UNUSUAL FACTS AND INTERESTING FACTS sponsored interesting links

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Interesting facts about MARS


[10 interesting facts about MARS from]
1. Mars is actually pretty small.

You might think that Mars is a near-twin of Earth, but it has a diameter of about half the Earth, measuring only 6,800 km across. With the smaller size comes an even smaller mass. The total mass of Mars is only about 10% the mass of Earth. The surface gravity is only 37% what you would experience on Earth. In other words, you would be able to jump 3 times as high on Mars as you can on Earth.

2. People used to think it had water and canals

Before the first spacecraft arrived at Mars in 1965, nobody had ever seen Mars up close. Dark blotches on the surface of the Red Planet were interpreted as lakes or oceans, and some people even thought they could seen dark lines crisscrossing the surface of the planet. They imagined these might be the irrigation canals of a dying civilization. It turned out these were just an optical illusion, and Mars is a dry dusty desert.

3. But Mars really does have water

Mars might not have oceans, rivers and lakes, but NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft detected huge deposits of water underneath the surface, across the planet - in the form of ice. The Phoenix mission has arrived on Mars to search for ice underneath the soil at the northern polar cap. It has all the tools on board to analyze the water ice to see if has any traces current or ancient life.

4. Mars has the tallest mountain in the Solar System

The tallest mountain in the Solar System is the mighty Olympus Mons on Mars. It rises up 27 kilometers above the surrounding plains. Olympus Mons is a shield volcano, like Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, and formed gradually over billions of years. Some lava flows on the volcano are so young that planetary scientists think that it might still be active.

5. And Mars has the longest, deepest canyon in the Solar System

One of the most distinct features on the surface of Mars is the Valles Marineris canyon. It stretches 4,000 km along the equator of Mars, and can be as deep as 7 km in places. If you could move the Valles Marineris to Earth, it would stretch right across the United States.

6. We have pieces of Mars on Earth

Both Earth and Mars have been slammed by large asteroids in the past. Although most of the debris kicked up by the impact falls back down on to the planet, some of it can be ejected so quickly that it escapes Mars entirely. These ejected meteorites can orbit the Solar System for millions of years before they finally crash down on other worlds. Some have crashed on Earth, and been identified by scientists. Tiny amounts of Mars’ atmosphere were trapped in the meteorites, and this is how scientists were able to study the Martian atmosphere before sending the first spacecraft.

7. One of Mars’ moons is going to crash into it

Mars has two, tiny asteroid-sized moons called Phobos and Deimos. Phobos orbits the planet at such a low altitude that it’s going to eventually be torn apart by the gravity of Mars. It will survive as a ring for a few years, and then the debris will rain down on Mars. Scientists disagree on when this will happen. It could happen as soon as 10 million years from now, and no later than 50 million years.

8. Mars has almost no atmosphere

If you tried to stand out on the surface of Mars without a spacesuit, you would die almost immediately. The freezing cold temperatures would be a problem, but even worse is the thin atmosphere. The air pressure at the surface of Mars is only 1% the pressure we enjoy here on Earth. And the atmosphere on Mars consists of 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and trace amounts of water and oxygen.

9. Mars is crawling and buzzing with spacecraft

At the time of this writing, there are three spacecraft down on the surface of Mars, NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, as well as the Phoenix Mars lander. And there are three orbiters watching from orbit: NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and ESA’s Mars Express. No other planet in the Solar System has ever been so well studied.

10. And more spacecraft are on their way to Mars

Every two years, Mars and Earth line up so that missions can be sent with a minimum amount of fuel. NASA has plans to send one of their most ambitious missions to date: the Mars Science Laboratory. This will be an SUV-sized laboratory that can crawl across the surface of Mars for months and months, searching for past and current evidence of life.

