The Name Game

All change on the moniker front

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:

The Name Game

1. When Elton John abandoned his birth name of Reginald Kenneth Dwight, he included the new middle name Hercules, in tribute to the horse in Steptoe and Son.

2. Talking of Steptoe and Son - the ‘H' in Harry H. Corbett was added to get round Equity rules. There was already a member called Harry Corbett (yes, he of Sooty fame). Corbett the actor used to say that the initial stood for ‘Hanything'. (Confusion continued in 1976, when Harold Wilson wanted to give an OBE to the Steptoe actor, but accidentally gave it to the Sooty guy. In the end they both received the gong.)

3. Peter Cook was having none of this Equity nonsense - he told the actors' union that he wouldn't change his name, even though there was already a member called Peter Cook. They told him he had to - so he suggested an increasingly ludicrous list of alternatives until they gave in. The last name on the list was ‘Sting Thundercock'.

4. Michael Caine got his surname from a Leicester Square cinema showing The Caine Mutiny. He says that if he'd looked the other way he'd now be Michael A Hundred and One Dalmatians.

5. Nicolas Cage's real name is Nicolas Coppola - his uncle is Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola. Nicolas changed the name to avoid accusations of nepotism.

6. Michael Keaton’s real surname is Douglas – he had to change it because of the already-famous Michael Douglas.

7. George RR Martin added his middle initials in tribute to JRR Tolkien.



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Rubik's Cube

A Rubik’s cube has more combinations than light travels inches in a century. This is my favourite illustration of how a very small number of factors can produce an absurdly complicated situation. A silly little toy, with only three squares in each of its three dimensions. How can that get complicated? Well, as anyone who's ever tried to solve one just by guessing will tell you, it gets very complicated. The number of possible combinations is 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. Forget billions - that's 43 quintillion and change. (In fact the cube's manufacturers just said ‘billions' in their advertising, figuring that no one would know what a quintillion was. It's a billion billion.) The number of inches light travels in a century, meanwhile, is a mere 37,165,049,856,000,000,000. Or thereabouts.