The answer to your question

What is the best scientific explanation for what happens in the “afterlife”?

There is no scientific explanation for what happens in the afterlife, as there is no proof of an existence of an afterlife. There are scientific explanations for death: the biological functions shutdown, breathing ceases and you lose the ability to play Xbox. Death is a simple thing for science to deal with, there are facts and evidence, things that science likes. The afterlife is about religion, the paranormal or supposition, things that science isn’t too clever about.

Near death experience is the thing that provides science with any kind of data regarding a hereafter. Collating the most commonly reported sensations from people who have had an NDE, it appears that the afterlife feels warm, secure, serene, bright and comes with a feeling of detachment, a bit like being in the upper class section of a Virgin Atlantic flight. Scientists generally feel that these are hallucinatory effects and that the afterlife is really created by a complex combination of neurological and chemical processes.

How is North Korea viewed by the rest of the world?

There are conflicting international views of North Korea. Naturally the political component of the state, involving the Supreme People’s Assembly and an active military with larger numbers than that of Russia, is viewed with suspicion and concern. The human component, the populace, is viewed with a mixture of distrust (for those in positions of power) and sympathy for those who suffer the consequences of UN embargos and from living in a police state. North Korea, which has the ironic full title of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has suffered from a dreadful famine in recent years, which could have killed up to a million people (out of a population of 24 million).

The estimated GDP of North Korea is a paltry $40 billion. In context, their neighbours in South Korea might have twice the population, but the GDP is a whopping $1.6 trillion. Few states are willing to trade with North Korea for fear of UN (and US) retribution. Diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis B are considered to be endemic; overall life expectancy is calculated at 68.39 years (80 years in South Korea). It seems no surprise that reports of an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un by his own people have already surfaced. They can handle him driving his Merc whilst swigging Johnnie Walker and puffing on his luxury ciggies, but making them listen to Brother Louie (1998 version) all day long on state radio is going too far. You too can enjoy what is considered to be one of the Supreme Leader’s favourite songs.

Why does North Korea hate South Korea and the USA?

For many centuries the Korean peninsula was a single state, known as Joseon. This was succeeded by the Korean Empire and then followed by a 35 year period of Japanese rule (1910-1945). Because the Allies won the Second World War, Korea came under the joint care of the Soviet Union and the USA, with a division line marked at the 38th parallel. However, the USSR refused to allow democratic elections and set up a Communist state in the north, with the USA countering with a pro-West government being selected in the south. These tensions led to the Korean War (1950-1953) as both sides attempted to unify the now divided state by force.

Since 1945 North Korea has been swamped with Communist propaganda and was used as a tool by the Soviet Union against their Cold War enemy, the USA. As the USSR and the USA clashed heads over political ideologies (and power) at a global level, so North Korea and South Korea did the same at a regional level. North Korea became more rigid and militarised whilst South Korea enjoyed growth and foreign investment. Even with the dissolution of the Soviet Union North Korea has held on tight to decades-old ideologies that Korea should be united (by force if necessary) and that the USA is the ultimate enemy; these are two of the sources for North Korea’s enmity and belligerence. That and the fact that McDonalds has no outlet in Pyongyang which means costly flights for Big Macs when the Supreme Leader fancies Western corruption.

If the Koreas go to war again, what are the potential outcomes?

Considering recent events, such as Kim Jong-un threatening to fire nuclear missiles at the USA and the North Korea media stating that the North is now officially at war with the South, there has been some speculation about what could happen if the two Koreas do go to war. If the war remained limited (without global intervention and nuclear weapons) then a possible scenario is the North invading under the initial pretence of a military exercise and bombarding all military installations and Seoul. This would give North Korea the upper hand for a while, but a US backed South Korea would eventually push the invaders back, possibly as far as Pyongyang.

If a Korean War became nuclear, it would still probably end in a US-South Korean victory, but the humanitarian costs would be considerably higher. A madman with control over nuclear missiles does not concern himself over civilian casualties. There are many that worry about China’s intervention, but China has been showing some diplomatic distance as of late and is probably more concerned in becoming even more of an economic powerhouse. Any war in the region would be extremely costly to those involved; China would gain a lot by the expenses incurred by the USA in a war. The most likely potential outcome would be a South Korean victory with China remaining neutral. As long as the USA doesn’t “accidentally” bomb China then World War III is not necessarily on the cards. As Albert Einstein used to say: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” – and World War V will be fought between pro-shell snails and anti-shell slugs.

How did Hugo Chávez come to power? Who supported him?

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias was born in 1954 in a very small town in western Venezuela. His parents were teachers and his upbringing has been described as poor, although he received a thorough education. He was a talented baseball player and had dreams of playing professionally. He went to the military academy of Venezuela and trained for 4 years to become an army officer. It was during this period that he started becoming politicised, being deeply disenchanted with what was considered an elitist and exclusive Venezuelan government. After being involved in creating various underground military movements and secretive parties, Chávez became part of an attempted military coup in 1992 which failed miserably and ended up with the charismatic leader enduring a stint in prison.

In 1994 he was freed from incarceration and enjoyed a surge in popularity due to his demands for governmental transparency, his championing of social reforms and his fiercely pro-Venezuelan rhetoric. Popular support came from the poor and working class sectors of society and he found political support from other left-wing idealists. After a lengthy tour throughout Latin America, Chávez returned to Venezuela and with the support of the Fifth Republic Movement party he won the 1998 presidential election, with 56.2% of the vote. His opponents tried to discredit him at incredible lengths, even accusing him of cannibalism. Later in his political career he was given the racist nickname “el mono” (“the monkey”). British politicians often get derogatory rhyming nicknames: Margaret Thatcher was the “milk snatcher”, Tony Blair was “Phoney Blair” and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt doesn’t have a nickname yet…

What were Chávez’s principal ideologies?

