Category Archives: 10 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

Big Love

Tyrannosaurus Rex was a sensitive lover, says the US journal Scientific Reports. Tyrannosaurs had snouts as sensitive to touch as human fingerprints, and while they would have used these tactile noses to explore their surroundings, build nests and pick up fragile eggs and offspring, males and females may also have rubbed their sensitive faces together in a prehistoric form of foreplay…


It was beginning to grow dark.

The red ball of the new, new sun hung in the sky, partly curtained by ash from still smoking volcanoes. Mist drifted up from steaming pools which popped and glooped as the primordial ooze formed complex recipes of enzymes which would, over many millions of years, evolve into beings capable of song and laughter, of reaching the moon, of believing that broccoli tastes nice.

Thea Rex lifted her head at a huge rumbling noise, stared off into the distance, and sighed. What’s he up to now, she thought.

Ty Rex was approaching. Clamped in his fearsome jaws were two huge tree trunks, the branches and leaves of which were dragging across the ground, disturbing rocks and small reptiles. He came to a halt in front of her.

She raised an eyebrow in enquiry.

“I aw oo howshh,” said Ty.

Thea’s eyebrow lifted further. Ty dropped the trees, and worked his jaw briefly.

“I brought you flowers,” he said.

“So I see,” said Thea. “Because?”

“It’s romantic,” said Ty.

Thea sighed again. For years now Ty had carried a torch for her, or at least would have done if his arms hadn’t been so short that carrying a torch would have set fire to his chest. But Thea had always resisted, insisting that they remain just friends.

“I’ve told you before, Ty,” she said. “I’m not going to date other Tyrannosaurs. I’m only going to mate with other dinosaurs.”

“But why?” asked Ty.

“I’ve told you that before too,” she said. “Evolution.”

Thea was Earth’s first Darwinist, a girl ahead of her time in an age where time was counted backwards. She had watched other species form, stagnate and die. The Therapsids, the Triassics, the Nokiaphones – all had mated within their own species, and all had grown weak as the inbreeding had reduced the number of their brain cells whilst increasing the number of their toes. She was convinced that it was necessary that she and her like should inter-breed, building a constantly evolving, ever-strengthening race of creatures.

If not, the dinosaurs might become extinct.

So she had turned down Ty time after time. Now he stood here again, as he had so often before, looking hopefully at her.

“Look,” said Thea, not unkindly. “I do like you, Ty -” she stopped, startled by the sudden flash of anger across his face.

“You were going to say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, weren’t you?” said Ty.

“Er, no,” said Thea.

“Yes you were,” said Ty. “You were going to bang on about how it’s up to you to save us all by throwing yourself at anything with hard, wrinkled skin. Well, tell me, how’s that working out for you?”

Thea was about to give a spirited reply when suddenly her recent love life flashed in front of her. She thought of her tryst with the Brontosaurus, an experience that had left her flat, almost literally. She thought of how her head had become wedged between the top two horns of the Triceratops when he had tried to kiss her goodnight. She thought of her night with the Stegosaurus, and into her head, from whence she had no idea, popped the phrase ‘like having sex with Sydney Opera House’.

She thought of how she’d broken up with her most recent partner when she’d suddenly realised she was on the way to becoming Mrs Gigantosaurus, with the same dawning horror with which a human female might suddenly think through the implications of continuing to date Joe Bigbottom.

She was wasting her life, she suddenly realised. She hung her head, and a huge tear rolled down one cheek.

Instantly Ty was beside her, nuzzling his cheek against hers. “Don’t cry,” he said, softly.

She pulled away to look into his concerned, earnest face. He’s always been here for me, she thought. I don’t know what I’ve been thinking.

She leaned towards him, and he towards her.

Their snouts touched.

She was both shocked and exhilarated at the sensation that swept through her body, filling every nerve with tingling, roaring joy.

And at that exact instant, miles away, the meteorite hit the earth. A giant flash lit up the sky, like a firework. Lava leapt from volcanoes. The ground rumbled and shuddered.

Startled, the lovers moved apart, staring wide-eyed at each other.

“Wow,” said Ty. “Did the earth move for you too?”






Bit Part

(From the Independent, CNN, BBC and a load of medical websites recently ……)

A new organ has been discovered hiding in plain sight inside the human body.

Known as the mesentery, it was previously thought to be just a few fragmented structures in the digestive system, but scientists have realised it is in fact one, continuous organ.

Although its function is still unclear, the discovery opens up “a whole new area of science,” according to J Calvin Coffey, a researcher at the University Hospital Limerick who first discovered it.

The research has been published in The Lancet medical journal. Following its reclassification, medical students are now being taught that the mesentery is a distinct organ. Gray’s Anatomy, the world’s most famous medical textbook, has been updated to include the new definition.

It was described by the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci in 1508, but it has been ignored throughout the centuries, until now.
I am Joe’s mesentery.

Joe doesn’t think about me very much, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever read in the Reader’s Digest about Joe’s casual relationship with his body parts. Joe doesn’t think about his heart either, or his nose, skin, larynx, tongue or medulla oblongata, though possibly in the case of the last one it’s because he thinks it’s a star system that was once visited by the Enterprise.

