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Who has the world’s largest collection of Daleks?

24 Nov

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I have never been a fan of Dr Who, which is weird, since I love all things sci-fi, from Star Wars and Star Trek to the utterly phenomenal Galaxy Quest. I know that time travel is best done in the Tardis and the Daleks are best avoided at all costs.

But still, apart from the episode with Kylie Minogue a few years back, I am pretty much out of the loop. However even I knew today was a big day – the screening of a 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor, which was enough to send many of my friends/devoted fans – aka Whovians – racing from their FB accounts lest spoilers sneak through.

Their behaviour got me thinking, about how devoted and obsessed fandom can be. So I decided to take what I knew and build on it, by discovering who in the world has the largest collection of Daleks. And I found him – of course – in the UK.

The person’s name is Rob Hull, and in 2011 he smashed the Guinness World Record for the biggest collection of Daleks, with 571.

But back then he was only getting started. And when Yahoo! News UK caught up with him in September, his collection had grown to 1202.

Why? Well he’s probably best placed to answer that question….

I started my collection 24 years ago and have been a massive Dalek fan since I was seven – I’ve never actually been a big follower of the show. I really wanted a Dalek when I was a young boy but my mum said no – I always said that when I was an adult that I would have my own Dalek and now I have the biggest collection.

Turns out though, his wife is not the biggest fan of his work. In his own words: “My wife would prefer if all of them were in the garage rather than inside.”

And honestly? I don’t know who’s side I’m on. Although it might have to be the outside, since my life-sized Boba Fett already has a monody on the inside.

Why did they recast Buttercup in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?

22 Nov

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In the true form of a movie junkie, I headed to the cinema at midnight on release day to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

I’ve been waiting for it to open since the day I finished reading the book, and nothing like commonsense or the need to get a good night’s sleep was going to get in my way.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about it too much, because I know the pain spoilers can cause.

But one plot point that did catch my eye, and I think is OK to mention, is Buttercup.

As fans know, the Everdeen’s cat is very obviously described as yellow in Suzanne Collins’ involving trilogy, but in the first film he had become black and white for some reason. This time around though, authenticity prevails.

So I decided to find out what prompted new director Francis Lawrence – who took over from Gary Ross and is pictured above with stars Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence – to make the change.

He revealed all in an interview with Meredith Woerner on io9.com

The first big change I noticed from The Hunger Games to Catching Fire was you recast the cat. Why did you recast the cat?

You know what that was actually, and I was happy to do it, that was a request from Nina the producer and Suzanne the author. That they thought the cat from the first movie was not the way he was described in the book. And that had annoyed a bunch of fans, and things like that. But it also just kind of bothered them that Buttercup was not a black and white cat. So I was happy to get one that felt like the Buttercup of the book. It’s funny because now people are split. Some people think we should have continued on with what happened in the first movie. And some people are really happy. You never win.

Personally I think the right move. I can totally understand why changes have to be made to make a book filmable, but a cat colour doesn’t seem to much of an ask to get right.

Did Napoleon Bonaparte invent street numbering?

21 Nov

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I attended a trivia quiz tonight, where quite a few of the questions focused on Napoleon Bonaparte, particularly his achievements.

Some of them I knew about, but one that caught my ear as a new fact came when the MC made a throwaway comment suggesting the Emperor was responsible for our system of street numbering. It sounded highly unlikely, so I decided to check it out for myself.

And here’s what the Napoleonic Society had to say.

It is also to the Emperor that we owe the system of plaques bearing street names and house numbers (even numbers on one side and odd on the other); a system that was copied throughout Europe. It was also Napoleon who decided the shape of the pavement, slightly convex with gutters along the edges of the sidewalks.

So the short answer is, yes, he’s responsible. No doubt a concept thought up on one of the nights he wasn’t in the mood for Josephine.

How long did the Titanic take to sink?

19 Nov

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I’m busy packing up to move at the moment, which unfortunately means shoving carefully placing everything I own into cartons and boxes. And as it turns out, a good proportion of everything I own are movies (and, of course, the books I can’t be parted from).

As I’ve packed and packed and packed, I’ve come across the good (Garden State), the bad (Mammoth, starring Tom Skeritt) and the ugly (Vanilla Sky, which I can’t discuss without gritted teeth).

Then there’s the blockbusters.

I am definitely a girl who likes big action on a big screen. So over the years I have picked up everything from Independence Day to 2012.

And in among such gems I found Titanic, which I loved – and still love – right up until the moment that daft old woman throws the necklace into the ocean.

Anyway, the discovery got me thinking about what it would have been like to be on the ship when it hit the iceberg and how long it would have taken to sink.

I turned to the official Titanic website for the answer. Here’s what they had to say…

Titanic collided with the iceberg about 11.40 on 14th April. She sank below the water at 2.20am the next morning. A ship which had taken three years to fully construct was sunk in less than three hours.

Within half an hour of the collision, Thomas Andrews, the chief naval architect, was dispatched to assess the extent of the damage and to work out how long the ship would take to sink. His calculation was “an hour and a half, possibly two, not much longer.” At this stage, Captain Smith gave the order to uncover the lifeboats.

So there you have it. Less than three hours all up, but still enough time to see the waters rising and feel the absolute terror of knowing you were going into the freezing Atlantic Ocean.

If only the lifeboats had taken their full load.

What was the last element discovered on the periodic table?

18 Nov

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My friends and I love anything and everything to do with trivia.

