Showing posts from March, 2013

Interesting Place - The Crown Estate

Have you ever wondered who owns what in the UK?  Well, the Crown Estate owns quite a bit.  It is a property business valued at more than £8 billion.

(The property it manages is owned by the Crown, but is not the private property of the monarch, and it's huge.

So what "property" is this?

Well it includes virtually the entire seabed of the UK, out to about 12 nautical miles, as well as around half of the foreshore of the UK.

The rural estate comprises agricultural, mineral and forestry estates in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as residential and commercial property.

The Crown Estate's urban portfolio comprises a wide and varied mix of properties including Regent Street in London.

The Windsor Estate covers approximately 6,400 hectares and includes Windsor Great Park, the Home Park of Windsor Castle, forests, residential and commercial properties, golf courses, a racecourse and farms.

If you want to see what is owned where, look at the Estates Map.)

Interesting Fact - Fitness

According to research by fitness equipment company Kettler, one in three gym goers in the UK don't even break a sweat during their workout.

(A survey of gym goers revealed that only half of them complete a serious fitness routine, while the rest spend their time chatting or ogling the opposite sex: One in 10 are too embarrassed to get sweaty, and a quarter spend more time in the sauna or hot tub than on exercise machines. One in 10 like to 'chill out' by the pool while one in 20 go along to watch football matches on the big screen TVs, and a crafty 13 per cent claim to go off the gym, but in actual fact go somewhere else entirely.)


Interesting People - Spiderman

According to physicists at the University of Leicester a scaled up version of a spider's web, as spun by comic book hero Spiderman would be strong enough to stop a moving train.

(They calculated that webbing with the following properties could stop a moving train:-
The force Spider-Man's webs would have exerted on the train would be 300,000 newtonsThe stiffness of the web would be 3.12 gigapascalsThe toughness of the web would be roughly 500 megajoules per cubic metre. The title of their paper?

'Doing Whatever a Spider Can'.)

Interesting Fact - Literature

According to Professor Helen Fulton, head of English at the University of York, top English students reach university believing Charles Dickens is from the same era as William Shakespeare.

(Well I guess they are both old blokes who died a long time ago.)

Interesting Fact - Marriage

According to research carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research 38% of women in the 1950s married men richer and better-educated than themselves, but today that percentage is just 16%.

(The study found that women in the UK are increasingly marrying ‘beneath themselves’ by opting for men of lower social classes. 28 per cent of women born between 1976 and 1981 married men who were less educated and worse paid than them. In 1958, the figure for the same age group was 23 per cent. Of the women born between 1976 and 1981, only 16 per cent married up and more than half (56 per cent) married someone of the same class, defined by the IPPR as someone in a similar occupation. One example used is the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips who married former England rugby player Mike Tindall.

The one thing this study really proves though is how class concious the UK still is.)


Intresting Fact - Nursing

Under new plans for the NHS, trainee nurses will train in basic care for a year, feeding, washing and
dressing patients, to ensure compassion.

(This is partly in response to the Stafford hospital inquiry, where harrowing neglect and abuse took place between 2005 to 2008.
Interestingly no such recommendations are to be made for doctors or surgeons.  Maybe there were no doctors and surgeons at Stafford hospital, or perhaps they are considered to be above such things as compassion.)

Interesting Place - Finland

Day-care centres in Finland put children outside to nap, even in temperatures of -5°C.

(Seemingly this is an old Finnish custom and it's common to see rows of prams lined up in the snow at nap-time, with youngsters fast asleep inside. It became widespread when it was first promoted by the father of Finland's own Dr Spock, Arvo Ylppö.

The theory behind outdoor napping is that children exposed to fresh air, whether in summer or the depths of winter, are less likely to catch coughs and colds. I guess it saves on heating bills too.)

Interesting Fact - Smoking

In Bahrain, South Africa and Cyprus, drivers are banned from smoking in cars if children are aboard.

(In the UK it's against the law to smoke at work, but you can do what you want to your children's, still growing, lungs.)

Interesting Fact - British Law

Flashing only became a sexual offense in the UK in 2003.

(It was an "offense" before 2003, but only under two 19th Century laws - the Vagrancy Act 1824 and the Town and Police Clauses Act 1847, statistics were grouped alongside trade descriptions and public health offences.

Exposure was included in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and now comes under "miscellaneous sex offenses" in Home Office statistics.)

Interesting Fact - Health

An NHS adviser has told office workers to keep a pillow under their desk in case they feel sleepy.

(Jayne Morris, the ‘life coach’ for NHS Online, has advised overworked employees to keep a pillow under your desk or a blanket in your car and grab a 20-minute power nap in the middle of the day, regardless of where you are.