[50 interesting facts about MARS from]
1. The Egyptians gave Mars its first recorded name: Har d├Ęcher (“The Red One”). The Babylonians called it Nergal (“Star of Death”). The Greeks and Romans named the planet after their respective gods of war, Ares and Mars. The Hebrews called it Ma’adim, or “the one who blushes.” Many ancient people believed the reddish color came from actual blood on the planet.
2. The month of March is named after Mars.
3. The symbol for Mars looks like a shield and a spear from the war god Mars/Ares. It is also the symbol for the male sex.
4. The ancient Greeks thought the Earth was the center of the Universe and that Mars was one of the five traveling stars that revolved around the Earth.
5. Egyptians called Mars the “the backward traveler” because Mars appeared to move backwards through the zodiac every 25.7 months.
6. Mars’ red color is due to iron oxide, also known as rust, and has the consistency of talcum powder. Literally, the metallic rocks on Mars are rusting.
7. The atmosphere (mostly made up of carbon dioxide) on Mars is so thin that water cannot exist in liquid form—it can exist only as water vapor or ice. Liquid water is considered for many scientists to be the “holy grail” of Mars.
8. No human could survive the low pressure of Mars. If you went to Mars without an appropriate space suit, the oxygen in your blood would literally turn into bubbles, causing immediate death.
9. If you were driving 60 mph in a car, it would take 271 years, 221 days to get to Mars from Earth.
10. Mars lacks an ozone layer; therefore, the surface of Mars is bathed in a lethal dose of radiation every time the sun rises.
11. Mars contains the largest labyrinth of intersecting canyons in the solar system called the Noctis Labyrinthus (“labyrinth of the night”).
12. Mars has the largest and most violent dust storms in our entire solar system. These storms often have winds topping 125 mph, can last for weeks, and can cover the entire planet. They usually occur when Mars is closest to the sun.
13. Only 1/3 of spacecrafts sent to Mars have been successful, leading some scientists to wonder if there is a Martian “Bermuda triangle” or a “Great Galactic Ghoul” that likes to eat spacecraft.
14. In 1976, Viking I photographed a mesa on Mars that had the appearance of a human face. Many individuals and organizations interested in extraterrestrial life argued that intelligent beings created the “Face.” Though the Mars Global Surveyor (1997-2006) revealed that the “Face” was likely an optical illusion, believers in the “Face” charged NASA with stripping data from the new image before it was released to the public.
15. Mars has an enormous canyon named Valles Marineris (Mariner Valley) which is an astounding 2,500 miles long and four miles deep. As long as the continental United States, this gigantic canyon was likely formed by the tectonic “cracking” of Mars’ crust and is the longest known crevice in the solar system.
16. During the Renaissance, Mars place a central role in one of the most important and fiercest intellectual battles in the history of Western civilization: whether the earth was the center of the universe. Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) coherently explained that Mars seems to move backwards across the sky because Earth overtakes Mars in its orbit around the sun.
17. Mars was formed about 4.5 billion years ago and is about 4,000 miles wide (half the diameter Earth). Because so much of Earth is covered by oceans, the amount of land surface of the two planets is nearly equal.e Mars is also much lighter than Earth: only 1/10 of its mass. It’s the fourth planet from the sun and is the last terrestrial (rocky) planet (the outer planets are all gaseous).
18. The Earth environment most closely resembling the current conditions of Mars is of the Antarctic deserts. However, even the most hostile environments on Earth are far more suitable for life than the surface of Mars.
19. Mars’ crust is thicker than Earth’s and is made up of one piece, unlike Earth’s crust which consists of several moving plates.
20. Although it is much colder on Mars than on Earth, the similar tilt of Earth’s and Mars’ axes means they have similar seasons. Like Earth's, Mars’ north and south polar caps shrink in the summer and grow in the winter. In addition, a day on Mars is 24 hours 37 minutes—nearly the same as Earth’s. No other planet shares such similar characteristics with Earth.
21. Mars’ seasons are twice as long as those on Earth because it takes Mars 687 days to orbit the sun, twice as long as Earth’s 365-day journey.
22. With no large moon like Earth’s to stabilize it, Mars periodically tilts much more toward the sun, creating warmer summers on Mars than it otherwise would have.d
23. The Earth’s moon is 240,000 miles away. Earth’s next closest neighbor is Venus, which comes as near as 24 million miles. After the moon and Venus, Mars is our next closest neighbor at 34 million miles away—though when Mars and Earth are at the opposite sides of their orbits around the sun, they are separated by 249 million miles.
24. Mars is home to Hellas, a vast and featureless plain that covers 1300 miles (the size of the Caribbean Sea). It was created by asteroids crashing into the surface of Mars nearly four billion years ago.
25. During a Mars winter, almost 20% of the air freezes.b
26. Mars’ two moons—Phobos and Deimos —are small (13 and six miles across, respectively) and oddly shaped. They reflect little light and are among the darkest objects in the solar system. They were discovered by American astronomer Asaph Hall in 1877 and are thought to be asteroids that were unable to break free from Mars’ orbit.
27. Mars’ moon Phobos (fear) rises in the west and sets in the east—twice a day. Deimos (panic), on the other hand, takes 2.7 days to rise in the east and set in the west. Mars’ moons are so named because the twin gods—panic and fear—accompanied Ares (or Mars) into battle.
28. Phobos orbits remarkably close to Mars and is gradually sinking into the Red Planet. In about 50 million years it will either crash into Mars or break up and form a small ring around the planet.
29. Mars has no magnetic field, indicating that it does not have a molten metal core, like Earth does. However, there is evidence that Mars once had a magnetic field and that the field experienced reversals, much like Earth’s magnetic field which reverses every few thousand years.
30. Mars has 37.5% of the gravity that Earth has. This means that a 100-pound person on Earth would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars and could jump three times as high.
31. Mars is home to the highest peak in the solar system: Olympus Mons. This towering peak is 15 miles high (three times higher than Mt. Everest) and has a diameter of 375 miles (the size of Arizona). It is called a shield volcano because it has such a wide base and rises very gradually.
32. The average temperature on Mars is minus 81 Fahrenheit and can range from minus 205 degrees in the winter to 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.
33. Most researchers believe that Mars’ surface was shaped by catastrophic floods billions of years ago. Scientists are unclear on what form water may have taken early in Mars’ history. One theory is that early Mars was warmer and boasted rain and oceans. Another theory is that Mars was always very cold, but water trapped underground as ice was periodically released when heating caused the ice to melt and gush to the surface. No one knows what happened to the water on Mars. Many scientists speculate that Mars’ water may have been lost into space if the atmosphere of Mars thinned out over many eons. Large quantities of water, in either ice or liquid form, are thought to be still trapped underneath its surface.
34. In 1965, the United States spacecraft Mariner 4 made the first successful flyby of Mars. It took 228 days to reach Mars and sent 22 images to Earth. Many scientists were extremely disappointed that the images showed no signs of oceans or vegetation that they thought it would find.e In 2008, however, scientists believe they found significant evidence of carbonates in certain regions on Mars, which suggests that liquid water and perhaps even life once existed there.
35. On November 14, 1971, the United States’ Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to orbit Mars (or any other planet). After a massive dust storm cleared, Mariner 9 began transmitting nearly 73,000 images and revealing enormous volcanoes, huge canyons, frozen underground water in the form of permafrost, and what appeared to be dried-up river beds.
36. Mars 2, built by the former Soviet Union, has the bittersweet distinction of being the first human-built object to touch down on Mars in November 1971. Unfortunately, it crashed into the surface during a massive dust storm.
37. July 20, 1976, was historic because the United States’ Viking 1 was the first human spacecraft to land intact and operational on the surface of Mars. Viking 2 followed, landing successfully on September 3, 1976. The Viking Landers relayed the first color pictures of the planet. When the second Viking had its last moments of contact in 1978, project manager George Gianopoulos said “It’s like losing an old friend; how do you express it?”
38. During the Viking missions to Mars, scientists were worried about contaminating the Martian environment with microbes from Earth.
39. In 1996, the United States launched Pathfinder (also called the Sagan Lander after famed astronomer and author Carl Sagan) so that it would land on America’s Independence Day July 4, 1997. It bounced for 92 seconds on airbags before stopping, making it the first successful air bag-mediated touchdown.
40. Pathfinder’s small robot, Sojourner, collected and studied Martian rocks. It moved less than .5 inches per second so that if it ran into trouble, scientists wearing 3-D glasses to gauge depth and perspective on their 2-D computers on Earth could send it precise directions. Sojourner was the first robot to explore another planet.
41. The unofficial names of many rocks on the surface of Mars are easy-going names, such as Barnacle Bill, Yogi, Pop-Tart, Shark, Half Dome, Moe, Stimpy, and Cabbage Patch, among others. Scientists chose these names because they were convenient to remember.
42. Only 12 Martian meteors are known to exist on earth and are collectively called Shergotty-Nakhla-Chassingy or SNC (“snick”) meteorites. The most famous Martian meteor is called Allan Hills 84001 (ALH 84001) and is believed to have blasted off Mars 16 million years ago, hitting Earth 13,000 years ago in Antarctica. It is so remarkable because it appears to hold microscopic fossils of Maritain bacteria, sparking intense debate about whether ancient life ever existed on Mars.
43. Until recently, it was thought that Mars’ polar caps were made from carbon dioxide (dry ice) with only a small amount of water. Later observations indicated that the polar caps were mostly frozen water with a thin layer of carbon dioxide.
44. If melted into liquid form, the amount of water in the southern polar cap would cover the entire planet to a depth of about 36 feet.
45. Galileo Galilee was the first person to observe Mars through a telescope, in 1609.
46. On August 27, 2003, Mars made it closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years. The next time it will be that close again will be in 2287.
47. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered a strange network of lines on Mars and called them canali, Italian for channels, which were mistranslated as “canals.” American astronomer Percival Lowell (wrongly) guessed that the canals were used to move water from the Martian ice caps to the desert. His work sparked great public fascination with Mars.
48. H.G. Well’s 1898 novel The War of the Worlds portray Martians as technologically advanced invaders who destroyed thousands of lives in their attempt to take over the world. Its 1938 public broadcast by actor Orson Wells incited mass panic across the United States.
49. Mars’ northern and southern hemispheres are so different they could be different planets. The southern hemisphere is heavily cratered with a high elevation. In contrast, the northern hemisphere has a lower elevation with fewer craters. Scientists believe a meteor the size of Pluto once hit Mars, creating the smoother northern region of the planet.
50. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) hope to collaborate on future missions to Mars, including sample-return missions as well as eventually landing humans on Mars by 2035.

Exactly what is a "hollaback girl"?

Doesn't that song drive you bananas? The incessant beat, the stomping, the shushed-out swear words, and just what the heck is Gwen Stefani talking about? We don't want to get everybody fired up, so we put our pom-poms down and tackled this most important inquiry. After a few times around that track, we discovered what a Hollaback Girl is and why Gwen ain't one.

The OC Weekly's insightful analysis points to cheerleading as the source of the slang. The cheerleading captain 'hollas' a chant to the squad, and the girls 'holla' it back. So the hollaback girl is a follower, and by extension, she is treated like a doormat, especially by boys. Writers on the Urban Dictionary add that a hollaback girl is all talk, no action, and won't fight back.

Obviously, Gwen is gonna fight and give it her all. She even socks it to us by proudly confirming her cheerleader roots. And while similarly a cheerleader at heart, Toni Basil doesn't appear to be a hollaback girl either.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Interesting and unusual places to go online #1: Funky Facts

Funky FactsFunky Facts is the number one place to come to find funny, interesting and weird facts about animals, food, games, law, people and much more!

ColdRicePudding makes humorous posts about everyday things. This site is one to visit if you need more random facts to clutter up your mind. You can request facts or send articles of your own easily with the contact form. Funky Facts is also available in many different languages. Don’t forget to bookmark and follow!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why do dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows?

interesting facts: Why do dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows?
Everyone has witnessed the rapturous joy dogs experience while sticking their heads out of car windows. Amazingly, we couldn't find any scholarly research to explain the behavior. Here are three theories we came up with...

