Feb
25
2012
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What is the oldest audio recording of an expletive?

mary-little-lambDuring the 1800s, inventors were frantically working to develop reliable methods of recording sound. The first sound ever recorded, in 1860, comprised a few bars of the French traditional song Au clair de la lune. The singer never heard her recording—because at that time only a recording device had been developed—but thanks to the wonders [more...]

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Feb
20
2012
1

How many idiots lived in Ireland in 1911?

ireland-1911-censusNowadays, the word idiot is most commonly heard as an insult traded between motorists, but it’s not so long ago that idiots were counted in the national census. In recent centuries, “idiot” was not a perjorative term but the name for a person with profound mental retardation. In Latin, an idiota is a private person [more...]

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Feb
15
2012
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How do you stop an outhouse (pit toilet) from smelling?

dunny-outhouseAn outhouse is a toilet that has been built outside the building it serves. An outhouse can be plumbed into the sewerage system, in which case it’s not much different from an indoor toilet. But in rural areas the outhouse may be more primitive—it may be a pit toilet (also known as a dunny or [more...]

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Feb
11
2012
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When did the first air ambulance service start in the UK?

london_air_ambulanceHelicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) were introduced in 1987. The first operationally was the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust founded in April of that year. HEMS with their helicopters aim to provide a swift response to 999 emergency calls, bringing hospital resuscitating theatre techniques to the patient, stabilising them, and getting them quickly off to hospital. [more...]

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Feb
10
2012
1

Why are there so many words for “toilet”?

dunniesThe numerous words for “toilet” arise because: There are various types of toilet, many of which have distinct names, Some people don’t like to allude to bodily functions by referring to a toilet by name, so many euphemisms have been devised, and The colloquial names for toilets are often regional, so different places use different [more...]

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Feb
06
2012
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What is dupion silk?

dupion silkDupion silk fabric is not “as smooth as silk”. The texture is uneven with intermittent stretches of nubbly thread in the weave. It may be used for elegant clothing and furnishings now, but it had to overcome its original reputation for being an inferior, rough silk. Making silk begins with gathering heaps of silkworm cocoons. [more...]

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Feb
06
2012
2

Which American soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross?

arlington_cemetery_1921Which American soldier serving in the US military was awarded Britain’s Victoria Cross? Not only that, which British soldier serving in British military forces was awarded America’s Medal of Honor? Both seem impossible as both medals are the highest military honours for each country and are only awarded to a person in each respective country’s [more...]

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Feb
05
2012
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What’s it like to touch a chimpanzee?

touching-chimpanzeeChimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans, in terms of the similarity of their DNA. Although thousands of chimpanzees are held in captivity around the world, the public is rarely able to interact closely with them. However, at Tenerife’s Monkey Park (in the Canary Islands) it’s possible to touch a chimpanzee. At Monkey Park [more...]

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Feb
03
2012
2

What different types of railway level crossings are there in the UK?

level_crossingRailway level crossings have recently been in the news in the UK following the deaths of two young girls at a level crossing in Essex. But what different types of railway level crossings are there? Network Rail is responsible for the railway infrastructure in the UK. According to their website there are ’9000 level crossings [more...]

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