Chávez initially based his political ideologies on Bolivarianism, which is named after the legendary military leader Simón Bolívar who fought against Spanish imperialism in Latin America. The basic ideas combined socialism with democracy, Chávez demonstrated this idealistic mix by strengthening Venezuela’s economy during his rule. His strong socialist beliefs led him to create a huge number of welfare programs based around education, health and food and to offer more rights to indigenous tribes and those living in poverty. The democratic approach involved offering more checks and balances regarding power, so that the government, in theory, was to be accountable to the public. Initially, Chávez’s ideologies were reasonably sound. They alienated certain parts of the population (generally the very wealthy), but he did appear to be pleasing the majority. He wanted to make Venezuela more independent, to focus on its oil wealth and to trade with nations of similar left-wing ideologies.

However, as he got older and more ensconced into his office his ideologies seemed to become both more Marxist and autocratic. His electorate became more disaffected as his political beliefs started to sound similar to those of revolutionary Russia and Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward (which cost anywhere from 20 to 40 million Chinese lives). Chávez seemed to succumb to the well-used phrase attributed to the 1st Baron Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This often happens to men in positions of great or even dictatorial power, such as Ferdinand Marcos who stole billions from the people of the Philippines, Richard Nixon who notoriously had his opponents spied upon and Graham Taylor who for some reason let Carlton Palmer play 18 times for England. Do we not like that!

What effect did Chávez have on the world stage? What happened in his 2nd election?

Unsurprisingly, Chávez annoyed a lot of people, even to the extent of being told to shut up by King Juan Carlos of Spain. Chávez was blustering; he liked to speak and was content with being controversial and to many, inspirational. He rejected what he believed was modern American imperialism and embraced well known left-wing states such as Cuba, Russia and China. Much to the distaste of the American executive, Chávez was also known to get on very well with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Chávez was not afraid of rocking the international boat but he did find himself frequently associating with the pariahs of global politics, which also included the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the current leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. As for the UK, Chávez did not approve of British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he did help make bus travel in London cheaper for low income families due to an oil deal he made with Ken Livingstone.

Naturally, such a polarising man like Chávez attracted fierce opposition as well as staunch support. His terms in office were not free of trouble, Chávez was re-elected to power with a greater majority in 2000, but there were accusations of fraud, corruption and there was even an attempted coup in 2002 which ousted him from power for just 47 hours. By 2009 Chávez had won a referendum which would allow him to stay in power indefinitely, thus increasing the criticism that he was becoming, in essence, a dictator (reinforced by his policy of centralisation). By the time he died, he had been in power for 14 years during 4 terms of office. Chávez famously called George W Bush “the devil” and compared the American president to a donkey.

How did Hugo Chávez die? What is his legacy expected to be?

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez died on 5 March 2013 at the age of 58. He had been suffering from cancer and had been getting treatment in Cuba. He was weakened by respiratory infections, which combined with his grave illness, led to his demise. Tributes for the late leader flooded in from around the world, with even the US administration sending its condolences.

Chávez’s legacy will be multi-faceted. He will no doubt be mythologized, a revolutionary who ousted a corrupt and selfish government and rescued millions of people from poverty and ignorance. He had the courage to resist international pressure and was keen to tighten links with fellow Latin American nations. People who benefitted from his leadership will remember him as a man who gave voice and action to their concerns. However, it has been commented that because of his left-wing beliefs becoming more radicalised (possibly even heading towards Communism), a political shift towards the centre could be likely in near future Latin American elections. Chávez claimed he wanted to stay in power to see his social program come to fruition, but he was sailing desperately close to dictatorship and was experiencing increasing opposition in the media, both at home and abroad. Chávez will remain a controversial revolutionary figure for decades to come, akin to Che Guevara, Malcolm X and Justin Bieber.

What was the most successful Star Trek film and which is considered to be the best?

Star Trek Into Darkness is actually the 12th feature film in the franchise. There were 6 films featuring the original William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy cast, then 4 films with the Patrick Stewart/Jonathan Frakes crew. The 2009 reboot and its sequel are the 11th and 12th. The first 11 films as a whole have grossed over $1.5 billion, with the 2009 effort having the highest gross at over $385 million. The first ever Star Trek film made $100 million over its budget and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home also performed well. However, the series was pretty much mothballed thanks to the poor returns of Star Trek: Nemesis, which made $67 million on a $60 million budget (even though it had future Batman villain Tom Hardy as the principal antagonist). The 2009 reboot is also considered the best received out of the series, scoring 95% on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes. Other highly rated films in the franchise include the gloriously kitsch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (91%) and Star Trek: First Contact (92%). On the other end of the scale, the films that only die-hard trekkers will watch more than once include Star Trek: Nemesis (38%) and the admittedly baffling Star Trek: The Motion Picture (42%). But even these two poor outings rise above the hopeless mess that was the William Shatner directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. This is the one where Spock’s villainous half-brother is looking for God in the centre of the universe, only to find out that God isn’t a trekker and actually prefers Battlestar Galactica.

What is the difference between a “trekkie” and a “trekker”?

The essential difference between a “trekkie” and a “trekker” can actually be demonstrated by this article. If you read the name Dr Carol Marcus and it meant nothing to you then you are either simply a film fan curious about the new Star Trek film or possibly a “trekkie” who has holes in their Star Trek canon knowledge (also known as “a life”). However, if the mention of the name Dr Carol Marcus got you excited, because you know that she is the inventor of the Genesis device and also the future mother of Kirk’s son, David Marcus, then you truly are a “trekker” and probably need to get out more often. It is generally accepted that “trekker” is the term for the more serious fan whereas “trekkie” is the term for a fan that enjoys the series but perhaps does not embrace it as much and does not worry about the Starships having the correct registration plate. A trekker would know that NCC means Naval Construction Contract and that James T. Kirk’s middle name is Tiberius, whereas a trekkie would put on a pair of Vulcan ears and make crude jokes about beaming and Ferengis. Finally, a true trekker would know what the Klingon phrase Hab SoSlI’ Quch!*means whereas a trekkie would be busy learning High Elvish for the next Hobbit film.