1. The sensation of a brisk wind against your face carrying with it scents and fast-moving sights is appealing to many humans. So imagine speeding against the wind with the ability to sniff up to a million times better and to perceive movement at a much quicker pace. For a dog, sticking its head out a moving car must be an all-around sense-sensation the magnitude of which we olfactory-challenged humans can only imagine!

2. Everyone wants a better view. Dogs are no different.

3. Dogs sense what every teen instinctively knows: it's inherently cooler to travel on wheels than by foot.

While dogs may love the easy rider sensation, some pup-lovers believe the practice isn't safe. They recommend doggie seat belts or crates be used. This may sound extreme, but some dogs have actually mastered the use of automatic windows. In fact, lawmakers in Pennsylvania may pass a law requiring dogs to be constrained while traveling in cars. Freedom-loving dogs had better watch out -- the K-9 unit may soon be on their tails.


Interesting facts about GLOBAL WARMING

interesting unusual facts about global warming[]
* Percent of US business schools that now require a course in environmental sustainability or corporate social responsibility: 54%, up from 34% in 2001.

* The warmest January ever recorded: January 2007, 1.53 degrees warmer than normal.

* The dollar equivalent of the amount of energy and cost savings delivered by the Energy Star Program in 2005 to US businesses, organizations and consumers: $12 billion.

* Typical number of diapers used per baby in the United States, depending on when toilet training occurs: 5,000 to 8,000.

* The US burns 10,000 gallons of gasoline a second.

* Amount of time it takes to change a lightbulb: 18 seconds. Amount of CO2 that can be averted each year when that incandescent lightbulb is replaced with a compact fluorescent: 104 pounds.

* If just 25 percent of US families used 10 fewer plastic bags per month, we would save more than 2.5 billion bags a year.

* Every ton of recycled office paper saves 380 gallons of oil.

* The leading cause of global warming is from water vapor, then carbon dioxide emissions, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons (used in household appliances like air conditioning).

* Chlorofluorocarbons are expected to be eliminated and put out of use by 2030 to help slow down global warming.

* The biggest business sectors that are contributing to global warming are the following: Industry, Transportation, Residential, Commercial, Agriculture.

* Methane is the second biggest cause of greenhouse warming. Gas from cows is a big contributor to global warming.

* A big enough volcano eruption could cool the earth for one or two years because sulfuric acid from the explosion would combine with water vapor to form a “shield” that would reflect some sunlight away from earth. Such an eruption would be quite catastrophic, though.

* The coloration of aerosols (miniscule particles in the air) generally changes their relationship with the sun. Lightly colored aerosols reflect light back away from earth (as a white t-shirt) while darker aerosols generally absorb heat (as a hot asphalt road when it is sunny).

* Generally, wispy clouds, such as cirrus clouds, trap light and thus warm the atmosphere whilst thick clouds generally reflect sunlight.

* Ice/snow cover cools the earth by reflecting sunlight.

* Without water vapor's effect on the atmosphere, the earth would be at below freezing temperatures.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why is it that computers never have a "B" drive?

interesting facts on computer drivesThe answer goes back to the glory days of floppy discs and DOS. The early DOS operating system designated two drives, A and B, strictly for floppy drives. Why? Because many early computers didn't have native hard drives -- they booted from Drive A, and ran applications from Drive B.

Later, as computers came with hard drives, the second floppy drive became a useless appendage -- the computer equivalent of an appendix. To avoid confusion during the evolutionary window when computers with new hard drives coexisted beside computers with two floppies, the hard drives were given the "C" slot.

Technically speaking, the "computer" isn't missing the B drive, it's just that later Microsoft operating systems have omitted it as unnecessary. You can read more about the ins and outs of archaic drive systems at Microsoft Support.


Interesting facts about strawberries

Interesting unusual facts about strawberries[strawberry interesting facts from]
Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside.

The average strawberry has 200 seeds.

The ancient Romans believed that strawberries alleviated symptoms of melancholy, fainting, all inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, bad breath, attacks of gout, and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.

To symbolize perfection and righteousness, medieval stone masons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals.

In parts of Bavaria, country folk still practice the annual rite each spring of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to elves. They believe that the elves, are passionately fond of strawberries, will help to produce healthy calves and an abundance of milk in return.

Madame Tallien, a prominent figure at the court of the Emperor Napoleon, was famous for bathing in the juice of fresh strawberries. She used 22 pounds per basin. Needless to say, she did not bathe daily.

Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring.

There is a museum in Belgium just for strawberries.

Strawberries are a member of the rose family.

Ninety-four percent of US households consume strawberries.

Americans eat 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries each year plus another 1.8 pounds frozen per capita.

Strawberries are low fat, low calorie; high in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, potassium

Strawberries, as part of a 5 a day fruit & vegetable program, can help reduce the risk of cancer & heart attacks.

In medieval times, strawberries were served at important functions to bring peace & prosperity.

Folk lore states that if you split a double strawberry in half and share it with the opposite sex, you’ll soon fall in love.

In France, Strawberries were thought to be an aphrodisiac. A soup made of strawberries, thinned sour cream, borage, & powered sugar was served to newlyweds.

Over 53 percent of seven to nine-year-olds picked strawberries as their favorite fruit.

[strawberry interesting facts from]
In actuality strawberry is not a fruit but only an enlarged receptacle of the flower of the plant in which strawberries grow. The land in almost all parts of the USA, are adaptable for cultivating strawberries. Strawberry is common in almost all provinces of Canada as well.

When it comes to the production of strawberries, California takes the first place by satisfying almost eighty percent of the strawberry requirements of the nation. California provides year round supply of strawberries by way of developing new methods of cultivation and by introducing new breeds of strawberries.

More than 20,000 acres of land in California is utilized for the purpose of cultivating strawberries. As per the statistics, near to 700 farmers in California are engaged in cultivating strawberries in their lands on a large scale basis. Export of strawberry from California normally begins in the southern parts of the state in the month of January and moves to the northern parts of the state when spring time begins with warming of the sun. April and May are known as the peak months of supply in a year. During these months weekly volume of strawberries exported from the state reaches to five million trays or more than nine million pounds a day.

In the 13th century, strawberry was known more for its medicinal value than as a delicious fruit to be consumed. Strawberries were widely cultivated in ancient Rome to be used in various medicines prepared by them to treat diseases like skin discoloration and digestive disorders. Belgium even maintains an exclusive strawberry museum to enlighten people more about the use and medicinal value of this fruit that belongs to the rose family.

Attempts to produce new hybrid varieties of strawberry were started in the world as early as in 1700. The experiments made by the French scientists to create a new breed of strawberry by crossing the strawberries brought from North America with the varieties from Chile became a success in 1700s. It is a scientifically proven fact that strawberry has more nutritional value than many other fruits that we consume. It contains 20% RDA of folic acid in a single serving. This water-dissolvable vitamin that is found in large amounts in strawberries is known for its ability to reduce birth defects involving various nerves and brain disorders.

Strawberries are considered as one of the most delicious and nutritional fruit now available in the market. FDA regulations declare it as sodium-free, fat-free fruit that can be used by any one without worrying about the increase of calories or cholesterol. They are both low in calories and free from cholesterol. The scientific studies show that one serving of eight medium sized strawberries is capable of providing the body 140% of the U.S recommended daily allowance of vitamin C required for human body. This amount of vitamin C contained in one serving of eight strawberries is more than the vitamin C in an orange, a fruit known for its high level of vitamin C contents.

Since strawberry contains no fat grams in it, it can be used by any one without fearing about the complications of consuming fat rich food items. It provides 20% of the daily value for folic acid a human body requires.

interesting facts about strawberries on

Saturday, April 25, 2009

If a person was buried in space, would the body decompose?

buried in outerspaceAlthough plenty's been written on the effect a total vacuum would have on a live human body, there's little information about the effects on a corpse. Based on what we've read, however, we'll venture a scenario.

Many of the same processes that cause a body to decompose on Earth would continue in space, since they don't require oxygen. Your intestinal system is host to millions of tiny bacteria that begin to "digest" you as soon as you kick the bucket. On a more elemental level, dying cells release enzymes that break down various proteins and molecules.

