Food Misc Musings

Potatoes were Illegal in France between 1748 and 1772

potato_png2391

In the 16th Century the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire in South America, with this they returned to Europe with a new vegetable; the potato. However, this new produce was not so easily adopted by the rest of Europe, farmers in France in particular were very distrustful.

The farmers considered the vegetable strange and poisonous, even as going as far as claiming the potato caused leprosy and other terrible diseases. The potato was only given to their farm animals and even the poorest, starving peasants were afraid to eat them. The French government was so concerned about the potatoes ill effects that the production and consumption of potatoes was eventually outlawed by the French Parliament in 1748.

Continue Reading
Animals

There is a Centipede in South America that Eats Bats

Megarian-Banded-Centipede-Scolopendra-cingulata

What is the difference between a Centipede and a Millipede? Not just the number of legs as the name might suggest. There are many differences between the two, the main one being that Millipedes are scavengers and feed primarily on decaying organic matter and also eat the roots and leaves of plants, however Centipedes are a predator.

Centipedes come equipped with modified front legs, which are loaded with a deadly venom that they can use to hunt and kill small creatures, most common types (like the ones you might find in your garden) use this venom to hunt small insects and arachnids. However, there is a type of centipede in South America called Scolopendra gigantea or as it is more commonly known; the Amazonian Giant Centipede, which is the largest of all centipedes, known to grow to up to 35cm long (the length of a man’s arm!). These terrifying creatures are known to thrive in dark caves and feast on lizards, frogs, mice, snakes and even birds and bats.

Continue Reading
Planet Earth

There is More Water in the Earth’s Mantle Than on the Surface

parts-of-the-earth-diagram

The planet Earth is huge. It is so large that we could not even fathom it’s size, the Earth has been estimated to weigh around 6 million, billion, billion kg (that’s 24 noughts!), we consider our planet to be the “blue planet” due to the amount of water but in reality water makes up less than  0.1 % of the entire planet’s mass.

The Earth’s surface contains 70% water, the vast oceans of Earth span for tens of thousands of kilometres, however in comparison to the size of the planet, the Earth’s surface is a tiny portion of the world. For example, in the Earth’s crust, the first layer of the Earth, which is around 35km below earth (which is around the length of the city of London) the mass of the land is 40 times greater than that of the oceans due to the sheer size of the bedrock.

Continue Reading
History Misc Musings

When the Queen Goes to Parliament she Holds an MP Hostage

The official opening of Parliament in the UK is a ceremony held to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year, it is steeped in ancient traditions with one of the strangest being that the Queen holds an MP hostage in Buckingham Palace to ensure her safe return. This still goes on today with the hostage for 2014 being Vice Chamberlain Desmond Swayne.

This tradition dates back to the 17th century and the English Civil War where the monarch, King Charles I, and Parliament were on less friendly terms. Due to the hostility between the parties, King Charles was very distrustful of parliament and was so concerned for his life when entering that he decided to take a hostage to ensure his survival. He was right to be concerned, as he was eventually executed by parliament in 1649. However, nowadays the procedure is purely ceremonial though the hostage of the crown does remain under armed guard.

Another interesting tradition that takes place when the Queen opens parliament is that the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are searched by her Yeomen of the Guard in order to prevent a modern-day gunpowder plot such as was orchestrated by Guy Fawkes in 1605 where English Catholics attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the Protestant King James I and aristocracy. The cellars

Continue Reading
Animals Food

The Greenland Shark is so Slow it Can Only Eat Something if it is Asleep, Dead or Wanders into its Mouth

6376473_orig

One of the most peculiar animals I have come across is the rare Greenland Shark, these massive creatures can grow up to 24 feet long and live in the cold Arctic waters around Greenland, Iceland and Canada where temperatures can be as low as -1°C.  To preserve their energy in these cold waters they swim very slowly at less than 1 mile an hour, exerting their energy they can achieve a burst of speed that reaches 1.7 miles per hour but as their main prey, the Seal, can swim at speeds of around 6 mph, this doesn’t do the shark much good!

