Which way does the Queen face?

Which way does the Queen face?
By Mark Mason on 10-06-13 11:45. Comments (0)
It was today in 1931 that Edward VIII (as he then wasn't) met Wallis Simpson, the woman he would one day marry, but only after abdicating. His short spell as king in 1936 gave rise to one of my favourite bits of trivia about British coins ...

Michael Caine and the Tube

Michael Caine and the Tube
By Mark Mason on 08-01-13 20:27. Comments (2)
It's been great to soak up the Tube trivia this week, as the grand old network celebrates its ton and a half. The facts about the system itself are legendary, from Mark Twain being a passenger on the Central Line's first ever journey, to Canary Wharf station being big enough to house 1 Canada Square. But some of my favourite tales are the ones where the Tube plays only a bit part. They sum up the way the Underground is just there, part of London's fabric. One of the best is the story of Michael Caine and the telephone in Leicester Square station ...

Showing 1 - 2 of 2 Articles

< Previous 1 Next >

Other pages in this section...




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.


Tailor made quizzes

Magical Thinking

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.