*This is Klingon for the rather insulting phrase: “your mother has a smooth forehead!”

Who is the man behind Alan Partridge? When was the character created?

The man behind insufferable media personality Alan Gordon Partridge is Mancunian comedian Steve Coogan. The comic was well-known for his impressions and character creations, and Partridge was simply one of a long list of obnoxious personalities for Coogan to experiment with (along with Paul & Pauline Calf and Portuguese crooner Tony Ferrino). However, it was the appearance of Alan Partridge in the BBC Radio 4 series On the Hour in 1991 that saw the birth of a monster. A monster who has no qualms in making comments such as “Electrolysis. For hair removal… and… dissidents”.

Since his 1991 spawning, Partridge has appeared in Knowing Me Knowing You, I’m Alan Partridge, Mid Morning Matters and Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life. He has also had radio shows, documentaries, live shows and web shows. The media hungry fame whore that is Alan Partridge has swung his handbag up a number of avenues to reach his current lofty position of radio show host at North Norfolk Digital. Alan is known for his odd ways of expressing his pleasure, including stating “Jurassic Park”, “kiss my face” and “back of the net”. After a particularly enjoyable bout in bed he stated: “Well Sonia, that was classic intercourse. So… thanks!” Charming.

What are some of the more memorable moments in Alan Partridge’s life?

During his working life, Alan has carried out some extraordinary actions. He drove barefoot to Dundee from Cambridgeshire in his Vauxhall Vectra whilst binging on Toblerone. He memorably shot and killed a restaurant critic with an antique duelling pistol on his chat show Knowing Me Knowing You (a-ha). He has been known to book a hotel room under the thoughtless name of “The Real IRA” just to test their security and he also assaulted a disabled person with a turkey. He even told a farmer: “you make pigs smoke”.

Those moments alone would be enough to traumatise the average person, but they are mere blips in the chaos that is Partridge’s existence. After insulting the farming community he found himself trapped underneath a dead cow and even found himself in the home of a crazed fan who worshipped the ground he walked on. Although Alan seems sexually repressed, he has also managed to get himself involved with swingers and professes an interest in Thai kathoeys (ladyboys). His insults can be interestingly obscure and withering: “Smell my cheese, you mother!”, “You feed beefburgers to swans!” and “No way you big spastic, you’re a mentalist!”

Why did Paolo Di Canio never play for Italy?

Political misfit and populist playmaker Paolo Di Canio never turned out for the senior Italian team, even though the current Sunderland manager won 9 caps (and scored 2 goals) for the under 21 team. As he was active from 1985 until 2008, this means he missed out on the 2006 World Cup when Italy became champions for the 4th time, although he was hardly at his peak in 2006. However, surely he was good enough to have been in the 2000 team that got beaten 2-1 by France in the UEFA European Championship final, so why wasn’t he selected?
The most likely answer is the embarrassment of riches that Italy was enjoying at the time. Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Luigi Di Biagio, Filippo Inzaghi, Christian Vieri, Marco Delvecchio, Fabrizio Ravanelli… there was no need to choose a controversial striker plying his trade at places such as Celtic and West Ham when there were those players to pick from. Another major contributing factor was his frequent confrontations with managers: Fabio Capello called Di Canio a “penis face” and Giovanni Trapattoni said he would pick Di Canio for his 2002 World Cup squad “only if there’s an outbreak of bubonic plague”. Di Canio has authority issues; he has the Latin word “dux” meaning “leader” tattooed on his arm and probably refuses to take his shoes off at airport security.

What was Paolo Di Canio’s best ever moment on the pitch?

There is no doubting Di Canio had talent. He scored a lot of goals in his career and was a fan favourite because of his no nonsense approach and hard work ethic. When considering his best ever moment on the pitch, many observers might choose the time he actually stopped a game so that an injured Everton goalkeeper could get treatment… although possibly he just realised it was a blatant handball, pointed to the goalie and ended up with a FIFA Fair Play Award for it.

But Di Canio was a professional footballer, as admirable as it is stopping a game and showing his sportsmanship, at the end of the day fans want to see amazing goals. So the best moment on the pitch for Paulo Di Canio was this scorching volley he scored against Wimbledon in 2000.

What was Paolo Di Canio’s worst ever moment on the pitch?

It can’t be all flying volleys and catching footballs for Di Canio, he was known for being unruly on and off the pitch. The fact he showed such impressive fair play in 2000 may have karmically balanced out his worst moment on a football field, which had occurred 2 years earlier in 1998. Di Canio was playing for Sheffield Wednesday at the time and was struck by a moment of madness in a game against Arsenal that earned him an 11 match ban and a hefty fine of £10,000.

The Arsenal and Sheffield players squared up after some rough football and indulged in a mass pushing and shoving contest, with Di Canio as a central figure. Referee Paul Alcock tried to defuse the situation and showed the incendiary Di Canio a red card. Di Canio literally saw red and sent Alcock rather comically to the floor. It was the worst thing that had happened to Alcock since his childhood days when classmates discovered his unfortunate surname. Perhaps he should have become a referee in Luxembourg instead where there was once allegedly a professional footballer called Frank Awanka.

What’s going on with Paolo Di Canio’s “Roman” salute? Why is he considered notorious?

Di Canio has admitted he is a fascist, which is enough to give any public figure a measure of notoriety. He has been photographed making Roman salutes (which were later adopted by Nazi Germany) at football games whilst playing for Lazio and is known for his relationship with Lazio’s Ultras. Lazio hardcore fans have far right wing beliefs, so receiving a fascist salute from a Lazio player like Di Canio would only endear him further into their hearts. Di Canio is believed to be a Lazio Ultra himself, being initiated into the group as a boy. Some of these Ultras have embraced the nationalism and racism that fascism often prescribes, shouting abuse at black footballers and using the provocative initials SS for aggravating purposes (S.S. Lazio is the name of the club).

