How Now Brown Cow

Fact: Mad Cow Disease was caused by cows eating other cows. Rather than the setup for a creepy horror film it’s cold hard fact: it was cow cannibalism that set off the Mad Cow Disease epidemic in the UK. ‘Mad Cow Disease’, otherwise known as BSE (or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) is quite a unique disease….

It’s in the Blood

Fact: Fuel cells can turn glucose in your blood into electricity. The biggest barrier to portable technology is the need to constantly recharge it. But in the future you might be plugging your phone into a different power supply at night – you. Canadian scientists have created a tiny fuel cell packed with yeast cells….

The Circle of Life

Fact: Elephants never get cancer. The cure for cancer? Look to the natural world for answers, as it seems that elephants have cracked the secret to eternal life. Cancer is simply uncontrolled cell division, which occurs when the DNA of a cell becomes damaged. DNA damage occurs most commonly when cells divide, and if this…

Urine For A Treat

Fact: Porcupines can piss up to 6 feet. You might have the all-time high score on that game in you local pub’s urinal, but nature can always go one better – in this case its the water cannon of the male porcupine. There’s not a lot left to the imagination here so i’ll come right…

Show Me The Monet

Fact: Monet could see ultra-violet light. Sometimes the most talented among us seem like superheroes, but in the case of Claude Monet there was actually a ‘superpower’ at work: he could see what is invisible to the rest of us. In fact, all humans have the capability to see UV light. Cells in our eyes…

Humongous Fungus

Fact: The largest living organism in the world is a mushroom. We all know the blue whale is big, but we’ve been living a lie. At 30m long and weighing in at 200 tonnes, a fully grown whale pales in comparison to the might of natures forgotten beasts – fungi. This record-breaking fungus is specifically…

Flea Circus

Fact: A jumping flea accelerates faster than a space rocket.   The space rocket is a feat of human engineering. It accelerates so fast that astronauts have to undergo special training to withstand the powerful forces exerted on their bodies during lift-off. And yet, our mightiest machines pale in comparison to the humble flea. Let’s…

Totally Nutty

Fact: It takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond. You might be basking in your eco-warrior glory every morning as you pour almond milk instead of cows’ milk on your cereal, but it turns out that almonds also have a lot to answer for. Almonds grow best in hot, Mediterranean climates –…

Run For Your Life

Fact: A human can outrun a horse over a marathon. Remember the man who can run forever, Dan Karnazes? He might be unusual, but it turns out us humans have evolved to be the masters of long distance running. Homo sapiens (that’s us) evolved in Africa, and we learned to hunt in a very particular way….

En Guarde!

Fact: Flatworms decide who gets pregnant by penis fencing. First up, let me clarify: penis fencing is actually the official scientific term for this kind of behaviour, its not just me looking for a great tagline. Flatworms are hermaphrodites – each worm has the reproductive organs of both a male (i.e. testes, which produce sperm) and…

Part 2: A Burning Question

Fact: Birds can’t taste chilli. Due to a quirk of biology a pigeon could wolf down your vindaloo while you whimper and sweat in the corner like a little girl. This strange fact comes down to the fact that chillies are a fruit. Plants work exceptionally hard to produce fruit, so they don’t just give it…

Part 1: Burn Baby Burn

Fact: Capcaisin makes chillies hot. Put a foot wrong when ordering in your local curry house and you could easily find yourself downing pints of milk to try and stop the fire in your mouth. But what causes that burning sensation? It’s all down to a single molecule called capcaisin. This molecule causes irritation and a burning…