Random Fact Friday

All the Random Fact Friday articles in one handy place!

Random Fact Friday: The Wrong Side of Bed

If you’ve snapped at someone today in a way and/or for a reason they think is unjustified, they may well have raised their eyebrows and said (either to your face or as they walked away, depending on their bravery): “Well someone got out of bed on the wrong side this morning!”

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So what does being in a foul mood – er, sorry, I meant to say a bit sensitive – have to do with which side of the bed you exit from?

Supposedly this saying stems from ancient superstition. The belief was originally that you should get out of the opposite side of the bed from which you entered it, but by Roman times, the left side had become associated with the devil or evil spirits. If you mistakenly got out on this ‘wrong side’, you would expect to have a day full of bad luck, swayed by evil influences – meaning you would be grumpy from the word go.

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But then, is that the left side as you’re looking at the bed, or the left side as you’re lying in it…

Random Fact Friday: Faraday Ferrets

Michael Faraday was a scientist who became famous for his discoveries in the fields of electricity and magnetism. As far as I’m aware, he wasn’t a keeper of ferrets.

But ferrets are often used as electricians.

Honestly.

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Photo by Mika Hiltunen Photography

Ferrets have been hired to lay TV, lighting and sound cables at the New Year’s Eve Millennium Concert – so if you enjoyed The Eurythmics, Bryan Ferry and the London Symphony Orchestra that night, it’s because the ferrets managed to pull the cables through tiny tunnels after human attempts had failed. And they performed the same service in the Royal Parks nearly two decades earlier, ensuring Royal supporters were able to see the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

If that seems lightweight, then show some respect – because ferrets also wired planes for aircraft manufacturer Boeing in the 1960s. So there.

Random Fact Friday: What links Terry Pratchett with Saturn?

I don’t need to tell you Terry Pratchett was a comic genius and a campaigner for many things that matter. I’ve got a feeling you know that already.

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Terry Pratchett (Photo: Robin Zebrowski)
I also don’t need to tell you that he created Discworld, a flat planet carried through space by four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle; a turtle who is swimming through space towards, it’s widely believed, a rendezvous with another turtle of romantic inclination.

But perhaps I do need to tell you that we have our very own Discworld in our solar system!

Okay, to be fair, Saturn isn’t as flat as the Discworld is portrayed to be. If Saturn did had water, it wouldn’t be flowing off the edge of the planet as it does on Discworld.

But Discworld is the flattest planet (that we know of) in Terry’s imaginary universe, and while Saturn may not be the flattest planet in our universe, it is the flattest planet in our solar system. Its polar diameter is just 90% of its equatorial diameter, due to its low density and fast rotation (it turns on its axis once every 10 hours and 34 minutes. That’s pretty fast). So it’s not so much flat as… squashed.

Saturn is also the most distant planet that can be seen with the naked eye and it has the most extensive rings of any planet in our system too. It isn’t full of wizards, dwarves, reformed vampires and cantankerous witches – in fact, it’s not capable of supporting life (or not as we know it, Jim).  But its largest moon, Titan, is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere – and could potentially support life.

 

Random Fact Friday: First Chocolate in Space

Chocolate in space? I hear you cry. What WAS the first chocolate in space? 

M&Ms became the first solid chocolate products to go into space in 1981 when they went on a mission with the first space shuttle astronauts.

M&Ms were launched in 1941 by the Mars company but didn’t get the little printed M trademark until 9 years later. This was introduced to ensure customers were buying ‘the real thing,’ inspiring the slogan:  ‘Look for the M on every piece.’

In 1981, the astronauts chose to take M&Ms (or ‘candy coated chocolates’, as NASA diplomatically refers to them!) into space on the first shuttle mission. Yet ironically in 1982, Mars rejected the idea of a tie in to the E.T franchise and inclusion in the film – while Hershey agreed to the inclusion of their Reese’s Pieces (similar to M&Ms), and saw a dramatic increase in sales.

M&Ms have since gone into space on 130 missions – including the final Atlantis shuttle mission in July 2011. Members of the team were presented with special blue, red and silver M&Ms. They had the usual “m” on one side but on the reverse was either an image of the shuttle orbiter, “3… 2… 1… Lift Off!” or “July 8, 2011”. These special M&Ms remained on the ground, but the astronauts had the almond version on board to snack on. 

Special M&Ms for final shuttle mission
Photo credit: http://collectspace.com/

But M&M fame and glory doesn’t stop there. In 1984 M&Ms were one of the official Olympic snacks along with Snickers, and in 1990 they were a sponsorship snack for the Soccer World Cup in Italy along with Mars Bars. When blue M&Ms were introduced In 1995, the top of the Empire State Building was bathed in blue light to mark the occasion, and in 2000 M&Ms became the official ‘candy of the new millennium’… because MM represents 2000 in Roman numerals!

Today, M&Ms are available in Milk Chocolate, Peanut, Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Peanut, Almond, Peanut Butter, Pretzel and Coconut, and M&Ms World Stores in New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, London and Shanghai are visited by millions of people every year.

 

 

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