Contrary to urban legend, your eyes would not burst and your body would not explode when exposed to a total vacuum. Your body would experience internal ruptures as the pressure drops, but skin, even dead skin, is a fairly resilient container.

We assume that since water vaporizes in a vacuum, eventually your body would become entirely desiccated. You'd also be exposed to all sorts of radiation. Ultimately this would turn you into an interstellar Slim Jim. Lovely image, no?


Some unusual and interesting ipod facts you might wanna know

[interesting iPod facts from]facts about ipods
Many of us believe that iPods are the best thing since sliced bread and although they are great little devices, there are some things you should keep an eye out for when dealing with them. So, if you own an iPod, you'll want to listen up to this. I'm not trying to talk negatively about iPods, but it's my job to give you the information and that's what I intend to do.

Here are 10 facts about your iPod that you would probably never know otherwise.

1.) It's a known fact that the iPod is the most popular music player available today. Since debuting in 2001, nothing has been able to surpass it. The iPod brings so much to the table when it comes to music, including its user-friendly design and the easy to use iTunes file management program. Well, all of the sudden, the iPod might be facing some trouble. Apple, the developer of the iPod, has a proprietary format that may cause them some trouble in the near future. This format is completely incompatible with any other digital music technology.

If they don't do something to change their format soon, they may back themselves into a corner, because most people like to have options. If the iPod doesn't bring them their options in the future of digital music, they might find something else to love.

2.) You may have run into this second problem already. A lot of the big name companies are now charging their users just for a little technical support. If you have a problem with your iPod, you better expect to pay up in order to get some help. Apple gives you one free call to their support line, but it has to be used within the first 90 days of your purchase. Chances are, you're not going to have many problems with your product within that 90 days. After that is up, they will charge you $49 for a support call. A little outrageous, don't you think?!

3.) If you have an iPod, you probably know they're not the most sturdy thing in the world. I bet you especially know that if you've happened to drop yours on the ground or hit it against something. Yes, the iPod ads show everyone running down the street with their iPods in hand, so it may seem like you can do anything with it, but in all actuality, the iPod is very fragile.

The iPod runs off a tiny hard drive that can halt service if it's dropped even once or knocked around just a little. You also always need to be very careful with the iPod screens. They are a bit flimsy and can scratch or crack very easily. If that somehow happens to you, it will make it quite difficult to see what song is playing and all the information that goes along with it. You might not expect such a faulty thing to come from Apple, but it unfortunately has.

4.) How many songs do you have on your iPod? Is it over 15,000? If so (and even if it's not that many), you might want to delete some of your songs off so you can replace them with others. Well, that may not be as simple as it sounds. Once you have as many as 15,000 songs on your iPod, Apple will not let you transfer them to another computer or any other device. If you do, it's sort of put under the copyright infringement status. It may not be just Apple that is harping this issue, but I'm sure they're not losing any sleep over it.

5.) So, how long has your battery lasted? Yes, the new iPod promises a battery life of 20 hours or so, but their fine print really says that the "battery life and number of charge cycles vary by use and settings." You can also only recharge your iPod battery so many times before it has to be completely replaced. It's said that the magic number is 500, but it just depends on how much you use your iPod. You will also know when the "death" of your battery is coming, because after about 400 charges, your iPod may only hold 80 percent of its normal capacity. You better start saving for a new battery now!

6.) This is a common factor when it comes to music players. Of course, if you have an iPod, you probably have earphones that go along with it. If you want to take your iPod anywhere with you (besides in your car), you must have the earphones in order to listen to it. Well, by doing that, you could be damaging your hearing. According to a study done, the iPod's full range of sound can go up to 120 decibels, which is just like standing next to a jet plane when it's taking off. If you listen to your iPod that loud (hopefully you don't), you could already be suffering from hearing loss.

On a positive note, Apple has come up with a fix for this though. They have designed some software that will allow you to cap the volume of your iPod. This is especially helpful for all the kids who have iPods. As their parent or grandparent, you can lower the sound on their iPod with this software. It's available for free on Apple's Web site.

7.) One thing you probably don't know (or even ever considered) is that sometimes products are out of date before they're even taken out of their boxes. It's possible that right after you buy an iPod, Apple will come out with a new model, just days after. They are shortening their product cycles, so it's possible that you could get your hands on an "older" version rather than the brand new product. No, it's not the end of the world, but who wants to spend that much money for an old version?

8.) If you have an iPod, you better keep a close eye on it, because they are starting a crime wave all over the place. iPods are one of the most favorite products of thieves these days. It's not just happening in urban places like New York City either. It's going on in high schools and colleges all over the U.S. iPods are so popular, because they're easy to steal and they have a good turnover rate on the street (black market). They are also very easy to spot. If you're listening to yours with your bright white headphones, you may be a target. So, make sure you keep yours safe and sound with you and no one else.

9.) Although Apple has made a fortune from their iPod product, they keep piling on the fees, etc. for owning an iPod. This doesn't even include the accessories you can get for your iPod. No, these days, they're charging for the things that once used to come along with the initial purchase of the music player. Some of these include chargers and a cord that allows you to hook your video iPod up to a TV.

10.) Finally, the last thing you may never had heard about your iPod is that once you start using one, you're stuck for life. If you use iTunes to manage your music files, you will always only be able to listen to that music with your iPod. They will not work with any other music device, because of the special format they're under. Also, no other company is allowed to make a format that will work with Apple's products. Seems a little stingy, doesn't it? But, I guess it's all about money and competition.

Once again, I'm not putting down the iPod, because I, myself, think it's a pretty cool device. I'm just letting you all know the truth about some of the things that go on behind the scenes. I know this isn't one of our normal tips, but I know iPods are popular among our readers and I thought it was important to share all of this with you. Also, I know that some of these things may never, ever pertain to you, but it's always nice to know the facts. Hope you all got something out of it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why do magicians like to say "abracadabra"?

unusual facts about magicians
We all know how magicians saw people in half, but why do they say "abracadabra"? Many have wondered, and while theories abound, none definitively solve the mystery.

According to World Wide Words, the term first appeared during the second century in the Latin medical poem "De medicina praecepta." Apparently the poem's author, a physician named Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, believed the word could heal the sick when inscribed on an amulet and spoken in a particular way. Start with "abracadabra," then say "abracadabr," then "abracadab," and so on. Sort of like the kiddie ditty "B-I-N-G-O"--but in reverse.

As for how the word went from medical to magical, The ES Press believes abracadabra may have come from the Hebrew phrase "abreg ad habra," which means "strike dead with thy lightning."

Another theory argues the phrase comes from the Aramaic phrase "avrah kedabra," which translates to "I will create as I speak." Given magicians' flair for the dramatic, that makes sense to us.


Monday, April 06, 2009

What Not To Eat: The Truth About Food

Low-fat is good, butter is bad; buy free-range, not battery; tofu's terrific, lard's a killer... Messages about what we should and shouldn't eat bombard us on a daily basis. So what are we to believe? And what about the cost to the planet? Rose Prince unravels the myths and explains what we need to know to choose our food with confidence - and a clear conscience


Are there chemical residues on apples?

Red apples (Braeburn) in tray for transport and display in European Union. (Photo: Soren Breiting)
Yes. First, be aware that while it is in the interests of supermarkets to control the level of pesticide and post-harvest fungicide drenches applied to apples from the "dedicated" British farms that supply them, they are less able to monitor imports. In 2005, the government-backed Pesticides Residues Committee sampled 63 apples and found chemical residues on all but seven. No residues were found on the four organic samples taken. Residues were found on all EU-originated apple samples. Two samples contained residues at levels unacceptably high for children. Concerned parents should peel imported apples.

Are organic apples the right choice?

Not always. Organic apples from supermarkets, organic food shops and even box schemes are often imported, and the food miles they clock up negate any environmental gain. Buying British-grown organic apples is ideal but you will have to look hard for them. Growing a disease-free, good-looking apple without pesticides is a tough task in the British climate. Old trees that have never been treated with agricultural chemicals tend to produce abundantly without problems, but organic farmers say new orchards can develop disease/pest problems after just a few years, which are very hard to control.

