Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Scientists in Nottingham (which is pronounced NOT-ting-um) have engraved the periodic table of elements on a human hair – for a birthday present. Which is possibly a complete waste of resources, but is still pretty interesting. The best thing about the video below is the narration provided by the hair’s recipient and original owner, Martyn Poliakoff. Watch.

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I learnt from QI recently that the Japanese honeybee has a partly ingenious, partly scary way of dealing with hornet scouts investigating their hives. A lone scout sniffing around a honeybee hive can be a harbinger of doom – a full-on hornet attack against a beehive is like a platoon of terminators tearing through a shopping mall. The first video here demonstrates the latter point, the second illustrates the former. They both have some terrific, cinematic visuals.

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Inspecting gadgets

This is an interesting article on money-saving, environmentally friendly gadgets I read on Yahoo! recently.

One of said gadgets is a staple-free stapler that works by cutting and folding the sheets as you press down. The description of this item includes the fact that if every office worker in Britain saved one staple per day, in one year, 72 tonnes of metal would be saved. This sounds incredible (in the literal sense), but if you ‘do the math’, it’s actually true.

If a staple weighs about 32 milligrams, and there are 10 million UK office workers, each working 225 days a year, then 32 x 10,000,000 x 225 = 72,000,000,000 mg. Knock off three zeroes to turn it into grammes, then three more to make kilograms, and three more to make tonnes.

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I just learnt, listening to the ‘Friday Boss’ segment of the Today programme, that the iconic British chocolate bar, the Mars Bar, was reduced in size a couple of years ago. The Mars company made out initially (some time after the change happened) that it was an attempt to combat obesity, but later admitted they were cutting costs. This isn’t an unusual phenomenon – especially in recession-struck times – and has been referred to as the Grocery Shrink Ray.

The Mars Bar wasn’t named after the planet, as you might suppose, but after Forrest Mars – son of an American confectioner, Frank Mars. Mars junior set up production in Slough in 1932 and based the bar on the America Milky Way bar (which is not the same as the British Milky Way).

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(That’s ‘English breakfast tea’ transliterated into Korean Hangul (‘잉글리쉬 브렉퍼스트 티’) then transliterated back into Roman characters – which demonstrates how clunkily Hangul represents languages other than Korean.)

I just bought myself a cup of tea at a Starbucks in Myeongdong. The barrista made me smile (not something I do often when I’m out and about these days). After asking, ‘Hot?’ she gestured at my travel cup and asked, ‘In?’ then she gestured at the price display on the till and said, ‘Dis.’ (‘This.’)

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“Creativity is mistakes” is the motto of ceramicist Grayson Perry. These words feature in the artist’s recent programme on Radio 4, Grayson Perry on Creativity and Imagination. It’s interesting stuff (if also somewhat blindingly obvious) and features interviews with a range of creative types, including Terry Pratchett. The piece begins with a list of myths, misconceptions about creativity:

Myth number one: The Eureka moment.

Myth number two: Anyone can do it.

Myth number three: Drugs are good for you.

Myth number four: Creative people are a bit mad.

Myth number five: Britain’s got talent.

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My brain, acting under environmental stimuli, told me to post this article on the Time web site.

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The other day I found an on-line tool called World Names Profiler. You type your surname into the box, press return, wait a moment, and it tells you the frequency of your name in various countries around the world. For instance, my surname is shared by

2705.41 in every million people in Ireland,
515.18 in every million people in Australia,
322.06 in every million people in Canada,
284.61 in every million people in the United States,
269.46 in every million people in New Zealand,
232.63 in every million people in the United Kingdom,
14.66 in every million people in Argentina,
8.5 in every million people in Luxembourg,
6.39 in every million people in Switzerland,
and 5.04 in every million people in Denmark.

If you scroll down, there are more boxes of information, such as the most common first names that go with your family moniker (John, in my case; not too far off the mark, as Sean is the Irish form of John). You can click on countries in the list or on the map for a more detailed look at the distribution of your name.

One caveat, though: I tried an ethnicity search for the default setting: African Ethiopian – the highest concentration of such individuals is in Switzerland (604.48 per million), according to the site. Clearly, they only have information for several nations – nothing in Africa, nothing in Latin America outside Argentina, nothing in Asia apart from India and Japan.

Still pretty interesting, though.

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When I arrived back in Korea on Monday last week, the country was covered in snow – it was one of the worst snowfalls for a long time. A week later, there are still piles of snow everywhere. It seems from the news that the situation in Britain is much the same, if not worse. Habiba tells me Canada (or Montreal, at any rate) hasn’t had its usual dose of icy precipitation (she didn’t say ‘icy precipitation’. She would never use such prolix nomenclature). Here’s a NASA picture of Great Britain (click on it to get a super-high resolution image).

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