Researchers for BBC2 show QI constantly search for facts for their annual compilation of weird trivia. Findings, such as that bees can recognise human faces, are also broadcast on the podcast No Such Thing As A Fish (named after a scientist’s contention that not all the creatures we call fish descend from the same common ancestor).
Here’s an A to Z selection from their 2017 collection . . .
Actress Carrie Fisher’s ashes are in an urn shaped like a massive Prozac pill. As one of her favourite ornaments, her brother said: ‘We felt it was where she’d want to be’
A self-declared republic (its capital is Sukhumi) trying to break from Georgia. Recognised only by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Pacific island of Nauru. Despite the lack of general recognition, elections were held among its estimated 250,000-strong population this year.
This year, the website’s founder, Jeff Bezos, became the world’s richest person — for four hours — thanks to a surge in stock on July 27 which increased his worth by $1.1 billion to $90.9 billion (£69.2bn). It meant he overtook Microsoft’s Bill Gates. By noon the next day, Bezos’s stock had fallen.
But yesterday Bezos was back on top after another leap in the value of his shares took his fortune to £69.9 billion.
This year, Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, became the world’s richest person — for four hours — thanks to a surge in stock on July 27 which increased his worth by $1.1bn to $90.9bn (£69.2bn)
Marks & Spencer began lasering barcodes into its avocados to save 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue a year.
Laser barcodes on M&S avocados
A new Spanish app called Confessor GO tells you where your nearest priest is for confession, and maps the best route to him. It also gives the priest’s name and the year he was ordained.
Actress Carrie Fisher’s ashes are in an urn shaped like a massive Prozac pill. As one of her favourite ornaments, her brother said: ‘We felt it was where she’d want to be.’
The world’s first zero-emissions boat, Energy Observer, set off around the world covered in solar panels and wind turbines. As well as powering the ship, they provide energy to take water from the sea and remove the hydrogen, which is stored in tanks and used for power when it’s still, cloudy or night-time.
In the first race between two driverless cars, one crashed and the other nearly ran over a dog. It took place in Buenos Aires, and after reaching speeds of 111mph, one car misjudged a corner and hit a barrier. The other slowed down to avoid running over a dog which had wandered on to the track.
Facebook censored a photo of a 16th-century nude statue of Neptune in the city of Bologna on the grounds that it was ‘explicitly sexual and . . . shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body parts’.
The Bank of England’s gym lockers wouldn’t accept the new £1 coin.
The Parliamentary Beard of the Year champion — for a record seventh time.
Among 300 words added by Oxford Dictionaries were ‘aquafaba’ (chickpea water used in vegan cooking), ‘sausage party’ (an event in which the majority of participants are male) and ‘craptacular’ (very poor or disappointing).
Frog that glows in the dark
Meet the first naturally fluorescent amphibian
Scientists found a glow-in-the-dark frog — the polka-dot tree frog (Hypsiboas punctatus).
Living in Argentina, it’s the first naturally fluorescent amphibian and is believed to use the skill to communicate with other frogs.
Police in Bath launched a crackdown on drivers who get too near to cyclists — but found only one, because congestion was so bad that cyclists were actually overtaking motorists.
After a chihuahua was lost on a Welsh mountain for five days when it ran to fetch a stick, a heat-seeking drone found it in 20 minutes.
Pets At Home, Britain’s biggest pet retailer, announced it wouldn’t sell rabbits between Good Friday and Easter Monday because so many are abandoned every year in the subsequent weeks. (Animal shelters take in 67,000 abandoned rabbits each year.)
Spain’s government tackled the country’s low fertility rate by appointing a Minister for Sex to help reverse the declining population trend. (This year, Spain registered more deaths than births for the first time since 1941.)
The Swedish town of Övertorneå, with a similar baby shortage, considered giving employees an hour a week off for state-subsidised sex.
Game Of Thrones
Season seven of the TV series included a battle which featured half of all the stunt performers in the UK, and most of them were set on fire.
Season seven of Game Of Thrones – starring Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen (above) – included a battle which featured half of all the stunt performers in the UK
The world suffered a shortage of the gas — used in balloons, scuba equipment and MRI scanners — after Saudi Arabia closed its border with Qatar (which produces a third of the world’s supply), as it accused the Gulf state of funding terrorism. Helium factories shut and global prices drifted upwards.
Her Majesty’s Taxes
Tax inspectors spent £3,000 on flowers to say sorry for mistakes on tax bills. One demand went to a cafe owner in Manchester, who was told she owed the taxman £1 billion. In fact, she owed £17,000.
The retail giant admitted one of its products was a safety hazard after a customer’s parabolic-shaped metal bowl focused sunlight onto a grape which started to burn.
IKEA decided against recalling the bowl, saying: ‘It has been established that many different parameters would have to converge for the content of the bowl to overheat and that the risk for this to happen is very low.’
A new washing machine in India has a button for curry stains. Panasonic has also invested in a laundry-folding robot.
Some of the strangest posts advertised included ‘cat-cuddler’ at a Dublin clinic. Applicants needed ‘gentle hands capable of petting and stroking cats for long periods’ and an ‘ability to understand different types of purring’.
The spicy fermented pickled cabbage is very popular in South Korea, where the retailers have launched a drive to market it better in the West. They are hosting an annual kimchiology symposium and a lengthy kimchi sommelier course.
Instead of their ABC, Ethiopian children now learn their LAG after their government changed the alphabet of the country’s Oromo language. Instead of A, B, C, it goes: L A G I M AA S. The double ‘AA’ is the way that Oromo people write the ‘long a’ in words such as ‘father’ or ‘water’.
Adam Woodyatt, (Ian Beale in EastEnders), was beaten in the London Marathon by a man in a sleeping bag, a woman in a dinosaur suit and a man carrying a tumble dryer.