After picking, British apples are stored for up to six months at 2-3C in a "controlled atmosphere" with nitrogen gas and ammonia to reduce oxygen levels. But not all apples are stored this way. In 2005, the chemical 1-methylcyclopropene was approved for use in Europe. This is a gas that, when pumped into cold rooms or shipping containers, halts the release of ethylene, the natural hormone in fruit that ripens it. This means the apple you buy can be up to one year old, because the chemical makes apples retain their "just-picked" looks, flavour and juice.

When are British apples in season?

The season for apple growing in northern hemisphere countries runs from August to March but, with the exception of a few varieties, the more unusual ones are available for only some of this time. This is either because they are in short supply or because they do not store well. Thanks to "controlled atmosphere" storage methods, British apples are available until March (although the supply is limited).

The southern hemisphere season kicks in neatly in April, lasting through the British summer and into autumn. Savvy shoppers beware - it can encroach on the start of the British season, the time when loyalty to British farms is paramount.


No food is more versatile - or controversial. The increasing number of free-range eggs on sale in supermarkets indicates that shoppers are more aware of the cruelty of caging hens in batteries. That goes only partly towards solving our egg troubles; in spite of labelling laws, eggs are still not a safe food, especially in ready-cooked dishes.

Which eggs are safe to eat?

British eggs, individually stamped with a "red lion" logo, are laid by hens that have been vaccinated against salmonella. The scheme means that 90-95 per cent of British shop-sold eggs are. These are the ones to use when making mayonnaise, but seek out free-range eggs with the red lion logo if you are concerned about hen welfare, too.

Which eggs are unsafe?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) reports a serious problem in the catering trade with the use of imported eggs - Spanish eggs in particular - contaminated with salmonella. Salmonella infection is linked to poor husbandry and intensive systems. It is a mystery why there's no law to force caterers to provide consumers with information about the eggs they use, as retailers of fresh eggs do. British farmers are lobbying the catering trade, demanding that they stop using imports.

What's in the supermarkets?

Marks & Spencer operates an ethical egg policy, selling only eggs from free-range hens and using them in its ready meals and other foods - excellent. Its hens are fed on a GM-free, cereal-based vegetarian diet; there's one metre of floor space for every 11 birds, but the organic variety has more space. The Co-op sells 66 per cent UK-sourced eggs from hens whose welfare complies with the RSPCA's Freedom Food standards (loose requirements compared to Soil Association-certified organic systems). Feed for the hens is GM free and the diet consists of cereals, grass and meal. The Co-op has not banned the sale of battery eggs but is admirably honest in labelling products. Tesco, Morrisons and Asda did not supply information about their eggs.


We in the UK (with Russia) are the biggest tea-drinkers. Putting aside the taste and any benefits to be had, read between the leaves and you may change the way you buy it for ever.

Are there chemicals in my tea?

In 2001, 46 tea brands were tested and residues were found on five samples. The residues did not exceed government-approved maximum levels, but this is still unsatisfactory in a drink that should be 100 per cent pure.

Is tea an environmentally friendly crop?

Tea is grown in a monoculture - in other words, just one type is planted over vast areas. This reduces biodiversity (ie wildlife) and increases the need for agricultural chemicals, which can also be dangerous to estate workers who apply it. There are organic tea farms, which do much to lessen the impact of growing tea on the environment.

Who picks the tea leaves?

Production is very labour-intensive and workers' conditions are a serious cause for concern. The workforce can be trapped within the plantations, dependent on the "owners" for medical aid, housing, fuel, food and in many cases the education of their children, themselves destined for life on the plantation. Wages are low. In India, the rate varies from less than one US dollar a day to just over a dollar; it is estimated that the living wage should be more than $2 a day. Problems on estates include sexual discrimination, poor working conditions and abuse of migrant workforces.

So is all tea, apart from Fairtrade, unfairly traded?

Not necessarily. Some of the bigger conglomerates and all UK retailers have signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). Both schemes promise an admirable code of conduct.

Can buying Fairtrade tea help?

Yes. The Fairtrade organisation either buys direct from an estate, if the social welfare and income of the workers are good, or it buys from groups or co-operatives of smallholder farmers, or gives farmers and workers shares in processing plants.


Recently, mutton and meat from older lambs have finally entered the consciousness of British meat-eaters. For a long time, it seemed only that British lamb was tenderly sweet and pale; then, when stocks ran low, in came New Zealand lamb - tenderly sweet and, yes, pale. All the while that 100,000 tons of NZ lamb was coming into ports, it passed boats crammed with live sheep from the UK going on hellish journeys to southern Europe - 50,000 a year. Only these were the interesting ones: tasty, slightly older lambs with the flavours of wild grasses from fell, dale and highlands. Their destination was slow cooking, with garlic, tomatoes and wild marjoram. If one good thing came out of the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic, it was the exposure of this crazy swap and transportation scandal.

What lamb is in season, when?

March-April - spring lambs, newly weaned, born around Christmas. Most are bred for this season and the practice of getting them to this weight is fairly unnatural; many are reared indoors and fed concentrates.

May-July - British lamb will still be in shops, larger lambs born in early spring who have fed on the new grass. This is fine-tasting young lamb, often superior to "spring" lamb and cheaper, too.

August-October - hogget (or shearling). These are lambs (usually hill breeds) that have reached a year old or more; their meat is stronger flavoured and delicious.

November-spring - New Zealand lamb arrives. It's nice, and I'm glad the sensible New Zealand farmers, who never receive subsidies, have an outlet. But there is no getting away from the fact that this shipped-in lamb has a food-mile sickness.

What is mutton?

Mutton is from sheep that are slaughtered at over two years old. Older sheep have more flavour and may need a lot of slow cooking in order to be tender, but most mutton animals produce beautiful tender meat.

Is lamb farmed intensively?

Apart from those rushed for the Easter season, most lamb is farmed relatively naturally.

Is organic lamb superior?

A high-grade conventional lamb is as good a choice as organic; choosing organic in the case of lamb is more about the environment. It is good to know, for example, that the animal was not grazed on land treated with chemicals. This is not to say that most conventional lamb is; hill farmers in particular rear their lambs on untreated land.


Use lard in pastry and it promises to be endlessly crisp. Spread dripping on toast and top with cress for a filling meal. Both fats produce fabulous roast potatoes. In spite of the high vitamin content, doctors don't approve because these are saturated fats. But a little at a time is a pleasure, and at least these fats do not go through the horrendous refining process that diminishes the goodness of most vegetable oils - and, indeed, makes them potentially harmful.

What is lard?

Lard must be pork fat or it cannot be labelled as such. The fat is heated, which reduces most of it to a liquid. This is then filtered and cooled, leaving a white, naturally hard fat with a high melting point. Because it undergoes no further deodorising, lard retains a porky taste, which is great for cooking. Lard keeps in the fridge for up to 12 months.

How harmful are animal fats?

Animal fat is saturated and health experts recommend we limit the amount we eat. But animal fats have many good properties. They are a whole, natural food. Lard, dripping and dairy fat are antiviral and antibacterial, and they can play a part in fending off disease, including cancer. The fatty acids are important for metabolism and growth. The conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) actually help reduce body fat. Meat fats contain a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6, albeit in small quantities.

Where does lard come from?

Most lard you see wrapped in white paper in chiller cabinets hails from the slaughterhouses of Denmark, Holland and Belgium. Animal welfare standards are lower in these countries - for example, stalls and tethers are still legal practice. Although such practices are banned in the UK, up to 70 per cent of our pigs are indoor-reared. Lard from free-range pigs is a rare commodity, but easy to make if you buy pork fat from a butcher you trust and melt it at home.

Is beef dripping safe to eat?

In terms of BSE, beef dripping falls under the same rules as beef and may not enter the food chain unless it can be traced back to the farm. That's not to say illegal dripping does not slip through the net. Saving dripping from roasts is the best source.


