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Five things we learned last month

Photos: Steve p2008, Nasa, Sergy Ponomarev/AP/Press Association Images, Acme Newspictures, Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

DG #22 is starting to come together and we’ve come across some lovely facts in our research for the issue. Here are five of the most interesting things we’ve learned…

1) The breeds of cow favoured in western countries produce twice as much methane as those favoured outside the west, belching and farting out about 120 kilogrammes of the greenhouse gas per animal per year. Still, as western breeds of cow are vastly outnumbered by non-western breeds, they account for only about 15 percent of all methane produced by cows.

2) In 1973, three US astronauts staged the first ever space strike. The Skylab 4 rookie crew consisting of Gerry Carr, Bill Pogue and Ed Gibson had struggled with the heavy workload enforced by mission control when, six weeks into the mission, they announced an unscheduled day off. The crew spent the day relaxing and reflecting on the human experience while watching Earth from orbit. Nasa did reduce the workload of the astronauts in the aftermath of the strike, but after the astronauts had returned from their mission, they were never sent back to space.

3) In the 1990s, the MMM Ponzi scheme headed by Sergei Mavrodi defrauded up to $10 billion from millions of Russians. But after serving a four-and-a-half year sentence for his fraud, Mavrodi simply returned to the game in 2011, launching a new scheme called MMM-2011. This time Mavrodi was upfront about his enterprise, claiming on its website that “this is a pyramid”. MMM-2011 collapsed about a year after its inception. Mavrodi has also launched MMM schemes in India, China and South Africa.

4) Legend has it that Howard Hughes Jr, the billionaire playboy, aviation fanatic and Hollywood producer, once accidentally greenlit a film because he had misheard the title. Several plane crashes had left Hughes with bad hearing caused by brain damage. Some believe that when he said ‘yes’ to the Biblical epic Pilate’s Wife before reading the script, he thought it would be about an airman’s romantic exploits.

5) David Bowie has inspired the names of a comet, a rare Malaysian spider and an element in the periodic table, to name just a few. On 8th January 2016, Bowie’s 69th birthday, a penguin born at Cincinnati Zoo was named after him. The singer died only six days after the penguin’s birth, at which stage Bowie the Chick’s gender had – fittingly enough – not yet been determined (penguins have no external genitalia) as the zookeepers were waiting for blood test results.

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