Here are amusing, funny or
just plain interesting news reports from January 2014.
New Year's Resolutions
Hope, it is said, springs eternal, and this year Britons seem more
optimistic than ever. Bitter experience of failure has not deterred a third
of the population from making a new year's resolution for 2014 - twice as
many as last year, according to a poll for The Times.
The study found that 30 per cent of people had made promises to
themselves for the year, rising to 40 per cent of those aged under 40.
Of those who did make a resolution, the most popular by far, made by 51
per cent of those asked, was to take more exercise or improve fitness.
Losing weight came second, although this was far more common among those
aged 40 to 59. Saving money came third.
Only one in eight who have made a new year's resolution said they wanted
to cut down on drinking, suggesting that various health messages from the
Government and charities have not hit home. Alcohol Concern and Cancer
Research UK are campaigning to encourage people to give up drinking for
Spending more time with family attracted 10 per cent of those who made
resolutions, and 6 per cent vowed to spend less time on social networking
According to the poll, conducted by YouGov, more than half of those who
made a resolution at the beginning of last year claim to have kept it. That
is well above estimates made by experts, who have highlighted how difficult
it is to stick to a new regime.
In his study of new year resolutions, Richard Wiseman, Professor of the
Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, found
that fewer than a quarter of them were successful.
He believes that most people go about it the wrong way, not least by
suddenly starting on New Year's Day with no planning.
Other common errors include fantasising too much about being successful
without accepting that it will be hard work, and giving up at the first
The most successful people broke their goals down into small steps, for
example losing a pound a week instead of an overarching goal of losing a
stone. They rewarded themselves regularly when they met each milestone and,
crucially, told friends about what they were trying to achieve.
He also advises focusing energy by setting only one resolution, and
expecting to revert to old habits now and then, treating setbacks as
temporary rather than a reason to give up.
Nicola Horlick, the businesswoman, has made a new year's resolution to
get fit for skiing, having snapped a ligament in her knee during last year's
trip. Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, has said that she will try
again to take more exercise, drink less and eat more healthily - and fully
intends to have the same three resolutions next year too, "as I won't have
achieved any of them".
1st January 2014 Cigar Smokers Are An Endangered Species
Cigar smoking is on the endangered list, with predictions that the habit
could die out in Britain within two decades as current rates of puffing
threaten to splutter to a halt.
British consumption of cigars has fallen by 80 per cent over the past 20
years, and there are now estimated to be only 300,000 regular cigar smokers
left in the UK, compared with about 700,000 ten years ago. The value of the
UK cigar market has plummeted by a fifth in the five years since the
introduction of the smoking ban in 2007, the Financial Times reported.
Mitchell Orchant, chairman of the Association of Independent Cigar
Specialists, insisted that the example of two of the country's most famous
cigar smokers, Jimmy Saville and John McCririck, had had "nil effect" on the
product's declining popularity. Instead, he blamed the recession for sucking
the middle out of the market.
2nd January 2014 Scientists Discover That Gravity Affects Chips
This team of scientists from Greece, have confirmed that chips can be fried, quicker and
crunchier, at three times the normal gravitational force, in conditions
equivalent to those on Jupiter.
However, achieving a pleasingly crispy exterior may be more challenging
in the reduced gravity conditions on Mars or the Moon, they predict.
Thodoris Karapantsios, a chemical engineer who led the study funded by
the European Space Agency, devised a hyper-gravity simulator for chips by
building a rotating industrial fryer capable of producing centrifugal forces
equivalent to nine times the Earth's gravity.
In normal conditions, bubbles form in the potato as it fries, which move
to the surface because of gravitational forces once they reach a critical
size. This process happens more quickly in high-gravity conditions,
improving the rate that heat is transferred from the oil to the potato.
In 3g conditions the potato fried twice as quickly as usual and its crust
reached its maximum thickness. Any further increase in gravity levels did
not improve the chip's crispness, the researchers found, leading to the
conclusion that Jupiter is probably the most efficient place in the solar
system to make chips (aside from the fuel required to get there).
In a taste experiment, student volunteers were unable to tell the
difference between normal and the hyper-gravity chips. The team are
submitting a patent proposal for the high-gravity chip fryer, which they
believe will be of interest to fast-food outlets.
The next step will be to rerun the experiment in low-gravity conditions
on a parabolic flight, also known as the "vomit comet".
Professor Karapantsios predicts that the chips are likely to be
unpleasantly soggy. In zero gravity there is no force causing the air
bubbles to detach from the chip.
"The result is probably more like boiled potatoes than fries," he said.
