The Name Game

The Name Game
By Mark Mason on 16-09-15 11:39. Comments (0)
Today is the 50th anniversary of David Bowie assuming his current name. On September 16th 1965 the man who had been born David Jones decided that his current stagename of Davie Jones might lead people to confuse him with Davy Jones of the Monkees. So instead he adopted the surname of Jim Bowie, he of knife fame. Here are some other ‘name change' facts:

Who put the Graham in Alexander Graham Bell?

Who put the Graham in Alexander Graham Bell?
By Mark Mason on 10-03-13 13:57. Comments (0)
This weekend saw the anniversary of the first ever telephone call, made by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10th 1876. Leaving aside the tricky issue of who actually invented the device (others claim the patent), I was fascinated to learn recently that until the age of 10 the appropriately-named Mr Bell was just plain ‘Alexander'. But he felt left out - his two brothers had middle names. So he asked his father if he could have one too. Told that he could, he chose ‘Graham', and received the name for his 11th birthday.

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Big Ben

On a visit to Big Ben, I was told that if you stand at the bottom of the tower with a portable radio and listen to the chimes on Radio 4 (they still transmit them live), you hear them on the radio before you hear them ‘for real’. I couldn’t believe it – but was intrigued enough to try it for myself. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. The bongs come out of the radio a fraction of a second before they reach your ears from the top of the tower. It’s something so silly, so counter-intuitive, that you have to tell people. (Well, I did.) Researching the explanation, I found that it’s because radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) rather than the 700 or so miles per hour at which sound waves travel. The signal travelling down the wire from the microphone to the BBC goes at the speed of light too. Hence the radio version overtaking the real one.

I realised that this would be the perfect way to teach the principle in school physics lessons. Instead of a boring teacher droning on that ‘radio waves travel at the speed of light’, illustrate it with this beautiful and quirky little fact. The kids will remember it then. I certainly would have done if my physics teacher had taken this approach. As it was I had to wait until I heard a piece of so-called ‘trivia’ in my thirties.