Di Canio has also been publicly linked with a man called Paolo Signorelli, who died in 2010. Di Canio attended Signorelli’s funeral and there are photos of the footballer surrounded by mourners all giving the Roman Salute (which had been used by Mussolini in Fascist Italy before Hitler adopted its use). Signorelli was linked to a militant neo-fascist group which was involved in the 1980 Bologna massacre, when 85 people were killed in a bomb attack. Di Canio has also spoken about playing in front of Mafia hitmen and has expressed his admiration for the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was shot by partisans in 1945. Such are Di Canio’s extreme political leanings that Sunderland Vice Chairman David Miliband felt he had to resign from the club once Di Canio was hired as manager. That and the fact that Miliband just got a job as head of the International Rescue Committee based in New York with a salary of £300,000 (and was tired of being paid in pies and chips).

What was Margaret Thatcher up to in the 1970s, before coming to power?

The late former British Prime Minister, Margaret Hilda Thatcher, was born in Grantham in 1925. Her father had a couple of grocery shops and was interested in politics, which he clearly passed onto his daughter. Thatcher graduated from Oxford with a science degree and managed to become an MP in 1959 after several election losses. In 1970, when the Conservative Party became the governing party, Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education and Science.

It was in the 1970s that the public became more aware of Thatcher, especially around the “Milk Snatcher” episode when, under pressure from the Treasury, she found herself forced to abolish free milk for schoolchildren of certain ages. She was Leader of the Opposition by 1975 after being backed by the powerful 1922 Committee. During this time she studied more about economics, took voice coaching lessons and earned her nickname “The Iron Lady” from journalists working for the Soviet Defence Ministry, because of her boisterous attacks on policies of the USSR. As the Labour government lost popularity, especially around the Winter of Discontent (1978-79), the UK prepared for its first female PM. Thatcher famously said “the lady’s not for turning”… she was at a Chippendales show at the time.

What riots occurred whilst Thatcher was in power and what were they about?

In 1981, barely 2 years after Thatcher had occupied 10 Downing Street, the UK suffered from a series of violent race riots, with the main riots occurring in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool. The Conservative Party had give the police greater powers, which saw a disproportionate percentage of young black men being stopped and searched just from what was classed as “reasonable suspicion”. With high unemployment and deep resentment building, all it took was for some heavy-handed policing (and a mistaken case of police assisting an injured black youth but perceived by onlookers as questioning him) and the anger became explosive. Hundreds were injured in the ensuing Brixton and Toxteth riots.

Towards the end of her career, Thatcher also witnessed the Poll Tax Riots, concerning the Community Charge introduced by the Conservative Party in 1989. Rioters in London clashed with police in March 1990 leading to over 300 arrests. The national enmity towards the Community Charge was a contributing factor to Thatcher’s decision to relinquish power in November 1990. It was arguably her one biggest political regret, well that and not launching her handbag at Nigel Lawson’s head for telling her to shut up when she was busy interrupting the Education Secretary.

What effects did the Falklands War have on Thatcher’s career?

Thatcher was nearing the end of her first term in office when the military junta that directed Argentina at the time decided to invade the Falkland Islands. From 2 April to 14 June 1982 the UK and Argentina fought each other in the Falklands War, a conflict which gave Thatcher the opportunity to make some rousing speeches on television and to become a figurehead for the British military involvement. Over the course of just longer than 2 months great losses, including the sinking of HMS Ardent, HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry were balanced with victories such as the Battle of Goose Green and the Battle of Mount Tumbledown, and the surrender of the Argentine governor in Port Stanley. The war cost 907 lives in total.

The feeling in the British media was generally jubilant, although many questioned the legality of the sinking of ARA General Belgrano which saw 323 Argentines killed after the ship was torpedoed outside a Total Exclusion Zone (although the Belgrano’s captain later admitted that his orders were to attack any British ship and he considered the attack by HMS Conqueror not to be a war crime). Thatcher and the Conservatives rode the wave of national pride, which combined with a strengthening economy and a weak opposition, gave the Conservatives a second term in government in 1983. The war had boosted Thatcher’s career and helped her win a landslide victory. The Argentine government banned the playing of music in English on the radio at the time, which means they missed out on legends like Bucks Fizz, Adam Ant and cruelly, even Captain Sensible.

Why did Thatcher introduce the Poll Tax? Was it because she was angry with Spitting Image?

Although Margaret Thatcher’s puppet was easily one of the most recognisable on Spitting Image (which ran from 1984-1996), it is unlikely the harsh caricature led her to punish the country with the Poll Tax. Her puppet was very masculine (even to the extent of being voiced by a man), smoked cigars, bullied the Cabinet mercilessly (famously calling them “vegetables”) and had a screeching and menacing tone which approached terrifying at times. Her hair was hair-sprayed within an inch of destroying the ozone layer and her eyes seemed to pierce into the viewer’s soul.

However, as cruel and scathing as her Spitting Image puppet was, the Community Charge was not created in response to it. It was actually created by Victor Rothschild, William Waldegrave and Kenneth Baker (who Spitting Image transformed into a slug in their series). The idea was to replace the old ratings system based on the rental value of a property with a tax that applied to each adult resident. It was considered such a product of Thatcherism that Michael Heseltine had to challenge for leadership to try and regain some of the lost public support for the Conservative Party. By then it was too late for Thatcher to rebuild her power, and Spitting Image had lost its greatest puppet, as the John Major one was as bland as the man himself. It is not known if Margaret Thatcher ever held a chicken in the air or attempted to stick a deckchair up her nose though.

What does the G.I. in G.I. Joe stand for? Is it the best selling action figure range ever?

