Random Clippings

A few random facts and news clippings that have captured my attention recently:

Free museums get more visitors
Visitor statistics for England’s national museums and galleries have increased dramatically since admission fees were universally abolished three years ago (the tab is now picked up by the National Lottery). Kind of a no-brainer really, but nice to see the proof in the numbers.

Clean and Quiet Hydrogen Fuel Cell Motorcycle
A prototype motorcycle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell has been demonstrated in the UK. Built by a company called Intelligent Energy, the Emissions Neutral Vehicle (ENV) has a top speed of 50 mph, can travel for at least 100 miles on a single “charge” of hydrogen, emits nothing but water vapour that is clean enough to drink and is so quiet that it’s fitted with an artificial engine noise maker to alert pedestrians to its presence! I’m totally convinced that hydrogen fuel cells are the future of motorized transportation.

School Dinners
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed support for a campaign by a TV chef, Jamie Oliver, to improve the quality of school dinners. Personally I have very good memories of school dinners in the 70’s and 80’s, but apparently these days it’s all frozen burgers and chips, so this has to be a positive step in promoting healthy eating and reducing child obesity.

A Short History of Nearly Everything
I’m currently reading “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson, and it’s a very readable and entertaining primer on the history of science, covering everything from subatomic particles, through earth and life sciences and on up to cosmolology and the origins of the universe. I knew most of the actual science already, but the stories of how the various discoveries were made, and the personalities involved, were fascinating. It’s easy to forget how much the human race has learned in the last 200 years.

Here’s a random interesting fact that I read today: a typical human body comprises of about ten thousand trillion cells, and each cell contains approximately 2 metres (about 6 feet) of densely packed DNA. This means that, if you stretched all the DNA from your body into a single continuous strand, it would be something like 20 million kilometres long — long enough to stretch to the moon and back 26 times!

Anyway, it’s a good book, so here’s the filthy lucre Amazon link:

Rockstar Games

I spent rather too many hours playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City while I was “detoxing” earlier this year, and so I was curious to learn from a BBC article about the UK computer game industry that Rockstar Games, the developers of GTA, are based in Edinburgh (although on reflection the humour in Vice City is quite distinctly British).

Anyway, I clicked through to their website and ended up spending a long time there: Firstly, they provide a free web-based sequencer called Beaterator that enables you to create convincing techno/house tunes quickly and easily. Secondly, they offer free downloads of “Rockstar Classics,” older games such as Grand Theft Auto I & II and Wild Metal, providing you sign up for a mailing list.

Anyway, here’s the Amazon link to GTA: Vice City (be warned: This game is a SERIOUS time sink):

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