The lengthy, resonating flavour that characterises soy sauce is described as "umami" but it comes in two guises, natural and chemical. The former is the result of amino acids developing as the sauce brews naturally; the latter comes through the simple addition of monosodium glutamate. There are three types of soy sauce:

Japanese naturally brewed soy sauce - made using the koji process, similar to wine-making. Aspigillis bacteria are added to soya, wheat and water and the mash exposed to humid heat to grow a mould. The sauce is brewed for up to six months, and amino acids develop. This soy sauce contains no added sugar, colour or flavour, though it does contain salt.

Chinese fermented soy sauce - made with soya and no wheat, and less acidic. Sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate is usually added to preserve it. Japanese soy sauce is extracted by pressing the mash, while Chinese sauce is water that is flushed through the mash, taking on only its flavour. The liquid must then be coloured with caramel, and salt, sugar and sometimes artificial flavourings are added.

Hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP) soy sauce - a highly processed and disgusting product. Hydrochloric acid is added to the beans, creating flavour-producing amino acids. HVP has been found to contain chloropropanol, which is a carcinogen. Fortunately, HVP sauce represents a small share of soy sauce sold in the UK.


Butter bad, margarine good - or so the mantra went. But recent evidence claims that the transfats in spreads and margarines are more harmful than in butter, and that dairy fat wins the nutrient quality stakes despite being a saturated fat. Could it be possible that butter is a safer, more wholesome food? It may be, but it has other drawbacks.

Which is better for you, butter or "spread"?

Spreads contain varying levels of transfats. Those made with hydrogenated oil have the highest levels, but transfats are formed when all vegetable fats are refined. Those in butter, dairy foods and other animal fats are naturally occurring and do not share the harmful properties of the synthetic transfat that results from hydrogenation.

Are low-fat and olive oil spreads the answer?

They can still contain transfats and a lot else. Bertolli "Lucca" Olive Oil Spread, for example, contains 21 per cent olive oil (Bertolli's own), plus rapeseed oil, vegetable oil, buttermilk, water, emulsifiers, preservatives, thickener, flavourings, colouring and vitamins. Watch out for the term "vegetable oil": it often means palm oil, a saturated fat that carries serious environmental concerns but that manufacturers like to use because it has a high melting point.

What's good about butter?

Butter made from cow's milk contains unique acids that protect against viral illness, fight tumours and guard the gut from pathogenic bacteria and the negative effects of microbes and yeasts. Butter is rich in vitamins A and D, which aid the absorption of calcium. However, do not ignore warnings about overeating saturated dairy fats - enjoy butter in moderation.

Surely butter is fattening?

In fact, evidence is emerging that eating a bit of butter helps with weight loss. The short- and medium-chain fatty acids (such as butyric and lauric acid) contained in butter are used rapidly for energy - faster than those in other oils, including olive oil. The medium-chain lauric acid in butter actually raises metabolism.

Are the problems with fat purely about health?

Sadly not. The production of palm oil has had a devastating impact on the ecosystem of South-east Asia, where large tracts of the natural forest have been cleared for palm plantations.

And is butter innocent?

Butter troubles abound. There is the poor quality of life for cows in large-scale, intensive dairy farms, and the effluent from such farms can poison the local environment and water supply. Cheap imports of butter (or cream for butter-making) have put economic pressure on farmers, causing them to increase herd sizes, keeping the dairy cattle indoors all their lives so they never graze in fields.


When a specialist food becomes available to everyone, it should be time to celebrate. In the case of sushi, the transformation in 10 years has been remarkable. Now, any city dweller can pop out to the supermarket for maki rolls. We are cheered by the low calorie count and ecstatic about the nutritional goodness... But it isn't all good news.

What's not to love?

The body count of the fish used is the big problem. Blue-fin tuna is listed as critically endangered, while stocks of yellow-fin - the one in supermarket sushi - are dropping. Some tuna is caught on long lines, which is a danger to other marine species. Ask about the retailer's dolphin policy when buying fish or sushi.

Where does all that fish come from?

The salmon in supermarket sushi is farmed and this can be problematic in terms of marine pollution and the decimation of wild stocks used for feed. Pollution issues also arise with another sushi ingredient, warm-water prawns. Environment agencies say the deforestation of mangroves in South-east Asia to make way for prawn farms leaves the coastline dangerously unprotected, and contributed to damage in the 2004 tsunami.

Is sushi safe?

Against all odds - yes. You'd think that a combination of cooled cooked rice and raw fish should carry a cigarette-pack-style health warning but the Health Protection Agency reports no trouble. It is, however, illegal for restaurants, takeaways and shops to sell sushi or sashimi that has not been previously frozen at minus 20C for 24 hours. Those that make the sushi on the premises are not subject to the "freezing" law. Some fish can contain worms, which the FSA says can cause illness. These worms die at low temperatures.

How fresh is the fish?

Ideally, the fish arriving in the UK is not more than four days old from catch time, stored at 0.4C. In the case of frozen fish, the catch may be blast-frozen on the boat itself.

Is sushi totally good for you?

The Japanese have the lowest heart-disease rate in the world, but it is not known whether this is down to their fish eating or the general diet. The oils in some fish are beneficial to heart health. There have been concerns about mercury levels in oily fish and dioxins in some farmed salmon. Weighing good against bad, the benefits of the essential fatty acids in fish oils win, and mercury levels are tiny in wild fish. If you worry about contaminants in farmed salmon, choose organic or wild Irish salmon.


Like people, some foods have a permanent halo even if they don't always deserve it. Tofu is one such food. It was first made in China more than 2,000 years ago and was taken to Japan by Keno priests in AD700. Hand-made tofu is still a matter of pride and skill in Japan, but traditionalists say corners have been cut for the mass-market product, turning what should be a flavoursome, meaty curd into a bland slab. And there are some environmental concerns.

What's in tofu?

It's made from ground cooked soya beans, water and a coagulant that sets the paste into curds. These are pressed to remove liquid, leaving a cake that can be cut, eaten fresh, cooked or diced into soups and stir-fries.

How is tofu made?

The crucial point is the coagulant. Nigari - the mineral magnesium chloride, taken from evaporating seawater - is the traditional substance used to curdle the paste and give tofu a multifaceted, earthy flavour. But modern makers can use calcium sulphate, or gypsum. This retains a lot of water, boosting the makers' profits, but it gives tofu a chalky taste. The industry insists gypsum's calcium content is a good thing. The most artificial coagulant is glucono delta lactone, a highly refined chemical derived from maize.

Another big issue with tofu is genetic modification; one type of GM soya has been licensed for use in the UK but any food product, including soya, must be clearly labelled if it is derived from a genetically modified organism (GMO). GM's detractors say that crops are being gradually contaminated with GMOs.

How can I avoid GM soya?

Buy organic tofu, simply because the organic sector best polices the movement of GM-contaminated material.Trading standards offices in the UK are particularly concerned about fraudsters passing off non-organic foods as organic.

If tofu eco-friendly?

Not always. Soya farming has grown hugely. With not enough being grown and no more suitable agricultural land where it can be grown, large Amazon rainforest areas are being cleared to make way for it.


The rise in popularity of free-range and organic birds is due solely to concerns about factory farming. But rumblings about avian influenza threaten the free chicken. We can expect to see birds back in the shed or, worse, mass slaughter. The irony is that disease spreads fast when animals are densely stocked.

Why do some chickens cost £3 and others £20?

The price reflects the farming method. It is possible to rear a chicken in only 38 days, and hence to sell it for less than a fiver, but traditional, slow poultry rearing (which can take up to six months) pushes up the farmer's costs and therefore the shelf price. Chickens bred specially for fast growth are reared indoors, on a diet designed to get them up to size in the minimum time, and welfare troubles are endless. The life of a broiler-house bird is horrendous, if mercifully short. Hope for change is remote; a European directive meant to change standards is under discussion but nothing is likely to happen until 2010.

Is a chicken what it eats?

