Never in the field of human trivia ...

Never in the field of human trivia ...
By Mark Mason on 23-01-15 12:46. Comments (1)
The 50th anniversary of Churchill's death has produced some very moving pieces about the great man's role in history. Quite right too, of course - but we shouldn't forget that he was also a one-man trivia factory, leading a life crammed full of fascinating details. Here, in no particular order, are a dozen of my favourite Churchillian facts:

Beautiful game, beautiful trivia

Beautiful game, beautiful trivia
By Mark Mason on 25-10-13 13:20. Comments (0)
150 years ago tomorrow, in a pub in Covent Garden, a group of men got together and founded the Football Association. So started a century and a half of arguments about such crucial issues as whether the one-handed throw-in should be outlawed (it finally was in 1882) and what the minimum height of a corner post should be (it's currently 1.5 metres). But the world's most popular sport also gives us some of the world's most compelling trivia. To celebrate the anniversary, here are 10 of my favourite footie facts:

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Inspired by my book Walk the Lines: the London Underground - Overground, each of these trivia-packed walks uncovers London’s history by following a section of a Tube line ... at street level.


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Learning magic tricks to expand your brain's potential


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.