Think you know Irn-Bru? Here are some things you (probably) didn't know by Sean Murphy As iconic as whisky and as famous as haggis, Scotland’s other national drink is widely enjoyed not just in the land of its birth but also across the globe. Synonymous with Scottish culture, most Scots claim they couldn’t live without it while others claim it is the best hangover cure around. The original firm was founded in Falkirk by Robert Barr in 1875, and initially sold ‘aerated waters’, as soft drinks were then called. Robert’s son Andrew launched the soft drink in 1901 under the name Strachan’s Brew. The name was originally supposed to be Iron Brew but proposed branding laws forced Barr’s in July 1946 to alter the name as the drink is not actually brewed. The new ‘Irn-Bru’ trademark was first registered on Thursday 18th July 1946. Irn-Bru is manufactured in five factories in Russia alone, and has been produced under licence in Canada, the USA and Norway since 2008.
There’s a tiny “flying saucer” orbiting deep within Saturn’s rings, and a NASA probe has just gotten its most impressive look yet at the strange object. The saucer is actually a little moon called Pan, and NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured its distinctive shape on March 7, 2017 in a stunningly detailed series of images. When she first saw the new pictures of Pan, Cassini scientist Carolyn Porco thought they might be an artist’s representation. “They are real! Science is better than fiction,” she later commented. Named for the flute-playing Greek god of wild places, 21-mile-wide Pan is what’s called a shepherd moon. It lives within a gap in Saturn’s A ring, which is the farthest loop of icy particles from the planet. Pan isn’t alone in its bizarre appearance: Another small moon, Atlas, bears a similar shape for similar reasons. Nadia Drake Read more and see pictures at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/saturn-ufo-moon-pan-nasa-cassini-space-science/
Lichens are a complex life form that is a symbiotic partnership of two separate organisms, a fungus and an alga. The dominant partner is the fungus, which gives the lichen the majority of its characteristics, from its thallus shape to its fruiting bodies. The alga can be either a green alga or a blue-green alga, otherwise known as cyanobacteria. Many lichens will have both types of algae. Read more at https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/lichens/whatare.shtml
Litmus is a water-soluble mixture of different dyes extracted from lichens. It is often absorbed onto filter paper to produce one of the oldest forms of pH indicator, used to test materials for acidity. Litmus was used for the first time about 1300 AD by Spanish alchemist Arnaldus de Villa Nova. From the 16th century on, the blue dye was extracted from some lichens, especially in the Netherlands. The main use of litmus is to test whether a solution is acidic or basic. Wet litmus paper can also be used to test for water-soluble gases that affect acidity or alkalinity; the gas dissolves in the water and the resulting solution colors the litmus paper. For instance, ammonia gas, which is alkaline, colors the red litmus paper blue. Read more and see graphics at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litmus
The late New Zealand archaeologist Professor Mike Morwood helped discover skeletal remains of the metre-tall species, known as Hobbit or Flores Hobbit, in a cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Since then, researchers have been trying to piece together the story of the intriguing creatures, investigating what it was that brought them to the island--and what caused them to vanish tens of thousands of years ago. A new study by Australian and US researchers, just published in the , has now suggested the hobbits were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis, one of the earliest-known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago.
The most comprehensive study yet on the bones of Homo floresiensis has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus, as has been widely believed. It follows http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11653043 published last year by international scientists, including the University of Auckland's Associate Professor Brent Alloway, that used 700,000-year-old remains of what appeared to be the Hobbit's ancestor to confirm them as an entirely separate species, and not simply a deformed forebear of our race today. Data from the new study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java. Study leader Dr Debbie Argue, of the Australian National University, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered. Homo floresiensis is known to have lived on Flores until as recently as 54,000 years ago. Where previous research had focused mostly on the skull and lower jaw, this study used 133 data points ranging across the skull, jaws, teeth, arms, legs and shoulders. Jamie Morton Read more and see graphics at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11844795
Robert Pirsig, author of the influential 1970s philosophical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has died at the age of 88 at his home in Maine. Published in 1974 after being rejected by more than 100 other publishers, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was the father-son story of a motorcycle trip across the western United States. Loosely autobiographical, it also contained flashbacks to a period in which the author was diagnosed as schizophrenic. The book quickly became a best-seller. Pirsig said its protagonist “set out to resolve the conflict between classic values that create machinery, such as a motorcycle, and romantic values, such as experiencing the beauty of a country road”. Born in Minneapolis, Pirsig had a high IQ and graduated high school at the age of 15. He earned a degree in philosophy and also worked as a technical writer and instructor of English before being hospitalised for mental illness in the early 1960s. His philosophical thinking and personal experiences during these years, including a 1968 motorcycle trip across the US West with his eldest son, Christopher, formed the core of the narrative of the novel. Pirsig worked on the sequel, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals for 17 years before its publication in 1991. The story traced a sailboat journey taken by two fictitious characters along America’s eastern coast. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/25/robert-pirsig-zen-and-the-art-of-motorcycle-maintenance-author-dies-aged-88
Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, is launching a new online publication which will aim to fight fake news by pairing professional journalists with an army of volunteer community contributors. Wikitribune plans to pay for the reporters by raising money from a crowdfunding campaign. Wales intends to cover general issues, such as US and UK politics, through to specialist science and technology. Those who donate will become supporters, who in turn will have a say in which subjects and story threads the site focuses on. And Wales intends that the community of readers will fact-check and subedit published articles. Like Wikipedia, Wales’s new project will be free to access. The publication is launching on Tuesday 25 April with a crowdfunding campaign pre-selling monthly “support packages” to fund the initial journalists. The first issue will follow soon after. Wales, who sits on the board of Guardian Media Group, the Guardian’s parent company, founded Wikipedia with Larry Sanger in 2001, before donating the entire project to a non-profit organisation, the Wikimedia Foundation, that he set up in 2003. He remains a board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, and is the president of Wikia, a Wikipedia spin-off that allows communities to make their own collaboratively-edited encyclopaedias on topics ranging from Top Gear to Harry Potter. Alex Hern https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/25/wikipedia-founder-jimmy-wales-to-fight-fake-news-with-new-wikitribune-site