No doubt about it. For the traditionally reared chicken, a cereal diet supplemented by forage in pasture, picking up the odd grub, will produce flavoursome meat with a well-exercised, muscular texture. Feed in the broiler house is also cereal-based, but high-protein feed for fast growth, based on fishmeal, can be soya (which can be GM derived), often fed to the chickens along with oils and additives, including vitamins, enzymes and antibiotics. Antibiotics "prescribed" by vets help to keep the birds disease free - a necessity in such cramped conditions.

Antibiotic residues in meat are a huge consumer problem. A government inquiry found the presence of antibiotics in meat to be responsible for 50 per cent of people's decreased immunity to infections.

Are free-range chickens the most welfare-friendly?

Not always. Free-range farms can be overcrowded, and handling of the birds on farms, during transport and at slaughter can be just as rough as for the broiler-house bird. To carry the free-range label, a bird has only to spend half its life with access to outdoors. Unless labelled organic, the bird's feed is also in question. Look for "traditional free range" or "free range - total freedom" on labels, as these indicate higher welfare standards. The strictest standard, in terms of welfare and feed, is the organic Soil Association mark.

How are chickens reared in Europe?

France and Italy farm poultry intensively, too, but they have always had large, thriving markets for the slow-reared farmhouse bird, regarded as a luxury and having a price to match.


One huge attraction of the continuing love affair with all things southern European is the ever-changing menu of cured pork. Right now, the hot legs in town are Iberico hams, with their buttery fat and dark, tender meat. Lardo di colonnata will be next; wafer-thin strips of this peppery cured pork fat, melted over toast, are a revelation. A positive outcome of the 1990s food scares is growing consumer curiosity about provenance: where and how livestock are reared and what they are fed.

Like all pork products, cured meats have animal welfare issues. The assumption is that imported cured meats are bound to be made on cute farms on oregano-scented hillsides. Artisan charcuterie does exist but, like all specialist meats, it is available in specialist shops and markets, especially in the country where it is produced. However, almost all generic cured meats sold in the UK - although based on traditional recipes - are made using factory-reared pigs. Welfare standards in European countries are lower than in the UK. Mass-produced British pork comes from factory farms, too, but here they use marginally kinder methods.

What's in the supermarkets?

The overwhelming majority of supermarket hams and salamis are undistinguished, to say the least. There are exceptions; Tesco sells genuine Parma and San Daniele ham, and Sainsbury's and Waitrose stock genuine Iberico ham from Spain, although not equivalent in quality to Joselito Iberico. Sainsbury's stocks no other cured foods made with pork from free-range farms, but it does sell organic ham. Waitrose's own-brand Italian prosciutto, salami and pancetta are made with "farm assured" pork from inspected Italian farms - an improvement in information, reassuring on animal welfare.


We guzzle 100,000 tons of frozen peas a year. Little wrong with that; our favourite brands boost British farm incomes and are relatively safe and unadulterated. But imported fresh peas pose troubling debates that environmentalists, aid agencies and consumers find hard to reconcile.

Where do frozen peas come from?

Birds Eye sells 50 per cent of frozen peas in our shops. Virtually all are grown in the UK (only a shortage will see the company import from New Zealand) and the business supports 380 individual farmers. Turning over £50m a year, Birds Eye (which is now part of Unilever) is vital to our farming economy. It does not pack "own brand" peas for supermarkets or other names, and its corporate transparency makes the brand a safe choice if you want to buy peas with British provenance.

What's the process from farm to freezer counter?

While the peas are processed by state-of-the-art technology, artificial additives are not used. Birds Eye peas are harvested from June to August and, at the moment of ripeness, are picked using special machines that shell and clean them before taking them to the factory. The peas are blanched in water at 90C for 60 seconds, cooled, and blast frozen in a special tunnel at minus 25C. The conveyor belt bounces, keeping the peas apart. They are held in stores, then packed through the year as required.

Are peas sprayed with pesticides?

Frozen peas were last tested for residues in 2003; 76 samples were tested and residues of the fungicide Vinclozolin were found on one sample imported from Belgium. No residues were found on the British samples. Podded, air-freighted fresh peas (from Kenya, Guatemala and Peru) were tested for residues in 2004; of 72 samples tested, 27 had residues.

Can peas be grown without chemicals?

Farmers are being encouraged to reduce artificial treatments and introduce environmentally friendly pest-control using predators, companion planting and pheromone traps, but these measures are voluntary. Birds Eye has worked with the Wildlife Trusts Partnership and birdlife ecologists on the issue, but this remains at the research stage. UK organic farmers are permitted some treatments deemed "natural" but admit that peas are a problematic organic crop.

by Rose Prince
'The Savvy Shopper' by Rose Prince is published today by Fourth Estate (£7.99)

Unusual | Interesting Facts About PLANTS


A notch in a tree will remain the same distance from the ground as the tree grows.
A pineapple is a berry.
Advertisements for coffee in London in 1657 claimed that the beverage was a cure for scurvy, gout and other ills.
Almonds are the oldest, most widely cultivated and extensively used nuts in the world.
Americans eat more bananas than any other fruit: a total of 11 billion a year.
Until 1883, hemp was the world's largest agricultural crop, from which the majority of fabric, soap, paper, medicines, were produced.
An apple tree is at its prime when its about 50 years old. The United States produces about 100 million barrels of apples a year. That's a lot of old trees.
An arabica coffee tree can produce up to 12 pounds of coffee a year, depending on soil and climate.
An average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows.
Arrowroot, an antidote for poisoned arrows, is used as a thickener in cooking.
Avocados have the highest calories of any fruit at 167 calories per hundred grams.
Banana oil never saw a banana; it's made from petroleum.
Bananas are actually herbs. Bananas die after fruiting, like all herbs do.
Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis sativa (marijuana) on their plantations.
84% of a raw apple is water.
A cucumber is 96% water.
Cranberries are one of just 3 major fruits native to North America. Blueberries and Concord grapes are the other two.
Dr. Joel Poinsett, the 1st US ambassador to Mexico, brought the poinsettia to US in 1828. The plant, called "flower of the blessed night" in Mexico was renamed in Poinsett's honor.
Eggplant is a member of the thistle family.
From the 1500's to the 1700's, tobacco was prescribed by doctors to treat a variety of ailments including headaches, toothaches, arthritis and bad breath.
Ginger has been clinically demonstrated to work twice as well as Dramamine for fighting motion sickness, with no side effects.
Hydroponics is the technique by which plants are grown in water without soil.
In 1865 opium was grown in the state of Virginia and a product was distilled from it that yielded 4 percent morphine. In 1867 it was grown in Tennessee: six years later it was cultivated in Kentucky. During these years opium, marijuana and cocaine could be purchased legally over the counter from any druggist.
In 1924, Pope Urban VIII threatened to excommunicate snuff users.
In 1932 James Markham obtained the 1st patent issued for a tree. The patent was for a peach tree.
In Siberia, in 1994, a container full of marijuana was discovered in the 2,000-year-old grave of a Scythian princess and priestess, among the many other articles buried with her.
In the Netherlands, in 1634, a collector paid 1,000 pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, 12 sheep, a bed, and a suit of clothes for a single bulb of the Viceroy tulip.
Morphine was given its name in 1803 by the discoverer, a 20 year old German pharmacist named Friedrich Saturner. He named it after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams.
No species of wild plant produces a flower or blossom that is absolutely black, and so far, none has been developed artificially.
Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.
Oak trees do not have acorns until they are fifty years old or older.
One pound of tea can make 300 cups of the beverage.
One ragweed plant can release as many as one billion grains of pollen.
Oranges, lemons, watermelons, and tomatoes are berries.
Orchids have the smallest seeds. It takes more than 1.25 million seeds to weigh 1 gram.
Peanuts are beans.
Plants that need to attract moths for pollination are generally white or pale yellow, to be better seen when the light is dim. Plants that depend on butterflies, such as the poppy or the hibiscus, have more colorful flowers.
Quinine, one of the most important drugs known to man, is obtained from the dried bark of an evergreen tree native to South America.
Rice paper isn't made from rice but from a small tree which grows in Taiwan.
Tea was so expensive when it was first brought to Europe in the early 17th century that it was kept in locked wooden boxes.
The California redwood - coast redwood and giant sequoia - are the tallest and largest living organism in the world.
The first American advertisement for tobacco was published in 1789. It showed a picture of an Indian smoking a long clay pipe.
The fragrance of flowers is due to the essences of oil which they produce.
The largest single flower is the Rafflesia or "corpse flower". They are generally 3 feet in diameter with the record being 42 inches.
The oldest living thing in existence is not a giant redwood, but a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California, dated to be aged 4,600 years old.
The pineapple was symbol of welcome in the 1700-1800's. That is why in New England you will see so many pineapples on door knockers. An arch in Providence RI leading into the Federal Hill neighborhood has a pineapple on it for that very reason. Pineapples were brought home by seafarers as gifts.
The plant life in the oceans make up about 85 percent of all the greenery on the Earth.
The popular name for the giant sequoia tree is Redwood.
The rose family of plants, in addition to flowers, gives us apples, pears, plums, cherries, almonds, peaches and apricots.
The world's tallest grass, which has sometimes grown 130 feet or more, is bamboo.
There are more than 700 species of plants that grow in the United States that have been identified as dangerous if eaten. Among them are some that are commonly favored by gardeners: buttercups, daffodils, lily of the valley, sweet peas, oleander, azalea, bleeding heart, delphinium, and rhododendron.
Wheat is the world's most widely cultivated plant; grown on every continent except Antarctica.
When a coffee seed is planted, it takes five years to yield consumable fruit.
Willow bark, which provides the salicylic acid from which aspirin was originally synthesized, has been used as a pain remedy ever since the Greeks discovered its therapeutic power nearly 2,500 years ago.
Wine grapes, oranges, figs and olives were first planted in North America by Father Junipero Sera in 1769.
An acre of trees can remove about 13 tons of dust and gases every year from the surrounding environment.
Almost a third of the world’s total land area is covered by forests.
Some tissue-making machines can produce as many as 6000 feet of toilet tissuetree01.gif (1395 bytes) every minute out of trees.
About 1.5 million tons of ground cocoa beans from the tropical tree are used each year to make chocolate and cocoa products. That’s greater than the weight of more than 300,000 elephants!
Every year in the United States each person uses the equivalent of one tree, 100 feet tall and 16 inches in diameter, to fulfill their wood and paper needs.
Bananas are the most popular fruit in America. The average person eats 33 pounds of bananas a year!
A single baked potato contains less than 250 calories and is over 99% fat free.
Bell peppers are usually sold green, but they can also be red, purple or yellow.
Tomatoes are very high in the carotenoid Lycopene; eating foods with carotenoids can lower your risk of cancer.
Other vegetables high in carotenoids are carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and collard greens.
Most of the nutrients in a potato reside just below the skin layer.
A horn worm can eat an entire tomato plant by itself in one day!
In the United States, more tomatoes are consumed than any other single fruit or vegetable!
California produces almost all of the broccoli sold in the United States.
White potatoes were first cultivated by local Indians in the Andes Mountains of South America.