So put that coffee down, and grab your pillow for sleepy time.)

Interesting Fact - Politics

Iraq, Rwanda and Mexico each have more female MPs than Britain.

(There are currently 146 female MPs in parliament in Britain, but given that there are 650 seats, this is only 22.5%. In Iraq the percentage is 25.2%, in Mexico 36.8% and Rwanda has the highest percentage of women MPs in the world, at 56.3%.

You can check your country here:-

Interesting Place - Wales

The British Government spends £18bn more on Wales every year than it gets back in tax.

(This works out at £6,008 per head of the Welsh population.)

Interesting Animal - Swallows

According to Dr Charles Brown, of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, swallows are evolving to avoid getting hit by cars.

(A study carried out over several years in Keith County, Nebraska, has shown a sharp reduction in the number of swallows killed on the roads, and the results seem to show that natural selection has favoured birds that are better able to get out of the way of oncoming cars and trucks. 

Now if only hedgehogs would evolve too.)

Interesting Fact - Extinction

Scientists have implanted the cells of an extinct amphibian (a frog) into the eggs of a living relative

(The gastric-brooding frog, Rheobatrachus silus, which swallowed its eggs, brooded its young in its stomach and gave birth through its mouth actually died out in 1983. The researchers, from the aptly named  Lazarus Project, took fresh eggs from the distantly related Great Barred Frog, deactivated their nuclei and successfully replaced them with genes from the extinct frog. To date, 

Similar techniques could be used to bring back the dodo, the woolly mammoth, or maybe T-Rex (the dinosaur, not the band).
Maybe we need a new word - exextinct, unextinct, or deextinct.)
Source: The Wright Stuff

Interesting Animal - Cows and Worms

According to the lovely people at QI, the weight of cows in any given field will always be less than the weight of the worms underneath it.

(I presume they mean a British field, and not a field in Texas, but I'd love to know how they worked it out.)

Interesting Fact - Bins

Kensington Council in London (the wealthiest council in Britain), are getting rid of street bins.

(The reason isn't security fears, but because the bins attract too much rubbish!

I love council logic.  Oh no!  These bins are full of rubbish!  How unsightly!)

Interesting Fact - Education

Tests for grammar school entrance (11 plus), which are taken by thousands of British children every year, are to be overhauled in a bid to stop over-coached children winning places.

(Demand for places in grammar schools is off the scale, with some reporting 13 applications for every place. Well off parents invest thousands on tutors to get their kids through the exams, the problem is, rather than having a natural ability  they struggle to keep up with lessons once they are in school and need extra help all the time.

The review will consider is whether selection should be based in part on assessment by teachers and head teachers, rather than relying solely on test results.
What a radical thought.  Actually talking to the child!)

Interesting Fact - Religion

You may have heard that a new pope has been elected. Surprisingly quickly as well. Especially when you consider that the longest papal conclave took over 2 years.

(Deliberations started in 1268, when Catholic cardinals met in the village of Viterbo to elect a new Pope.

Monsignor Charles Burns, a retired archivist at the Secret Vatican Archives, told ABC News in 2005 that the villagers grew angry at how long the process was taking (there was a split between French and Italian factions), and locked the cardinals in a nearby palace (the term "conclave" actually refers to this — it means "with a key").

In the end, the process went on for so long that the villagers tried to starve the cardinals into making a decision, giving them only bread and water. They even tore the roof off the palace in a bid to expose the cardinals to the elements — you can still see the roof-less palace today:

They chose Italian born Teobaldo Visconti, a man who was neither a cardinal nor eve…

Interesting Fact - Football

UK taxpayers fork out over £17 million a year to police football matches.

(Presently, clubs are responsible for the costs of policing in and immediately around stadiums, but extra police have to be deployed to prevent violence and disorder in the surrounding area, in town centres and on public transport.  The Football League says that fans pay taxes to cover police costs, and should not 'pay twice for policing'.

Maybe we should all get to vote on what our taxes get spent on.)

Source - The Wright Stuff and Daily Mail

Interesting Place - London

According to the UK's Office for National Statistics, almost four in ten of all the people born abroad live in London.

(In fact the 2011 census showed that people born abroad make up 34 per cent of the capital’s population, but what is really funny is Cliff Richard and Joanna Lumley, who were both born in India to British parents are included in these statistics.)

Interesting Fact - Football

Welsh football team, Caerphilly Castle Ladies, might just be the worst football team in the world.

(The team, called the Castle, was recently defeated 43:0 and over the last 10 games. the players have let in 219 goals and scored just one. 
Bless them.)
(Update - They have since decided to withdraw from the Welsh Premier Women's League with immediate effect. I just hope they don't stop playing.)