Some people might think G.I. stands for something like General Infantryman or Government Inductee but the truth is even more prosaic, it stands for Government Issue. The term originally stood for Galvanised Iron and appeared in US military records for products made from this specially coated metal. Eventually the term got linked to any military product and when the “Joe” was added, it referred to any American soldier. G.I. Joe claims to be the world’s best selling action figure range, but this could also be claimed by ranges from the Star Wars universe. Kenner, who made Star Wars figures before Hasbro took over, sold over 300 million figures in just 7 years, whereas it took G.I. Joe over 20 years to sell its first 200 million units. However, both of these could end up being beaten by Skylander figures, which have sold over 100 million units since 2011. What is Skylander? It’s a videogame that interacts with toy figures. Yes, it’s similar to Pokémon and no, you should not try and understand it if you’re over 12 years old.

Which came first, G.I. Joe or Action Man?

G.I. Joe came first. The action figure was created by the American toy company Hasbro, which was also behind household names such as Cluedo, Monopoly, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. The figures were originally released in 1964 and were labelled as action figures, as the marketing people realised boys were not interested in playing with toys that could be called dolls. The figures were originally 12 inches in height and sold well, before being reduced to 3.75 inch sizes (inspired by the success of Kenner’s Star Wars figures). The British Action Man was actually a licensed version of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe made by Leicestershire-based company Palitoy (acquired and closed down by Hasbro in the 1990s). The first Action Man was released in 1966, but was very similar to the American original. By the 1970s, Action Man took on a more British look, being available in a Life Guards ceremonial uniform and having more realistic hair and gripping hands. G.I. Joe and Action Man were never packaged together, no doubt saving Action Man from suffering any friendly fire incidents.

What is the rarest or most valuable Action Man? Is it the one with the eagle eyes?

Playground squabbles from the 1970s and 1980s will have often involved discussions over the rarity or value of various Action Man figures. Without ignoring the joke about a fanatically frugal father giving his son an empty box at Christmas and guffawing that it was an Action Man deserter (which would be rare if official), finding the rarest Action Man is quite a challenge. “Eagle eyes” often seemed to be a defining characteristic feature of valuable figures, this Action Man could actually move his eyes, but they became common by the late 70s and early 80s.

Some might even remember conversations of a rather ironic and tasteless Nazi German soldier figure existing. Palitoy did release Action Man figures in several German Second World War uniforms, but these were modified to avoid causing offence. Naturally prototypes and very early models in mint condition would be worth a lot to collectors, but it seems the most valuable Action Man that is not impossible to find would be the figurines dressed in various official football club colours, which can fetch hundreds of pounds on eBay. The 40th Anniversary set of Action Man has been listed on eBay for £2,500, but this consists of several different figures. These pale into comparison with G.I. Joe, the original 1963 prototype sold for $200,000 to a comic book distributor. It probably looks nice next to his solid gold Superman statue and his life-size Batmobile as he enjoys his meals-for-one whilst watching Firefly.

How did Quentin Tarantino get his break in the film industry?

Even though Tarantino is still only 49 he seems to have been making films for a long time, Reservoir Dogs is over 20 years old. Clearly he always loved films and originally wanted to be an actor, but a career working in a video store disrupted that intention. Fortunately, that video store was in Manhattan Beach, California which is apparently an area teeming with movie executives, handy for wannabe directors and screenwriters. Tarantino got to know a young film producer by the name of Lawrence Bender and after a failed attempt at breaking into film with My Best Friend’s Birthday (1987) the two worked on Reservoir Dogs. When Harvey Keitel got involved as an actor and co-producer, the project suddenly found its legs and the rest is film history. Tarantino loved films, loved talking about them and loved writing. He did have some dumb luck, but he was catapulted to success by his raw talent, good connections and the fact that he wasn’t working at Blockbuster in Hull.

What are Quentin Tarantino’s best and worst films? Which was the most successful?

Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino’s best film. It is beautifully-layered, has a whole host of incredible performances from rising stars and resurrected careers (John Travolta and Bruce Willis had both been going through a rough patch before Pulp Fiction). The writing and dialogue is a strong as you can find in motion pictures; snappy comments, eloquent speeches and funny wisecracks litter the script like sodden handkerchiefs on the stadium floor after a One Direction concert. Jackie Brown is arguably the worst film directed by Tarantino. It seemed a bit slapdash and disjointed when compared to the smooth liquid-like treat that was Pulp Fiction, and it wasn’t as visceral as Reservoir Dogs. However, it was hardly a dire mess and is still well regarded. By box office total, Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s most successful film, grossing $321 million. However, that film cost $70 million to make (in 2009), whereas Pulp Fiction cost $8.5 million and made over $200 million (in 1994). It was enough money to keep Tarantino in esoteric 1970s vinyl albums, blaxploitation videos and bad haircuts for the rest of his life.

How many Oscars has Tarantino won? What other accolades has he received?

A man with a filmography containing classics such as Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds should probably have a truckload of Oscars. Considering Tarantino also wrote True Romance and Natural Born Killers it would be easy to see how his writing skills would also win a multitude of plaudits. But out of 16 Oscar nominations, Tarantino’s films have only won 2 awards. Tarantino has no luck with the Golden Globes (2 wins from 20 nominations) or the BAFTAS (3 from 25) either. However, he did get a Best Writing Oscar (Original Screenplay) for Pulp Fiction, shared with Roger Avary. Tarantino has won a prestigious Palme d’Or, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and two National Society of Film Critics prizes, all for his work with Pulp Fiction. He won a bucketful of directing and writing awards from many critics associations for Inglourious Basterds. But he still hasn’t won that elusive Oscar for Best Director, although he is in good company, as multiple-nominated directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini and Robert Altman never won the coveted trophy. The Academy has never been too great at awarding deserving directors though; both Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen have 7 nominations each but only 1 statuette apiece. In all fairness, Quentin Tarantino lost for Pulp Fiction against Robert Zemeckis for Forrest Gump, truly the greatest film about table tennis ever. After Balls of Fury that is.

Was Jesus actually born on 25 December? Who else has been born on Christmas Day?

