One-breast enlargement from German military rifle chest-slapping

The rhythmic impact of a rifle wielded by a military man can puff up his chest. This sometimes leads to worry, or worse. Though soldiers might appreciate a good pair of breasts, what would happen if they themselves grew a pair? Or if they grew just one? Some men do experience this affront. A study called Gynecomastia […]

Flashy ways to fight off paparazzi, spies… and anyone else

A new invention aims to foil paparazzi who try to photograph people who do not wish to be photographed. Wilbert Leon Smith, Jr. and Keelo Lamance Jackson of California obtained a patent last year for what they call “Inhibiting Unwanted Photography and Video Recording”. Their invention builds on a simple idea patented in 2005 by Jeremy and Joseph Caulfield from Arizona. The […]

A cup of tea and some Smoots: One must or can celebrate standards

A core definition of Britishness, the official six-page specification for how to make a cup of tea, is officially “under review”. But don’t panic. It is standard procedure for the British Standards Institution (BSI) to do a “systematic periodic review” of each of its many specifications which, piecemeal, define nearly everything British. Belying stereotypes of […]

The Lodger Who Watched Them Eat

Confident that no one would notice what he was doing, Michael Nicod spent months in the homes of families he did not know, making detailed notes about everything they ate. Nicod was performing research for Britain’s Department of Health and Social Security in 1974. He and his colleague, University College London professor Mary Douglas, wrote a report […]

Wordplay proves a fruitful area for research

Words, words, words are the bread, butter, salt, pepper, meat and potatoes of a small, US-based magazine called Word Ways that has been coming out four times a year since 1968. Dmitri Borgmann, the founding editor, described it as “the journal of recreational linguistics”. Its essence, in a word: wordplay. Borgmann’s obituary, in a 1985 issue of Word […]

Why was Mrs Thatcher interrupted so often in interviews?

Prime minister Margaret Thatcher‘s masterful way of handling interruptions inspired one psychologist to study, intently, how she did it. As this scholar communicated his findings to the public, other scholars, with different views, interrupted him – and he them. Geoffrey Beattie [pictured here] is now a professorial research fellow of the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester. […]

“Tables and chairs on the highway”

The phrase “Tables and chairs on the highway” has a uniformly accepted meaning in all of England and Wales. That meaning is legalistic, deriving, we are told, from part VIIA, section 115 (A to K) of the Highways Act 1980, a chunk of parliamentary prose that has the title Provision of Amenities on Certain Highways. In describing […]