Interesting Place - Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso translates as 'land of honest people'.  
("Burkina", can be translated as "men of integrity", while "Faso" means "fatherland". "Burkino Faso" is thus meant to be understood as "Land of upright people" or "Land of honest people"
It is a landlocked country in west Africa. Around 274,200 square kilometres (105,900 sq miles) large. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north; Niger to the east; Benin to the southeast; Togo and Ghana to the south; and Ivory Coast to the southwest. Its capital is Ouagadougou. In 2010, its population was estimated at just under 15.75 million.
It used to be called Upper Volta, but the  name was chosen by the government of Thomas Sankara, a thirty-three year old army officer who took control of the country in a 1983 coup.  Nowadays it's often referred to as simply Burkina. 
Unfortunately it's recently been the source of many internet scam emails, from ba…

Interesting Place - France

In France, from July 1, a new law will require shops and offices in France to turn off their lights one hour after the last worker leaves a building.

(Shop windows may only be lit from 7 a.m. or an hour before opening time, and shop window displays must be turned off at 1 a.m.  Exceptions will be made during Christmas and other significant events, as well as in some tourist and cultural areas.

I wonder what they will do with the Eiffel tower.)


Interesting Fact - Money

An American dime has 118 ridges around the edge, or in numismatic terms, reeds.

(Seemingly the penny and nickel have no reeds (ridges), and even though they are worth less than the dime, they are larger in size.

Of course British coin collectors have their own terminology, and call the reeded ridged edge, graining and the reeds (grooves) are called crenellations.)

Interesting Fact - Climate Change

According to research from scientists at Oregon State University, temperatures on earth are higher than at any time in at least 4,000 years.

(Over the coming decades temperatures are likely to surpass levels higher than at any time before the last ice age.

Then why is it so cold here?)


Interesting Fact - Cluedo

The game Cluedo, was originally called "Murder!"

(The name was changed to Cluedo when the inventor presented the game to Waddingtons's  who changed it to its current trademark name of "Cluedo", a nice little word play on "clue" and "Ludo"; ludo is Latin for I play.  Much more civilised than, muder.)

Interesting Fact - Cluedo

Cluedo, the murder mystery game, is called Clue in North America.

(It was devised by Anthony E. Pratt, a solicitor's clerk from Birmingham, England, and originally published by Waddingtons in Leeds, England in 1949.

It is now published by the United States game and toy company Hasbro, which acquired its U.S. publisher Parker Brothers, and Waddingtons.)

Interesting Place - The UK

Researchers compiled a World Death Table from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease study, and  found that rising levels of drink and drug abuse are turning Britain into one of the sickest countries in the Western world.

(According to research, which compares premature death rates in 19 wealthy nations, only Finland, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark and the US have worse premature death rates.

The really worrying thing for me is that there is a "World Death Table". )


Today marks the beginning of British Pie Week.

English Diary

Interesting numbers - Transistors

You can fit over 3,200 22nm transistors across the diameter of an average human hair.

(I haven't tried it, but Intel told me, so it must be true.)

Interesting Fact - Beds

According to a report called The Great British Bedtime Report, commissioned by the Sleep Council to mark National Bed Month, the average amount that people in the UK spend on a new bed is £583.05.

(63% of Brits buy a divan bed, with king-size beds being the most popular, 31% chose this size, but some people spend up to £40,000, and for four years the world's most expensive bed was the Magnetic Floating Bed which has a price tag of $1.6 million.

If you think that is a bit much, the title of world's most expensive bed now belongs to the Baldacchino Supreme. This rather pricey little number is made from chestnut wood and curving ash wood with a canopy with edges in cherry wood, it also features Italian silk and cotton, and contains 107 kg of solid 24ct gold, and the headboard can be customized with diamonds buttons. It was a limited edition of only 2 to be made. Price? £4,000,000.00.

Interesting Fact - Sleep

According to a report called The Great British Bedtime Report, people in the UK aren't getting enough sleep.

(Yes, the report commissioned by the Sleep Council to mark National Bed Month, a third of the population of the UK (33%) now get by on 5 to 6 hours’ sleep a night, compared to 27% in 2010, and the majority of people (70%) sleep for 7 hours or less, with the average Briton going to bed at 11:15 pm and getting 6 hours and 35 minutes sleep per night. Research suggests 7 and a half hours is the optimum level for good health.

Almost half of Britons say that stress or worry keeps them awake at night, but unsurprisingly high earners (£65-£75,000) get the best sleep of all.

Now, I'm not particularly stressed or worried, but I am posting this at 5:30 in the morning.)