There is no actual historical data available giving a precise date of birth for Jesus of Nazareth. Of course 25 December is the traditional celebration for his birth, but September has been touted as a more likely birth month. Some Biblical scholars believe the founder of Christianity was born at the end of September or even the start of October. Some believe early church leaders chose 25 December because it already existed as a festival for pagans and Romans and aided in the eventual Christianisation of these people. It is also 9 months after the Annunciation (when Mary was told by Gabriel she was to conceive), which is traditionally set to 25 March. Lots of people have shared this traditional birthdate with Jesus, including the genius scientist Sir Isaac Newton, the great actor Humphrey Bogart, the camp comedian Kenny Everett and the posh singer Dido (so posh her full name is actually Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong). Paddington Bear’s birthday is on Christmas Day, but he was allowed to have another birthday on 25 June, as everyone born on or near Christmas Day hates the words “joint Christmas/Birthday present”.

What are the most ridiculously expensive and obscenely lavish Christmas gifts available to buy?

The most expensive and decadent Christmas present ever offered to a potential buyer was a matching jet plane/megayacht combo which retailed at an immense $500 million! The jet is no ordinary jet, it is the huge A380 (the double-decker of passenger planes). The plane and yacht would also feature a personalised design created by Patrick Knowles. As the A380 is already on back order, the customer would have had to wait a few years before receiving this incredible gift. As for other obscenely lavish Christmas presents, well how about a brand new Bugatti Veyron for around £1.2 million? Or some stocking fillers like an YSL Crocodile Upton bag for around £17,000 or a pink and white diamond-encrusted Vertu phone for £46,000? If you would like to buy something a bit more bizarre and you happen to be a billionaire then perhaps a Triton 1000 submarine for £900,000 would suffice? Or you could even have a handmade portrait of you and your beloved made by artist Vik Muniz for £68,000. But hang it somewhere cool as it will be made of chocolate. Buying chocolate portraits for thousands of pounds is one sure sign that you are filthy rich; along with being found attractive by astonishingly beautiful women, suddenly having a lot of unscrupulous politicians as friends and actually affording to pay for a train ticket from Manchester to London without crying.

How much is the Christmas market worth? Has it become too commercial?

The Christmas market is unsurprisingly huge. In Australia, shoppers spend an estimated £20 billion over the Christmas period. Britons will spend over £1.4 billion just on presents for their children and will spend a total of over £22 billion. Americans will spend in the region of $450 billion for the Christmas holiday, which is about £280 billion. So just 3 countries will spend over £300 billion for Christmas. As Christmas is celebrated in dozens of countries worldwide this figure will increase considerably. Taking into account the amount of money being spent and the trappings involved with Christmas (extra food & drink, presents, decorations, trees) it is apparent that the holiday has become too commercial. It has been reported that £60 million of food is tossed away in the UK at Christmas time as we overspend on mince pies and sprouts. Living in capitalist societies gives people the freedom to buy what they want and it is economic evolution that certain things become commercialised (just like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Easter). But keep in mind when you go to unbutton your pants to let your stomach hang out, that means the evil advertisers have won again (or you refuse to throw food away and just ate half a turkey).

What are the best/worst Christmas cracker jokes ever written?

Christmas isn’t complete until a series of usually terrible cracker jokes have been told at the dinner table. There is a reason why the cake and pudding should have brandy in them; bad jokes are always funnier when you’re a bit drunk. It is believed Christmas crackers were invented by Thomas J Smith in London in 1847, and it seems that many of the jokes date back to that time. Here are 10 of the best/worst (depending on your sense of humour) Christmas cracker jokes we could find: What do you call a man with a pole through his leg? Rodney. Who was England’s first chiropodist? William the Corncurer. On which side do chickens have the most feathers? The outside. What’s furry and minty? A polo bear. Who hides in the bakery at Christmas? A mince spy. What did the fish say when it swam into a wall? Dam. How do you make a tissue dance? Put a boogie in it. What do you give a man who has everything? Antibiotics. What is Santa’s favourite pizza? One that’s deep pan, crisp and even. What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas Quacker!

How many films are in the original The Evil Dead series? When were they released?

There were 3 films in the original The Evil Dead series. In 1981 Sam Raimi released The Evil Dead, which had its roots in a short film called Within the Woods which Raimi had created in 1978. The budget for the film was a measly $400,000 and it grossed about $2.4 million, so quite a healthy return. However, the film became infamous as part of the “video nasty” controversy surrounding a series of horror films renowned for their gore or distasteful themes. It didn’t help the film’s cause that it contained a notorious rape scene instigated by trees.

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn came out in 1987, when the world had become a bit easier going with splatter films. The film contained more humour than its predecessor and was also positively received by audiences and critics alike, grossing over $10 million from a $3.6 million budget. The continued success led Raimi to direct a third film in the series, 1992’s Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness. The hero, Ash, found himself in a medieval setting with his trusty chainsaw fighting off a host of skeletons. This film wasn’t rated as highly as the other films, as it seemed to descend into pure spoof. However, it still made a profit, grossing $21 million from a $13 million budget. Evil Dead (2013) is considered a reboot, but there will be an official 4th film with Army of Darkness 2. The next 80s classic to get rebooted will be RoboCop (in 2014), hopefully followed by other great films from the decade such as Mac and Me, Leonard Part 6 and the masterpiece that was Jaws: The Revenge.

Which future famous director worked as an assistant editor on the original The Evil Dead?

The Evil Dead helped create the careers of people like Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Robert Tapert was a producer (he later produced Xena and Spartacus and is married to Lucy Lawless) and the film also featured Sam’s little brother Ted, who later appeared in The Grudge, Xena and seaQuest DSV. But among the crew was a future Academy Award winner and half of a pair of modern cinema’s critical darlings: Joel Coen.