This is because Joe is a dick, fittingly the one organ that he thinks about almost non-stop.

So Joe’s ignorance of my existence doesn’t annoy me at all. What does is the fact that it is only now, almost two million years after mankind first stood on two legs so that it could scratch under one armpit, that medical science has recognised me, and even still has to admit that it has no idea what I do.

I’ll tell it what I do. I and the other organs of the intestinal system are like the factory workers in a huge global conglomerate – the unsung heroes, the ones who do the real work, the ones who make sure that shit happens, quite literally in Joe’s case.

Seriously, if medical science wants to question the function of organs, it should take a look at the earlobe.

What really gets me to vent my spleen (yes, I have one, and it has organs too, you humans are like Babooshka dolls) is that Leonardo da Vinci told people about me more than five hundred years ago. After all, he turned out to be right about the helicopter, the calculator and the teenage mutant ninja turtle (hang on, that might be the wrong Leonardo) so why didn’t anyone listen to him about me?

Still, better late than never. The Lancet, supposedly the bible of medical knowledge, has finally admitted that I exist. It’s the journal’s biggest back-down since it had to acknowledge in its May 1543 issue that the Adam’s Apple is not, in fact, a fruit.

And I’m going to be included in Gray’s Anatomy. Hopefully I get to sleep with Meredith.

A Horse With No Name

From BBC’s 10 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week comes the news that “traditionally, police horses in England’s Thames Valley force can be called Odin, Thor or Hercules, but not Brian”….


The year was 1827, and the newly-formed Thames Valley Horse Force, designed to work in hand-in-hoof with the human police, was swearing in its first recruits.

Chief Constable Odin looked proudly along the line of magnificently built, magnificently-named beasts – names like Thor, Hercules, Zeus, Tarzan.

And one other. Odin stared in surprise at the list in front of him. Oh, well, he thought, perhaps it’s a misprint.

“Brain?” he said hopefully.

“It’s Brian, sir,” said a voice at the end of the line. Odin walked – sorry, proceeded, he was a police horse, after all – to the end of the line and looked down his nose at Brian.

In fairness to Odin, he had no other way of looking at him. Brian was a Shetland pony, and was three feet tall.

There had been no height restriction put into the recruitment posters. Nobody had thought they would need one, they had never considered that someone looking like R2D2 on all fours would be interested in joining.

And it quickly seemed that Brian had made a really bad mistake. Policemen refused to ride him because their heels dragged along the ground as they patrolled. Villains would evade his pursuit by grabbing him by the front hooves and swinging him out into the Thames.

His work-mates used to hang him up by his nose-bag.

Then one evening came some really exciting news. The Princess was due to give birth. Her carriage was going to bring her to St Bart’s Hospital, and the Force were going to escort her along the Mall.

They lined up outside Buckingham Palace. Then Odin spoke.

“Here she comes,” he said.

“I can’t see anything,” said Brian from the end of the line.

Thor sniggered, but seeing Odin glaring at him tried to turn it into a whinny. The result was a shot of snot that slapped noisily against the rump of a passing cart-horse, who bolted, spilling the apples from his cart onto the road. Another horse stepped on these and shed his load of bananas. A human slipped on one of those and fell, dragging over a box full of chickens. A truck then reversed out into the middle of all of this, because that always happens.

Within seconds the road was full of fruit and horse-droppings, like a giant bowl of muesli. The Mall was completely blocked.

A loud yell came from inside the Royal carriage.

“The Princess is going into labour!” said Odin. “We have to do something.”

“I’ll get some hot water and towels,” said Hercules.

“Um, that’s not really what I had in mind,” said Odin.

“I could carry her, sir,” said Brian. “I could pick my way through.”

“Are you sure?” said Odin.

Brian drew himself up to his full height.

“It’s my duty, sir,” he said.

The Princess was placed upon Brian’s back and he set off into the melee. He slipped between wheels. He crept under carts. He skirted around skirts.

Then a tired cart-owner sat down, straight in front of him.

“Neigh!” shouted Brian. “No!”

Startled, the man leapt out of his way. Brian continued his way down the street, shouting “neigh, no” whenever anyone stepped into his path.

He reached the end of the Mall, then stopped in horror. A cart had over-turned, completely blocking the road.

He took a deep breath, raised himself up onto his hind legs, then charged. The Princess covered her face with her skirt, though not intentionally.

He leapt at the last second, rode the sky for a glorious moment, and cleared the cart.

He continued the last few miles to hospital, and collapsed, exhausted, at the base of its steps.

The Princess climbed off him and started up towards the door, then turned, picked him up under one arm, and brought him in with her.

He had accomplished his mission, though it was to be his final one.

Because the Princess gave birth to a girl who, as little girls tend to do, asked for a pony with virtually her first words. There could only be one possible candidate.

And the Princess decreed that no future police horse could be called Brian, no matter how tall, no matter how magnificent.

Because they’d never be able to fill his shoes.