This means that if astronauts on the International Space Station wanted
"regular" fries, they would need to take the hyper-gravity centrifugal fryer
[This interesting article was reported in the Times 2/1/2014]
The Scots remain fiercely proud of their vocabulary, according to a study
that suggests words such as "crabbit" (bad tempered), "glaikit" (stupid) and
"braw" (beautiful) are used every day.
A Top 20 of the most common words, which was compiled by ScotPoll.com
from 579 participants, put "aye" at No 1 while "bonnie", one of the most
common Scots words used by the English, made it only as far as eighth place.
Many of the words have negative connotations, including "peely-wally".
Pronounced to rhyme with Sally, it means pale but not in a pleasant sense,
rather to describe a sickly child, a weak cup of tea or insipid decor.
Similarly, "scunnered" means bored, "drookit" means soaking wet and "to
haver" is to talk rubbish. A Scotsman's favourite phrase is "gonnae no dae
that", or "don't do that".
3rd January New Light Bulb Design
The classic round glass lightbulb has changed little since Thomas Edison
designed it more than 130 years ago. Until now, that is, according to a
leading technology company that has retained the curves but squashed it
Philips claims that the SlimStyle design makes the bulb more sturdy, less
likely to crack and easier to screw into place. It also lasts about 22
The update has been made possible by major advances in LEDs,
light-emitting diodes, which are small lighting components that make up the
screens in televisions and computer monitors. Philips, the Dutch electronics
maker, realised that the flat bulbs needed to work in today's fixtures and
to look similar to what the public has become accustomed to.
"You have a table lamp and it's got a certain area to put something to
replace [the bulb] in. So you don't want something that's wildly different,"
said Todd Manegold, Philips' director of LED lamps marketing in New York.
"But what you can do within that outline, that's what we were trying to
challenge how people look at lighting."
The SlimStyle gives a similar brightness to a 60W bulb, something other
LED lights were unable to do in the past, and does not flicker. The LEDs are
built into plastic, making the bulb less likely to shatter than glass ones.
It also consumes far less energy and lasts far longer that traditional
Philips claims that LEDs will make up 80 per cent of all lights sold by
2020 and Mr Manegold expects LEDlights to replace incandescent bulbs over
the next few years. "Whether it's this lightbulb or another, I think you
will see LEDs become the dominant light source," he said.
Experts believe that LED lights will also overtake "energy-efficient"
halogen bulbs, which millions have purchased in the previous decade but many
complain are too expensive. It is thought that LED bulbs are dropping
more quickly in price than other bulbs, but they last considerably longer. A
halogen bulb typically lasts for 1,000 hours of use, while LEDlights
continue for at least 10,000 hours.
Mr Manegold said that SlimStyle bulbs would cost less than $10 (£6) each
when they go on sale in the US this month. He added that if they were
successful in America, they could then be released to other countries
"If someone really steps back to think about it, they will realise they
will save money over time in electric bills," Mr Manegold said. "We need to
get you a product that you're comfortable with, at a price you're
comfortable with. This is so that it becomes something everyday.
"You go into a store and need a lightbulb, and if it's less than ten
dollars, you might pay for that. We don't want you to come and buy one, we
want you to come back and buy three or six or ten."
Museum bosses have appealed for help in deciphering a code found on the
side of a Second World War kamikaze aircraft. The markings were discovered
when the Ohka 2 Japanese plane - one of only two complete examples in the
world - was removed from the rafters of the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil,
Somerset, where it has been hanging for 30 years. The Ohka 2 aircraft were
fixed to the underside of bombers before being released with suicide pilots
to crash into Allied ships. Jon Jefferies, of the museum, said: "It is
chilling to look through the cockpit window."
Footnote: Why DID kamikaze pilots carry ejector seats?
Penniless Galloping Gormand
A "galloping gormand" who was notorious for leaving expensive restaurants
without paying has died and faces a pauper's funeral unless hospital staff
can trace his family. Alan Brown, 52, died from natural causes shortly
after receiving a 56-day suspended sentence for walking out of a restaurant
without settling his bill. He had more than 200 similar convictions after
enjoying meals at places that offered the best food and fine wines. He was
such a persistent offender that his picture was circulated to restaurants.
In court he would give addresses as Church Street, Blackpool, and St Mary's
Road, Preston, both of which are hostels. He died at Victoria Hospital,
Blackpool, on December 16 and staff have appealed for any relatives to come
A solicitor who often represented him said: "Alan was a gentle man who
would not hurt a soul. I understand he came from the Merseyside area. He
would come out of prison with a small release grant. After that was spent,
he would eat for free and get arrested again. He always enjoyed his food. If
he could find a Michelin star menu, he would always go for that."
Warm Glow of Love
People in love really do feel a warm glow all over, scientists say.
