banana

Are bananas facing extinction?

[For Esquire magazine, July 2011] Bananas as you know them are indeed under great threat, but the bananas you eat today are merely the latest strain of the fruit and the notion that it would become totally extinct is fanciful. But there is a reason why the rumour started. In 2003 The New Scientist claimed…

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Is extreme poverty really being eradicated?

[For Esquire magazine, Jan 2016] Here’s a statistic that illustrates how the world has changed in the last 200 years. Had you been born in 1820 there’s a 94 percent chance that you’d be extremely poor, with just six percent of the world’s population not living in extreme poverty. However, those considered extremely poor in…

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How much gold is there in the world?

  The truth is, we don’t know. At least, not to any great degree of accuracy, which is odd given how it plays a big part in the global economy. Thomson Reuters GFMS (Gold Fields Mineral Services) produces an annual gold survey that is used by global investors to gauge such things. The GFMS says…

shuffle

Is every card shuffle unique?

While it’s possible that two packs of cards may have been shuffled into the same order, the odds of that having happened are actually tiny and yes, it’s hugely likely that each properly shuffled deck is indeed a unique variation of those 52 cards. While it seems improbable, given how many packs of cards there…

bee

Are bees disappearing?

It would seem bees are vanishing, but until recently nobody really knew why. Now, thanks to Wikileaks, we have more evidence. In recent years people have noticed dead bees on the ground having seemingly just fallen out of the sky, while hive owners have seen bee numbers decline by as much as ninety percent. A…

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Are we losing languages?

It sounds implausible but, according to UNESCO, around ten languages really do die out each year. And it is estimated that half of the living languages in the world are under threat of extinction. While the WWF and other similar organisations strive to save breeds of animals from extinction, it’s worth noting that languages are…

plane exit notes

What’s that abandoned aircraft in Umm Al Quwain?

The plane is a Soviet Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane. Currently it has an advert on the side for the Palma Beach Hotel, but its past is something far more interesting. According to the Aero Transport Data Bank the aircraft was built in 1975 in part of the Soviet Union that is now Uzbekistan. In the…