Due to the slow swimming speed of the shark, trying to grab a meal is quite an issue, researchers have learned that they are most likely ambush predators, waiting until their prey is asleep (usually Seals in the water) and then slowly approaching. They have also been found to be scavengers and eat carrion (dead and decaying flesh of animals) and they are not picky eaters either. Researchers have found many different and unusual animals in the stomachs of Greenland Sharks including polar bears, horses, moose and even an entire reindeer!

Continue Reading
Food Planet Earth

The Golden Temple, the Holiest Site in Sikhism Provides Free Meals for over 100,000 Visitors a Day

Golden-Temple-7-480x307

The majority of Sikh temples in the world provide community kitchens where people can come and receive free food, however the Golden Temple in India, the holiest site in all of the Sikh religion provides free food for up to 100,000 visitors every day regardless of their religion, race, gender or social standing.

Using an average of 12,000kg of flour, 1,200kg of rice, 1,300kg of lentils and 500kg of ghee (clarified butter) the Golden Temple has the capacity to seat over 5000 guests at any time, serving them a traditional meal of rice, vegetables, lentils and bread. The temple is open to guests 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Continue Reading
Planet Earth

A Colossal Solar Storm in 2012 Almost Sent us Back to the Dark Ages

525037main_FAQ1-orig_full

On July 23rd 2012 a massive solar storm eruption from the Sun sent a colossal plasma cloud of magnetic energy hurtling through Earth’s orbit at over 3000km a second, and if the eruption had taken place the week before it would have collided directly with our planet. Should this have happened, modern life would have come to a standstill and we would still be recovering today.

A solar flare is an enormous explosion on the surface of the sun when a massive build up of magnetic energy is suddenly released. They are the most powerful explosions in the solar system and can equal the intensity of 1 billion hydrogen bombs detonating at once. A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is a large bubble of magnetic gas that erupts from these solar flares and launches outwards away from the sun, two of these CME’s were launched from the Sun within minutes of each other in 2012 and narrowly missed the Earth, with us being none the wiser of what just almost hit us.

Continue Reading
Food Misc Musings

Peanuts Don’t Actually Contain Nuts

mixed-nuts-600x450

A nut is classed as  a simple dry fruit with one seed (very occasionally two) and a hard shell which grow on trees. Examples of true nuts are chestnuts, hazelnuts, and acorns. However, peanuts, are not classed as nuts, they are actually a type of pea that grows underground.

Along with beans, peas and lentils, peanuts are classed as a legume. Legumes are a type of edible seed that grow inside small pods. The peanut plant flowers above ground but the peanut seeds (the bits we eat) mature underground and grow in  small pods.

Continue Reading
Planet Earth

The Longest Canyon in the World is in Greenland

canyon_1567918a

The grandest canyon in the world may not be the one you may have heard of. In 2013 researchers discovered a canyon in the world that was, in fact, over 50% longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. How did we not discover such a massive canyon until very recently? Simple. It was buried under a 2 km deep ice sheet in Greenland.

Tentatively named the “Grand Canyon of Greenland”, scientists from the university of Bristol have described the discovery as a mega-canyon. The canyon is more than 750  kilometers (466 miles) long, comparatively the Grand Canyon in Arizona is 446 kilometres (277 miles) long and no other canyon on earth comes close to its length.

Continue Reading
Animals

Dalmatians Were the Official Dogs of the Fire Station

sparkles-fire-safety-dog-34

In the mid 19th Century the introduction of horses to carry fire trucks instead of men vastly improved their response time to putting out fires. However horses were notoriously afraid of fire (and rightly so) but this is where Dalmatians come into play.

Dalmatians were known to be the official dog of the fire house, they had a peculiar presence that was able to calm the horses down and provide a comforting influence when around the fires. They would form strong bonds with the horses and scare away anything that might spook them.

Continue Reading