Coen was working as an assistant to Edna Paul, the editor of The Evil Dead. Although Paul did most of the editing, Coen did provide some minor editing work and he was a fan of Raimi’s style, the two ended up becoming friends. By 1984 Joel, with his brother Ethan, was writing and directing the acclaimed Blood Simple; as of 2013 the brothers have won 4 Academy Awards for their films and have been nominated 13 times. One of their most lauded films was No Country for Old Men which saw Javier Bardem win an Oscar for an outstanding performance and outstanding hairstyle.

Zombie films seem to have been around forever, what was the first recognised zombie film?

The first feature length zombie film is believed to be White Zombie, which was released in 1932. This means zombies have been plaguing movies for 80 years, so they have been around for a very long time. White Zombie was an American film directed by Victor Halperin, who went on to direct its sequel, Revolt of the Zombies, in 1936. The film starred everyone’s favourite black and white horror film actor, Bela Lugosi. The film was less sensationalist than its modern counterparts, Lugosi played an evil voodoo practitioner in Haiti who could bring the dead back to life as mindless zombies. In real life, zombies were supposed to be dead people who could be brought back to life by witchcraft; this kind of folklore was prevalent in Haiti. Initial reviews for the film weren’t brilliant; the acting was mostly derided (except for Lugosi). Considering playing a zombie is not the hardest thing for an actor to accomplish, it makes you wonder how bad the supporting cast was. Perhaps the zombies were too wooden, fake and unrealistic, like Jennifer Aniston in every rom-com she keeps appearing in.

Which directors are most famous for being associated with zombie films?

Zombie films continued to be released sporadically after White Zombie, Revenge of the Zombies came out in 1943, Teenage Zombies in 1959 and The Plague of the Zombies in 1966. But it was George A Romero (nicknamed “Godfather of the Zombies”) who really got the zombie film ball rolling with his Night of the Living Dead in 1968. With films like Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead it is safe to say Romero is undoubtedly the most famous zombie film director ever. Several other directors have become linked with the zombie genre such as Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil series) and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead series). Less well known to the general public include directors like Amando de Ossorio (Blind Dead series), Brian Yuzna (Re-Animator films), Lucio Fulci (“Godfather of Gore”) and Timo Rose (German horror film director). As for actors, apparently Keanu Reeves is one of the best ever zombies, as he practically sleepwalks through every film he is in (although in all fairness, some of the dialogue in The Matrix Reloaded could put anyone into a zombie-like coma).

What are the numerous reasons for zombies plaguing the Earth in films?

White Zombie had zombies in it because of Bela Lugosi’s character’s mystical powers. However, it seems that horrific viruses and clandestine government experiments are the most common causes for zombies eating brains in movies. Night of the Living Dead supposes radiation contamination for being the reason that dead people suddenly feel peckish for human flesh, whereas Army of Darkness has the dead rising because of the power of evil books. Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later goes with a nasty virus called Rage and Resident Evil also goes with a genetically engineered virus (the T-virus). The new Brad Pitt zombie film due out in 2013, World War Z, is based on a novel which also goes with the tried and trusted virus scenario (Solanum). Zombie Apocalypse plumps for a virus, the disturbingly amusing Zombieland went with a mutated strain of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Re-Animator uses a rather fluorescent looking reagent to create zombies. So if you are concerned about becoming a zombie, stay away from mutated or outer-space viruses, don’t work for secretive government laboratories and avoid crazy looking doctors carrying needles full of luminous green fluid. And don’t watch any film with Ashton Kutcher in it. Ever.

What is the greatest zombie film ever?

Night of the Living Dead (1968 version) is the greatest zombie film ever. Romero made zombies much nastier than they had been before, they became cannibals and ate the flesh of the living (Romero even had one young female character eat the corpse of her father). The zombie threat had arrived in mainland USA and was not limited to just a few people being manipulated by an evil sorcerer. This classic work by Romero currently has a rating of 96% on film review site Rotten Tomatoes, an incredibly high score for a film which can be classified as a splatter film. Horror films are notoriously mauled by critics upon release, whereas Night of the Living Dead has been chosen by the US Library of Congress for preservation. Other highly rated zombie films include Zombieland (90%), 28 Days Later (88%) and Re-Animator (93%). The original zombie film, White Zombie, has a decent rating of 79%. Sadly, the genre-crossing masterpiece that is Zombie Strippers only rates 38%; which is shocking when you consider it stars horror film legend Robert Englund, porn film “legend” Jenna Jameson and even former UFC champion Tito Ortiz as a bouncer. Breasts in abundance and buckets of blood couldn’t save this camp monstrosity from being returned to the grave. If only it could have taken the cast of TOWIE with it.

What is the most famous special force in the world?

The most famous special force in the world is the SAS. Founded in 1941 by David Stirling, the Special Air Service has become the model used by many countries when forming their own special force units. Originally created to cause some bother to the German forces in the desert during the Second World War, the SAS has expanded to cover a multitude of different purposes from anti-terrorism activities to rescue operations.

Other famous special forces include the American Delta Force (based on the SAS), the Australian SAS (SASR), the German KSK, Israel’s Sayeret Matkal (which has the same motto as the SAS with “Who Dares Wins”) and Russian Spetsnaz (such as Spetsnaz GRU and Alpha Group). However, many of these forces were based on the British SAS, which gives this elite group the title of the most famous special force in the world. Joining the SAS is infamously hard, you have to be able to run 1.5 miles in under 9m 30s, manage 44 press ups & 50 situps and be able to watch a whole episode of Jersey Shore without saying the word “douche” once.

What is the most elite and feared special force in the world?

Although the SAS and other British special force units such as the highly trained SBS (Special Boat Service) and secretive SRR (Special Reconnaissance Regiment) are practically the elite of the elite, it is possible to argue that there is one special force that is as equally feared as this fearsome collection. This would be the typically clumsily titled unit, the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU but better known to the world as SEAL Team Six.