The moustache of Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí remains perfectly intact in the ‘10 past 10’ position (as he requested) 28 years after his death
The moustache of Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí remains perfectly intact in the ‘10 past 10’ position (as he requested) 28 years after his death. This discovery was made when his body was exhumed to settle a paternity case.
The world lost the only military dictator (he ruled Panama from 1983 to 1990) known to have dressed his teddy bears as soldiers. He put them on an office shelf between his graduation photo and a bust of Napoleon.
Prince Charles supported a plan to sterilise grey squirrels by feeding them Nutella chocolate spread laced with contraceptives.
The aim was to control the UK’s estimated 3.5 million greys so as to give red squirrels a chance of recovery. Charles likes the idea as no squirrels need be killed.
Supplies are decreasing. In Italy, one million olive trees have been killed by ‘olive quick decline syndrome’ — leading to a 30 per cent drop in production. Spain (which produces half of the world’s olive oil), too, has been hit and the EU has suggested Majorca chop down all its olive trees.
The chemical dichloromethane (DCM), used to extract caffeine from coffee and tea, is very bad for the ozone layer — with twice as much in the atmosphere as there was in 2000.
The amount spent on pest control in Westminster last year was £130,000, including £16,000 for a hawk to scare pigeons and £8,900 on killing moths.
A University of Texas report found that participants performed 10 per cent less well on a memory test and 5 per cent less well in a maths test when their mobile phones were on their desks, compared with when they were left outside the room. Students even underperformed when the phones were in a bag which was out of sight but still in the same room.
Adidas has been making shoes out of plastic debris from the sea. Each pair uses the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles,
Russia added 183 items to a list of 4,199 thought ‘extremist’. Item 4,071 was any picture of a Putin-like person ‘with eyes and lips made up’, implying his ‘supposed non-standard sexual orientation’.
Queen Elizabeth, HMS
The Navy’s largest ever aircraft carrier (known as Big Lizzie) went on its sea trials voyage without one aircraft aboard. The flight-deck crew were at Culdrose land base, practising pushing life-size models of F-35 jets around the Tarmac.
Deaths this year included Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’s secretary, Brunhilde Pomsel, aged 106.
Pupils at Findern Primary School in Derby were encouraged to wear slippers instead of shoes because the deputy head had read that shoeless students arrive earlier, leave later, are less likely to bully each other, are quieter and calmer, and get better grades.
The average millennial spends 2.2 days of the year taking selfies — a full hour a week. Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Journal suggested that hospitals should list ‘selfie-related wrist injury’ on admission forms, as it happens so often.
Bubbles, the painting chimp
Michael Jackson’s chimpanzee Bubbles sold five paintings from an exhibition called Apes That Paint.
The £2,840 raised was donated to the Centre For Great Apes, in Florida, where he lives.
The Office for National Statistics reported more than 2,500 products are not as big as before: items such as coffee and fruit juice are sold in smaller sizes, for the same price. The KitKat Chunky has dropped from 48g to 40g and a standard roll of Andrex toilet tissue has shrunk from 221 sheets to 200.
Fifty-six new species were identified on a ten-day expedition in Queensland, Australia. They included a tarantula the size of a human face with legs the width of a biro, and another spider with a colourful fold in its back that fans out like a peacock.
Mother Teresa’s famous blue-rimmed and white cotton sari was trademarked on behalf of her holy order, the Missionaries of Charity. This followed nuns’ complaints that businesses were using her image for commercial gain.
The U.S. President’s Military Office rented an apartment in Trump Tower, New York, for the nuclear ‘football’ — the black satchel holding the device that can launch a thermonuclear strike — with its human handlers. The lease is for 18 months and costs £98,400 a month.
Some Uber drivers in China changed their profile photos to zombie images so that when potential passengers saw their unsettling picture, they would immediately cancel the booking, thus earning the driver the automatic cancellation fee.
Residents of one of the islands in this South Pacific archipelago were devastated to learn of the retirement of Prince Philip, who they believe is a god.
They’d been waiting five decades in vain for him to visit — hoping that he would be able to cure all their diseases and fix their food shortages. (Every morning, they pray to the Duke of Edinburgh and ask him to bless their bananas.)
Six hundred people went to Pippa Middleton’s wedding: 300 guests and 300 members of the public who were allowed to stand in a pen outside the venue. Cynically, some people wondered if the locals were placed there to obscure the view of the world’s media photographers.
A new whisky has been named Shackleton. It’s based on a lost recipe produced in the early 1900s by Mackinlay & Co after three cases of century-old whisky were found frozen into the ice at explorer Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic base camp.
Computer images that liken Winnie-the-Pooh to China’s leader Xi Jinping were censored in the country. Online references to A.A. Milne’s immortal creation have been forbidden as well. The Beijing government hasn’t confirmed the reason for the ban, but Xi is previously recorded as having taken offence at any humorous comparisons — such as mentions of the Chinese food staple, steamed buns (baozi), which are known to be a popular nickname for Xi.
Computer images that liken Winnie-the-Pooh to China’s leader Xi Jinping were censored in the country
Tourists complained about a resident parking his ‘ugly’ yellow car in the picturesque Cotswold village of Bibury. Vandals scratched the word ‘MOVE’ on his bonnet.
The Oxford English Dictionary added this as a new last word. Pronounced ‘zih-zih-vah’, it’s the name of a genus of tropical weevils found in South America. Previously, the last word was ‘zythum’, a beer brewed in ancient Egypt.
Extracted from THE BOOK OF THE YEAR, by No Such Thing As A Fish, published by Random House on November 2 at £12.99. To order a copy for £10.39 (offer valid to November 11, 2017), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15.