January 11th, 2013
Now this is something we just couldn’t resist telling you all about – some in the office actually grew up in ‘surf city UK’ – Newquay, Cornwall – and spent most of their young lives surfing the year round.
After moving to London, however, they figured their surfing days were behind them, until YouTube showed them a way to get their fix – urban skim boarding! You can check this rather cool dude from France showing how it’s done!
This has to be the most awesome mode of urban transport we have ever seen.
January 4th, 2013
Apparently the lemmings of Europe became extinct five separate times throughout the ice age. Or put another way – they all died out and then re-colonised five times over!
As reported by the BBC, it was previously believed that small mammals were largely unaffected by the ice age, but when an international research team analysed ancient DNA sequences from fossilised remains of collared lemmings (Dicrostonyx torquarus) from cave sites in Belgium, they were surprised by the results.
“What we’d expected is that there’d be pretty much just a single population that was there all the way through,” said research team member Dr Ian Barnes from the school of biological sciences at Royal Holloway University in Surrey.
Instead the tests revealed that genetically distinct populations of lemmings were “present at different points in time” during the Late Pleistocene, 11,700 to around 126,000 years ago, meaning that the lemming population had been wiped out multiple times and then re-colonised sometime after, possibly from populations in eastern Europe or Russia.
According to the study, this pattern supports the theory that environmental changes, rather than human predation, were the main cause of the demise of many other animals (including the woolly mammoth) in Europe at the end of the last Ice Age.
December 28th, 2012
As many of you will know firsthand, many areas of the UK have been hit by floods this winter, which has been a nightmare for all involved. However there may be a silver lining to this cloud, report the BBC.
A recent study into house prices shows that there was very little, if any, drop in prices for houses that have suffered flood damage – or indeed reoccurring flooding.
If you look at somewhere like Tewkesbury, you can see that the floods of 2007 did not significantly affect prices. In June 2007, the average property value in this historic market town was £241,821. It dropped slightly to £238,200 in July, the month floods hit - when the average property price in England was £258,855. But the average price stayed consistently around the £240,000 mark for the rest of the year, according to figures collated by property website Zoopla.
Prices in Tewkesbury have dropped since, but not at a vastly disproportionate rate to the rest of England.
Tewkesbury’s average property is now £215,322, and the average value in England is £236,134.
December 21st, 2012
We have never heard of this before but apparently the people of South-East Asia have historically fought fish against each other in tank arenas! A BBC article shows that scientists recently looked into how the Siamese fighting fish maintain their energy levels whilst in mid fight, and discovered something fascinating: these fish actually breathe air!
The fish are from the unusual Anabantodei group that can take in oxygen from the air via a specialised organ as well as from the water through their gills and skin. Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) are found throughout south-east Asia where they live in low-oxygenated pools and rice paddies.
Scary stuff – just imagine if they give up their watery habitat for good … I think we’d all have to mind our toes!
December 14th, 2012
Something really interesting caught our eye on the BBC about whales. Apparently before attacking prey (prey is a bit strong - they gulp up to 100 tons of krill-filled water within 10 seconds), the blue whale (the largest animal on the planet) will perform a full 360-degree rotation in order to orientate before an attack.
The results are published in the Royal Society journal ‘Biology Letters’, by Dr Jeremy Goldbogen and colleagues at the Cascadia Research Collective based in Washington, US.
“Despite being the largest animals to have ever lived, blue whales still show an impressive capacity to perform complex manoeuvres that are required to efficiently exploit patches of krill,” said Dr Goldbogen. The reason they do this is because “blue whales feed exclusively on krill: small crustaceans that have excellent escape responses, requiring the mammals to have efficient foraging strategies to be able to meet their energy demands.”
Amazing to think that our biggest animal has to do acrobatic manoeuvres in order to catch some of smallest!
November 23rd, 2012
With a new term due to begin at schools nationwide next month, you might be interested to learn of a story we came across on the BBC that suggests that children born in the summer months (August particularly) tend to be less successful in their studies than their older counterparts.
The published study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) looked at the test scores and happiness levels of a number of English children born in August compared to those in September. August-born kids were found to have scored considerably lower on the key academic areas (English, maths and science) as well as on cognitive skills. This was especially true around the age of seven.
The report goes on to say that August-born children were 20% more likely to continue their studies in vocational training and 20% less likely to complete a university degree than their September-born peers.
The attributed reason for this is a simple one – the kids born in September have an age advantage as they are the oldest in the class. Whether this phenomenon can affect a child’s confidence and self-esteem is another matter, as the article goes on to discuss (read more here).
November 16th, 2012
In the spirit of the Olympics, a man from Bexley, south London, was arrested by police for painting a Royal Mail post-box gold.
The Telegraph reports on the bizarre incident that saw the 38-year-old man, with a paint-brush roller and a plastic bucket filled with gold paint, reprimanded by Bexley Police at 2.50 a.m.
With the job unfinished, the pillar-box remains half-red and half-gold, with the reporters estimating the damage will cost Royal Mail £300 – although they have been painting some patriotic gold boxes of their own in the home towns of our Olympic champions.
“It was meant to be a bit of fun and part of the Olympic fever,” said the man, who was released with a caution. A first class effort … ?
November 9th, 2012
Workers at a zoo in Sussex have found a novel way to help a group of Chilean flamingos that were struggling to mate find their taste for love: playing them some of Barry White’s greatest hits!
It would appear that the smooth soul legend’s ability to create a passionate environment is not limited to humans, as reported in the Metro Online’s ‘Weird’ section, and as a result two flamingos have hatched a chick successfully – the first since 2009.
The zoo manager at Drusillas Park in Alfriston, East Sussex, had this to say: “We are absolutely delighted with the progress of the flamingo chick. I was lucky enough to be at the enclosure when it hatched. The keepers and I were so excited to see the little grey flamingo emerge from its shell under the watchful eye of its parents.”
Being a species under threat, this will certainly come as welcome news. Let’s just hope it’s the First, not the Last…
November 2nd, 2012
Hilarious! Who would have thought that the first use of term ‘OMG’ was not actually from one over-tanned blonde to another but actually between Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher and Winston Churchill! That makes us laugh every time. An article in NYMag.com claims that a letter in 1917 between John and Winston went along the lines:
“I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis — O.M.G (Oh! My! God!)— Shower it on the Admiralty!!”
Hopefully he left out the emoticons and LOL at the end!
October 26th, 2012
It may not surprise you to know but streets in Rome may show a little gender bias. If you throw a dart at the Rome street map, more often than not it will end up on a street named after a bloke rather than a woman. Not surprising, you may think, given the history. According to an article in the BBC, it all began when Maria Pia Ercolini, a geography teacher in Rome, wrote a cultural guide to Rome, celebrating the role of women in the city’s history.
“During the research I realised that you never see traces of women. History just cancelled the women - they’re not here,” she says.
They found that 7,575 (45.7%) of the city’s streets were named after men and only 580 (3.5%) were named after women.
“That’s proof of the discrimination,” she says.
Local authorities, who make the rules regarding street names, are now being urged to redress the balance.