More about plants:
Unusual|Weird|Strange|Funny|Odd Plant Names
Unusual|Interesting|Strange|Weird|Odd plants

Unusual|Weird|Strange|Funny|Odd Plant Names

The common or vernacular names of plants are often strange and even amusing at times. The "pineapple" is not in any way related to either pines or apples, and "peppergrass" is not a pepper, nor is it related to the Grass Family (Poaceae). The logic behind names such as "bouncing bet," "ramping fumitory," "bastard toadflax," "lady-of-the-night," and "go-to-bed-at-noon" is not readily apparent. It is also rather disappointing to discover that "Kentucky bluegrass" was introduced from Europe and the "California pepper tree" is native to Peru. But in spite of the numerous irrational names for plants, there are many common names that are descriptive and meaningful; however, you may have to look very carefully to see the obvious derivation of the name.(

Some unusual,weird,strange,funny,interesting, and odd plant names:

Amaryllis belladonna Naked Ladies
Brugmansia Angel's Trumpet
Anigozanthos Cat's Paw
Amaranthus Love lies Bleeding
Iresine Chicken Gizzard
Polygonum orientale Kiss me over the Garden Gate
Nigella Love in a Mist
Scaevola Fairy Fan Flower
Aloe cultivar Lizard Lips
Phallus impudicus Stinkhorn Fungus
Hedera helix English ivy
Chlorophytum comosum spider plant
Epipiremnum aureum golden pothos
Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa' peace lily
Aglaonema modestum Chinese evergreen
Chamaedorea sefritzii bamboo or reed palm
Sansevieria trifasciata snake plant
Philodendron scandens `oxycardium' heartleaf philodendron
Philodendron selloum selloum philodendron
Philodendron domesticum elephant ear philodendron
Dracaena marginata red-edged dracaena
Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana' cornstalk dracaena
Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig' Janet Craig dracaena
Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii' Warneck dracaena
Ficus benjamina weeping fig

Link to unusual|interesting|strange|weird|odd plants

Unusual|Interesting|Strange|Weird|Odd plants

Swollen stems of "desert trumpet" (Eriogonum inflatum var. inflatum).

A "senita cactus" (Lophocereus schottii) south of the U.S. border in Sonora, Mexico. The gray, whisker-like spines on the upper stems suggest "old one" or senescence.

unusual|interesting|strange|weird|odd plants picsA shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana) in full bloom. Native to Mexico, this showy evergreen shrub belongs to the acanthus family (Acanthaceae). Formerly placed in the genus Beloperone, this interesting shrub is closely related to chuparosa (Justicia californica) of the Colorado Desert. Perhaps the next image will show its slight resemblance to a shrimp.
Flower-bearing spike of the shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana). Formerly placed in the genus Beloperone, this interesting shrub is closely related to chuparosa (Justicia californica) of the Colorado Desert. The tubular, white flowers spotted with purple are enclosed in showy, overlapping bracts.

The small fruits (silicles) of "spectacle pod" (Dithyrea californica) resemble miniature eye glasses. This wildflower is common in sandy areas of the Colorado Desert.

The glistening, gland-tipped hairs (trichomes) on the stem of the desert wildflower appropriately named tackstem (Calycoseris wrightii) resemble minute translucent tacks. Magnification approximately 15x.
Herniaria (Herniaria hirsuta) is a small annual herb in the pink family (Caryophyllaceae).

A dried "dune primrose" (Oenothera deltoides) held upright by the taproot. The outer branches have curled up to form the peculiar "lantern" or "bird cage".

Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) These beautiful flowers grow out of bare, parched ground during September in San Diego County. They arise from deep-seated bulbs, long after the leaves from the previous spring have withered away.

Owl's clover (Castilleja densiflora ssp. gracilis), formerly placed in the genus Orthocarpus. The individual flower superficially resembles an owl. White-flowered individuals can be found within large populations in coastal San Diego County.

funny plantsStinkhorn Fungus (Phallus impudicus) This is a fowl-smelling fungus that attracts flies to its spore-laden, slimy head, thus increasing the odds of its spores being dispersed to new habitats. The fruiting body can appear almost overnight, and may "scent" your entire backyard.

Steer's head (Dicentra uniflora) on the Dana Plateau of the Sierra Nevada.

Eminent botanist Gilbert Voss in a dense stand of golden eardrops (Dicentra chrysantha). Photograph taken on a recently burned slope of Tecate Peak in southern San Diego County (circa 1967).

These cone-like structures are the flower stalks of a seldom-seen wildflower called "ground cone" (Boschniakia strobilacea). The small flowers protruding from the purplish scales are proof that these are not pine cones.

The inflated flower stalks of "desert candle" (Caulanthus inflatus) appear on open flats and among shrubs in the Mojave Desert.

A genuine test tube cleaner (left) compared with three flower stalks of the infamous "desert bottle cleaner" (Camissonia boothii ssp. condensata).