once."  The beast immediately halted as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled in terror, and both Columba's men and the pagan Picts praised God for the miracle.

Of course I couldn'…

Interesting Fact - Fashion

According to a survey by online retailer, men stop caring about what clothes they wear when they reach the age of 37.

(Most of the men I know never even started caring about what clothes they wear.)

Interesting Fact - Logos

Microsoft has redesigned its logo for the first time since February 1987.

(The new logo will still be the familiar red, blue, yellow and green colours we are used to, but the colours will be square boxes instead of the curvy ones, and the Microsoft name will be a lighter font called Segoe. I just want to know how much it's costing them.)

Interesting Place - Leicester

Archaeologists in the UK are searching for the bones of the last Plantagenet king of England, Richard III.

(So, where are they looking? In a grand cathedral, or the grounds of a palace? No, they're searching beneath a city centre parking lot in Leicester. The car park is said to have been built over a Franciscan friary known as Greyfriars, which housed the monarch's remains after he died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.)

Interesting Fact - Money

According to a survey carried out by website Just-Eat, people in the UK buy at least five kitchen gadgets that they never use.

(From herb scissors to bread making machines, it all adds up to a scary £2 billion of gadgets sitting around doing nothing. I have to hold my hand up to being guilty of this, but only because the bread making machine I bought is useless.)

Source: Daily Express

Interesting People - Bill Clinton

Ex US President, Bill Clinton, has earned around £56 million pounds since leaving office 11 years ago.

(He has given 471 speeches, which words out at about £119,000 per talk. I'm sure he's an interesting guy, but he's not that interesting.)

Interesting Food - The Cucumber

According to experts at the American Chemical Society, cucumber sandwiches can help you keep your cool.

(Unfortunately the most effective way to eat them isn't with the crusts cut off, but rather served on whole wheat bread with mayonnaise and sea salt on top. Other recommendations for keeping cool were beer, tea and even curry - lucky me!)

Interesting Fact - Genetics

Scientists have found the gene that makes people happy – but it only works in women.

(The gene, called MAOA, affects the levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain, and comes in two varieties, a highly active and a less active type. Women with the less active type were happier than others, and those with two copies of the ‘happy’ type of MAOA were the happiest. However even though many of the men in the study carried the gene they were no happier than others and this could be because its effects are cancelled out by testosterone. I always knew testosterone was a poison.)

Source: Daily Mail

Interesting Fact - Health

According to government figures, the NHS in the UK spends around £85m a year on gastric bypass operations.

(Between April 2006 and March 2012, the NHS carried out 18,577 gastric bypass and 7,650 gastric band operations. These weight-loss operations, sometimes called 'bariatric surgery', work by restricting the amount of nutrients that can be digested and absorbed. Of course, people could always try simply eating less.)

Interesting Fact - Languages

According to scientists from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, the English language is descended from ancient Turkey.

(They go even further to say that French, German and Hindi - originated up to 9,500 years ago in western Asia. The scientists traced the origin of languages classed as Indo-European to Anatolia, an ancient region of western Asia which covers most of modern Turkey.)

Interesting People - Tim Storms

U.S. singer Tim Storms holds the record for the world's lowest voice.

(He can reach notes as low as G-7 (0.189Hz): 8 octaves below the lowest G on a piano. Notes that are so low only animals like elephants are able to hear them. He believes he can create this kind of sound because his vocal chords are about twice as long as normal ones.)

Interesting Word - Smurfing

In the USA money laundering is called smurfing.
(In the original series of the Smurfs, the little blue characters tended to replace a verb with some form of the word "smurf"; e.g. "I feel like smurfing some bread," instead of, "I feel like eating some bread". In the USA the DEA started using the word as a code for Structuring, the act of making money transfers repeatedly in small amounts to avoid suspicion.)

Interesting Fact - Transport

Between 2008 and 2009, 921,840 drivers across Britain admitted crashing because they were distracted by a member of the opposite sex.

(According to aA study carried out by Insurance company Direct Line, found 60% of men admitted to being distracted by attractive women whilst driving, and interestingly us ladies aren't completely innocent either; 12% of women said they took their eyes off the road to have an ogle at good looking men.)
Time for a song I think:-

Interesting Fact - Space

According to quarterly magazine Delayed Gratification, to date 531 people have travelled into space.

(The criteria for what constitutes human spaceflight varies, but The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) defines spaceflight as any flight over 100 kilometres (62 miles) high. This definition is recognized by most countries.  Funnily there's a list of 528 people on Wiki, but the edition of the magazine I read listed 531 people.  I managed to find a copy of the original PDF, but can't read the font and I'm not sure who the extra 3 people are.  Anyone with better eyesight is welcome to look.)
PDF Here

Interesting Fact - Stocks and Shares

According to Bloomberg, the computer trading error that cost Knight Capital, the US market maker $440m (£282m) (see IF 9th Auguts 2012) can be blamed on disused software.

(On August 1, the dormant system was accidentally reactivated when a new program was installed. As a result stock trades were multiplied by 1,000, causing wild swings in the share prices of almost 150 companies. So, now we know. The big question is, what are we going to do about it?)

Interesting Place - Rome

Police in Rome, Italy, have seized €3m (£2.3m)  of marijuana in a drugs raid in the city.
(Now 340kg (750lb) of marijuana is in itself interesting, but what makes this story unique is the plants were being grown  in an old underground Metro tunnel that was built beneath Rome during the fascist era of Benito Mussolini. The tunnel, which is 1 km (0.6 miles) long was officially being used as a mushroom farm.)