Emotions are experienced all over the body, with anxiety commonly felt as a
chest pain while falling in love is more likely to trigger warm sensations.
Researchers say that the patterns are consistent in both West European
and East Asian cultures. One evolutionary explanation is that the body's
reaction helps us to anticipate danger or opportunities for pleasurable
Researchers induced different emotional states in more than 700 Finnish,
Swedish and Taiwanese participants by showing clips from films. The famous
horse head scene in The Godfather was used to produce disgust or anxiety
while Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio's flying scene in Titanic simulated
the feeling of falling in love. People were then shown pictures of human
bodies on a computer and asked to colour in where they felt physical
Yellow or red "hot" colours indicated areas that felt stimulated, with
yellow the strongest. Light or dark blue "cold" colours indicated areas that
felt deactivated, with light blue the most pronounced. Black areas showed a
The research was published in scientific journal Proceedings. Lauri
Nummenmaa, of Aalto University in Helsinki, said that the findings could
help to treat depression.
4th January Welsh Place Names
To outsiders many Welsh place names can be literally unspeakable but an
app has been developed to help. Barcodes have been installed at more than
700 places of interest and scanning them with a smartphone provides the
pronunciation. Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, said that by
using the app "anyone can receive on the spot a brief outline of the name's
origin and how it may have changed".
Varteg - Proposed Name Change to Welsh Village
Plans to change the spelling of Varteg, a village in South Wales, to Y
Farteg have been dropped after residents feared that it would expose them to
ridicule. The present spelling is an old error, there being no letter V in
written Welsh. Richard Clarke, a councillor, said: "Outsiders will say it
'Err Fart-egg' and that will bring the area into disrepute and the residents
Message in a Bottle
A message in a bottle that was thrown into the North Sea by a tenyear-old
girl has been returned to her after it was found in the Netherlands 23 years
Zoe Averianov, originally from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, was on a
school trip to Germany when she threw the bottle over the side of a ferry
travelling from Hull to Belgium in September 1990. It contained a letter in
which she had written: "Dear finder, my name is Zoe Lemon. Please would you
write to me, I would like it a lot. I am ten years old and I like ballet,
playing the flute and the piano. I have a hamster called Sparkle and fish
The letter was discovered by Piet and Jacqueline Lateur, from near
Rotterdam, when they were walking their dog on the Oosterschelde dykes in
Zeeland. Mr Lateur wrote a reply to Mrs Averianov at her parents' address,
enclosing the original, which they gave to her on Christmas Day.
"I know you are no longer a little girl but you asked me to write you so
I have," he wrote. Mrs Averianov said: "It brought back so many special
memories of my childhood and I really had to fight back the tears."
6th January T.V. Licences
More than 11,500 households in Britain still have licences for black and
white television sets, according to new figures from the TV Licensing
Authority. The number has fallen off from 212,000 in 2000, and by 2003 there
were only 93,000. The cost of a black and white licence has been frozen at
£49 until 2016 when the BBC Charter will be reviewed.
Will and Guy wonder if people have just forgotten they have upgraded
their sets to colour, or if they genuinely still have black-and-white
Guide Dogs - New Skills
When Chris Michaels, who has been blind for more than 40 years, wants to
cross the road, his guide dog, Miller, simply presses the button at the
pedestrian crossing. The black labrador hops up on his back legs and taps
the panel with his paw or nose.
Four-year-old Miller was shown how to use the crossing by Mr Michaels,
68, from Saxmundham, Suffolk. "He's a very bright dog, he takes me straight
to the lights and then operates the button."
A local resident said: "When I first saw the dog operate the crossing I
just couldn't believe my eyes."
7th January 2014 Naked man stuck in the washer
A naked Australian man hoping to surprise his girlfriend as she arrived
home from work at the weekend thought he had found the perfect place to
hide. He climbed into the washing machine — but then got stuck.
Police, firefighters, paramedics and a specialist search-and-rescue squad
in the small town of Mooroopna, southeastern Australia, struggled for 20
minutes to free him — and managed it only by dismantling the top-loading
appliance, coating his body in olive oil and tipping the washer on its side.
"They greased him up until he was free," said Tim Gleeson, a police
Another officer, Sergeant Michelle De Araugo, added: "He was very well
wedged in there and we were concerned for his health and wellbeing."
She said the 20-year-old had tried to spring a surprise on his
girlfriend, who was on her way to their flat. "It was just a game gone
wrong. It would be fair to say the gentleman was very embarrassed."
The incident happened days after an 11-year-old American girl got stuck
inside a similar type of washing machine in Utah. Friends tried to free
their playmate by using peanut butter, butter and ice as lubricants. but
eventually gave up and called emergency services, who freed her after 90
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