May 18, 2012

Facts: Swords to Spyplanes

  • The Predator UAV can remain in the air up to 50,000 feet, entirely unmanned and without refuelling for up to 20 hours.

  • Its remote pilots sit in a trailer in Arizona, but at any time they can hand over control to a team in another state or even on the other side of the world!

  • The silk worm is not in fact a worm; it is the larva, or caterpillar, of a moth known as Bombyx mori.

  • The tradition of silk weaving is older than the Great Pyramid of Giza. According to Chinese records, the discovery of silk production from B. mori (the silk worm) occurred about 2,700 B.C.

  • The silk from B. mori comes from the caterpillar’s cocoon. The silk makers place the cocoons in hot water to unravel the strands so that they can be spun into threads of silk.

  • In Episode One Josh Klein visits the pit of the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, China. Archaeologists think that they have only uncovered a small fraction of the total army, estimating the entire number of soldiers at 8,000 – with 130 chariots, 530 horses and 150 cavalry horses.

  • Each individual terracotta warrior is unique. Experts believe that the workmen created the details of the warriors’ faces using a set number of facial moulds, which they then embellished with clay to make each one different. .

  • In Ancient China silk was often used as currency instead of coins.

  • Silk making in ancient China was such a valuable secret that anyone who revealed secrets or smuggling silk worms out of the country could be punished by death.

  • The first compasses were invented by the Chinese, not for navigation, but for Feng Shui. In the practice of Feng Shui, rooms and buildings are laid out according to direction in order to harmonize the environment.

  • Amsterdam was home to the first stock exchange in the world and the first share certificate was issued by the Dutch East India Company in 1602.

  • Dutchman Anthony van Leuwenhoek discovered bacteria whilst looking at pepper corns under his home made single-lens microscopes. He was examining pepper to try and work out what made it taste hot.

  • Before refrigeration, beer making and storage had to take place in caves underground in order to keep the beer at the right cool temperature. St Louis became a great brewing town thanks to its large system of limestone caves that lie under the city.

  • Aldolphus Busch, the father of Budweiser beer, was the first brewer in the USA to introduce pasteurisation into the brewing process.

  • The Thermos flask you use to keep your coffee hot was actually invented in 1878 by James Dewar as a way of keep his liquefied gases at super cool temperatures. Dewar didn’t patent the design and so he never made a penny out of it.

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