Interesting Fact - Hunting

Today is the glorious 12th, but if you are tempted to go and bag a couple of birds, get out your cheque book, it costs £2,000 to £3,000 a day to shoot grouse.

(The costs of leasing a grouse moor are around £150,000 a year. A traditional dish of roast grouse with bread sauce, game chips and gravy will cost about £25. You do the math.)
You can read more about "The Glorious 12th" on the Learn English website.

Interesting Fact - Banks

French bank Societe Generale has started a new bank card especially for women.

(The pink-and-gold-coloured "Pour Elle" bank card, offers holders up to €200 of handbag theft insurance and a dedicated hotline for up to two electrician, locksmith or other handyman callouts per year. And before you shout "sexism" a spokeswoman from the bank has said, "5% of the cardholders are men".)

Interesting Fact - Electricty

According to research published in the U.S. journal Science, microbes used to treat human waste might also generate enough electricity to power whole sewage plants.
(Imagine if they can extend that to the domestic loo?  The whole family could get involved in recharging  electronic devices.)

Interesting Fact - Stocks and Shares

A company called Knight Capital started losing literally $10 million [£6.4m] a minute when they switched on a computer program for trading on the New York stock exchange.
(They ended up losing $440 million [£281m], and their shares have now lost 71pc of their value since the error.  The result is the trading company is awaiting a rescue package from a rival firm.  Someone should make a film of the whole thing, and call it "When algorithms collide".)

Interesting Fact - Toilets

The world's largest public toilet is (or maybe the largest plot of land for a single toilet) is a 200-sq meter plot of land in Ichihara City, Japan.

(It cost ¥10 million and was installed for tourists to the area, but the loo is in a transparent booth! It's boxed in glass, in the middle of a spacious garden of potted flowers and plants surrounded by a two-meter-high fence, with spy satellites and Google Earth, who on earth would use it?)

Interesting Place - The UK

According to government records, the sale of more than 20 school sports fields in the UK has been approved by The Education Secretary, Michael Gove.
(Isn't that a nice little Olympic legacy for our children?)

Interesting Fact - Jobs

Right up to the Industrial Revolution, before alarm clocks became affordable, someone was employed to wake people up.

(The man or woman used a short, heavy stick to knock on the clients' doors or a long and light stick, often made of bamboo, to reach windows on higher floors and would not leave a client's window until they were assured they were awake. Obviously the job no longer exists, but the fabulous job title was "knocker upper".

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, includes a brief description of a knocker-upper.

The phrase "knocked up" entered British slang as a term for "being awakened", but don't use it, as it now takes the American meaning "to be made pregnant".)


Interesting Fact - Sleep

According to Roger Ekirch, professor of history at Virginia Tech we are all sleep-deprived.

(Mr Ekirch, the author of At Day's Close: A History of Night-time, says that in the pre-industrial era, most people in Europe practised what he calls "segmented sleep": having "first sleep" from finishing work until midnight, waking to talk and socialise, then having a "second sleep" until dawn. I know a few teenagers who live like that.)

Interesting Fact - Transport

Many aeroplane cockpits have cup holders.

(Pilots are allowed to have beverages in the cockpit. Unfortunately this factlet came to light in 2011 when a pilot spilled coffee on the cockpit panel of a Boeing 777-200 headed from Chicago to Frankfurt, leading to a false hijack warning and culminating in the plane's emergency landing in Canada. I guess they've got to keep hydrated, but they should give them sippy cups.)

Interesting Fact - Toilets

The average person in the UK goes to the toilet 2,500 times a year.

(Over the course of your lifetime (assuming you live to the ripe old age of 80) that's 200,000 times!

If you Google about this (go on you know you want to), you'll find a lot of web sites say you will spend 3 years on the loo.

The trouble is, by my reckoning that works out at:-

Supposing we live for 80 years, that's 29200 days, and we supposedly spend 1,095 days of this on the loo, that's 1,576,800 minutes on the loo, which works out at 54 minutes per day  (I'm not a mathematician so do correct me if I'm wrong).  Now I don't know about you, but I do not spend 54 minutes a day on the toilet!

I wonder who worked this out.  Maybe they need to visit a doctor.)

Here's what I think is more likely:-

Assuming 7 visits to the loo per day, and an average of 3 minutes per visit.

21 minutes per day.

7,665 minutes per year * 80 = 613,200 minutes in a lifetime.

10,220 hours rounded up to 426 days T…

Interesting Place - Belarus

Two Belarus generals have been sacked after two Swedish people, Tomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey, piloted a light plane into the country's heavily guarded airspace, and dropped 879 teddy bears "bearing" slogans supporting human rights across the country.

(The Swedish pair carried out the stunt in support of Belarusian activists, who have at times arranged plush toys in such a way that they appeared to be protesting the regime, said to be the last dictatorship in Europe (Lukashenko has run Belarus, since 1994).  Oh, and don't worry - no teddy bears were hurt as they were all decked out in parachutes.  Super Ted would be proud of them - Teddy Power!)

Unfortunately it's not all fun - authorities in Belarus have arrested a journalism student who posted teddy bear photos on his personal website and a real estate agent who offered an apartment to the Swedes. The two men stand accused of assisting border violators and face up to seven years in prison if convicted.  
There ar…

Interesting People - Michael Phelps

Swimmer Michael Phelps is now the Olympic games's most successful ever athlete.

(Having won yet another gold in the men's 200m freestyle relay at the Olympics in London 2012, the US swimmer from Baltimore, America, is now the proud owner of 15 gold, two silver and two bronze medals, and he still has three races to come! The bookies are giving odds-on for him to finish his Olympic career with 22 medals, and if I gambled I would take that bet.)