Naturally, we have a team, which competes at a weekly trivia night, and I’m not at all embarrassed to say competition within our group for the right answer can almost be as fierce as that with our actual rivals.

Plus, there’s our love of the Sunday quiz, which can be a battleground all on its own.

Now normally I am pretty good at this, with specialities including the collected episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ancient Sumerian coinage and pottery.

But the last one I tackled stumped me on one particular question – the chemical name for silver. And I had no better luck remembering it than I did at high school.

The answer, of course was Au, but the footnote of the quiz explained the periodic table was, well, periodically updated.

So I decided to find out what the last element added was. And the ever-reliable National Geographic had the answer. Here’s an excerpt..

The new element doesn’t have an official name yet, so scientists are calling it ununpentium, based on the Latin and Greek words for its atomic number, 115.

In case you forgot your high school chemistry, here’s a quick refresher: An element’s atomic number is the number of protons it contains in its nucleus.

The heaviest element in nature is uranium, which has 92 protons. But heavier elements – which have more protons in their nucleus – can be created through nuclear fusion.

The man-made 115 was first created by Russian scientists in Dubna about 10 years ago. This year, chemists at Lund University in Sweden announced they had replicated the Russian study at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Germany.

Now, element 115 will join its neighbors 114 and 116 – flerovium and livermorium respectively – on the periodic table just as soon as a committee from the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemisty decides on an official name (which, by the way, seems like a pretty political process).

Anyway, the full article has some pretty cool stuff on how scientists make an element and whether you can try it at home. The answer, to give you a hint, is no.

And yes we did look for any sign/mention of adamantium, but sadly came up empty handed.Wolverine would not be impressed.

Who created supercalifragilisticexialidocious?

15 Nov

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As a child, I can well remember entering some sort of competition run by a milk company. I’m not sure what the link was, or even what the prizes were, but I do know it involved making as many words as you could from the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Now, it would be fair to say I poured my little heart and soul into the task. I literally went through the dictionary word by word, finding ones that matched. And yes, it took as long as you might imagine. So long I actually missed the deadline for entries. And was somehow still surprised I didn’t win.

Anyway, this chunk of history came to mind when I noticed the movie Mary Poppins listed in the TV guide.

I’ve never seen it – and am less likely to do so the more anyone tells me I ‘have’ to – but I do know it unveiled the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So I decided to find out its origins.

The answer lay in an laist interview with Richard M Sherman, who wrote the score to the musical with his brother, Robert. Here’s the relevant bit…

How did you make up the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ?

That’s a word we sort of concocted from our childhood when we used to make up double talk words. In the screenplay version of Mary Poppins we wanted her to give the children a gift they could bring back with them from inside the chalk drawing when they came out into the real world. If it was a tangible thing like a seashell or pine cone it would disappear. So we said “Remember when we used to make up the big double talk words? We could make a big obnoxious word up for the kids.” And that’s where it started. Obnoxious is an ugly word so we said atrocious, that’s very British. We started with atrocious and then you can sound smart and be precocious, we had precocious and atrocious and we wanted something super colossal and that’s corny, so we took super and did double talk to get califragilistic which means nothing. It just came out that way. That’s in a nutshell what we did over two weeks. All together you get supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Great explanation. Now, who feels like a spoonful of sugar?

Could a Sharknado really happen?

14 Nov

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I don’t drop the word ‘glorious’ into conversation all that often.

In fact, I’m pretty sparing with its usage, saving it purely for such moments of awesomeness as the shirtless scene in Thor and Thor 2.

But every so often a piece of entertainment comes along that is so exquisite, so unique and so innovative that no other word will suffice. And so it is with Sharknado.

Now first, I should offer a disclaimer, which is that I am naturally pre-disposed to like this film.

I am obsessed with/terrified of sharks, am noted for my love of B-grade animal monster movies and am slightly famous for loving things other people consider crap. Plus, it has the ultimate in B-grade acting pedigree by way of Iain Ziering and Tara Reid. What’s not to love?

Anyway, while the nuances of the plot are non-existent would take far too long to explain, the official synopsis goes something like this: “When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorise the waterlogged populace.”

And when they say terrorise they mean terrorise, with sharks appearing everywhere from helicopters, highways and manholes to living rooms as they bite people clean in half. At least until Iain – playing Fin Shepard – starts fighting back with a chainsaw.

In short, it is gory, blood-spattered, mind-blowing, ridiculous and glorious. With a subtle plot that points out a punchline from about 1km away and then smacks it right in the face. Like when the man says “My mum always told me Hollywood would kill me” literally a split second before he is crushed by the Hollywood sign. See what they did there?

Like I said, solid gold.

Anyway, I had to know who was responsible for writing this work of art. And as it turns out, his name is the equally glorious Thunder Levin, who did a great interview with iO9.

You can read the full Q&A transcript here – including the inspiration for the movie and whether alcohol was involved – but first, the burning questions that came to my mind as the DVD ran its course…

Is there any scientific basis, however tenuous, for Sharknado?

Yes. There are numerous confirmed reports of fish falling from the sky, sometimes even on a clear sunny day. We just took it to the “logical” extreme.

How are the sharks cognisant enough to keep biting people while they’re flying through the air?

If you were a shark and you found yourself flying through the air, wouldn’t you keep biting? I think you’d be pretty pissed about being plucked out of your nice familiar ocean where you’re king of the predators, and you’d probably take it out on whoever got in your way. Honestly, I don’t understand why people are so perplexed by this concept. The logic is undeniable.

Well sure, if you say so. Now check out the best scene from the movie…