The US military is teeming with special force groups: MARSOC, Green Berets, 24th STS, Delta Force and so on. SEAL Team Six are at the top of the pile; they killed Osama Bin Laden, they are the ones who reportedly make up the majority of the CIA’s Special Activities Division (“black ops”) and they are authorised to use pre-emptive action against terrorists (shoot on sight). They are also part of Task Force 88 (along with fellow special forces such as Delta Force operators and the 75th Ranger Regiment) who get to hunt high priority terrorists all over the world. A strong contender for the most feared special force in the world was the A Team, until it was revealed that even though they shot around 5,000 rounds per show, they never actually hit anyone.

Which special force has the craziest training regime?

Like many other special forces questions, it is too easy to get swayed by national prejudice. A British soldier would claim that the SAS had the hardest training regime, whereas an American would of course highlight the incredibly tough training that Delta Force and SEALs go through. Both Russia and Israel put their special forces through the grinder during training, but possibly the craziest training regime belongs to any special force that decides to send their operatives to the Escuela de Lanceros, run by the Colombian Army. Units that have used the Escuela de Lanceros include the French Foreign Legion, MARSOC and various other British and American special forces.

This South American course includes mountain and jungle warfare training techniques, the ominously named March of Death (carrying 60-70 pounds of dead weight through mountains and jungles for up to 22 miles), spending days in a mock concentration camp suffering from food and sleep deprivation and enduring intensive physical training over a period of over 70 days (SAS jungle training in Belize lasts for 42 days). As a lot of the course is based in the jungle you also have to tolerate giant scary insects, various unsavoury diseases and the constant wetness brought on by the humidity of the region. SAS recruits may have to run around Pen y Fan in the wind and rain but at least they don’t need to be worried about being swallowed by a 30ft anaconda.

What famous people have been involved in or part of a special forces unit?

Many ex-special forces types have gone on to have successful careers in other fields, such as the politician Paddy Ashdown who was in the SBS and MI6 or presenter Bear Grylls who was in 21 SAS (reservist). Other famous ex SAS soldiers include TV personality Chris Ryan (not his real name), writer and columnist Andy McNab (also a pseudonym) and race driver Ben Collins, who has been the Stig on Top Gear (UK car enthusiast show).

Further afield, people who have served as Navy SEALs include the former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura (reservist), the great grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, the aptly named Theodore Roosevelt IV and Richard Machowicz, who is one of the hosts on Deadliest Warrior. The French Foreign Legion attracted royalty with princes from Vietnam, Denmark, Serbia, France and Monaco all serving as officers and even the illustrious songwriter Cole Porter is believed to have been a legionnaire. Famous people who ironically had nothing to do with special forces include John Wayne (star of The Green Berets), Delta Force action hero Chuck Norris (although he was an Air Force policeman) and EastEnders (UK soap opera) hardnut Ross Kemp (star of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the New Wimbledon Theatre in 2007).

When did Jack Kerouac write On the Road? How was it received? Should I read it?

Kerouac started writing what became On the Road in the 1940s, when he was in his late twenties. It was published in 1957 and received some excellent reviews initially but there was a downturn in the criticism, mostly aimed at the meandering nature of the work: to paraphrase Talking Heads, the book was more Road to Nowhere than Road to Somewhere. But it was the flair and style which Kerouac exhibited on the pages that appealed to later reviews which have styled the book as a modern classic. If you are interested in how Kerouac thought, what motivates people who travel, why some people react or think differently to what is considered the norm, then On the Road is definitely worth a read. It is one of the shining lights of the Beat Generation, along with the incredible Howl by Allen Ginsberg or the rather baffling but important work Naked Lunch, written by William S. Burroughs. (It is not a straightforward novel to read and takes some effort to follow, but it is certainly easier to read than À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust and a damn sight more interesting than anything Katie Price ever spewed up.)

What was the Beat Generation? Who were its pioneers?

The Beat Generation was an artistic movement that appeared in the USA after the Second World War. It was Kerouac himself who coined the term “Beat Generation” (although he admitted the term wasn’t wholly his idea). He said the word “beat” was meant to signify “beatific” or to be compared with a musical beat. Their unwritten agenda was about broadening minds and horizons, embracing Eastern culture and rejecting material possessions. The Beat Generation was more concerned with exploring the mind rather than the body. Pioneers of the Beat Generation included Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Writers and poets who were associated with the movement included Ken Kesey (writer of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest), author Joyce Johnson, Pulitzer Prize winner and poet Gary Snyder and the poet Gregory Corso. The Beat Generation was highly influential on music; John Lennon was a fan of Jack Kerouac which may have been one of the reasons for the curious spelling of The Beatles. The Beat Generation had a huge effect on hippie culture and is where the term “beatnik” came from.

What is the big controversy surrounding Beat poet Allen Ginsberg?

Allen Ginsberg is arguably one of the greatest American poets. He was one of the integral three main writers in the Beat Generation and he won many prestigious awards such as the National Book Award and the Knight of Arts and Letters honour from France. His masterpiece Howl is considered a great example of American literature. So it seems out of place that such a man would be associated with NAMBLA, the hugely controversial North American Man/Boy Love Association. NAMBLA claims it supports mutually consensual relations between a man and a boy and that there should be a reform in the age of consent. However, many believe it is simply a front for child sex offenders and paedophiles and members have often had their houses raided by the police. Ginsberg defended NAMBLA by saying he wanted to support free speech and that it was ridiculous to consider paedophilia as a crime. Spokespeople for NAMBLA have stated that they are simply misunderstood, just like the Ku Klux Klan, Westboro Baptist Church and the National Front. Ginsberg was the most famous member of NAMBLA until Eric Cartman of South Park joined them in 2000.

What’s the most successful racehorse ever?

The most successful racehorse ever was a Hungarian horse called Kincsem. Her career in racing began in 1876 and in the space of 4 years she managed to win every race she entered, finishing with a record of 54 straight victories in 54 races. She won many majors around Europe and won the Goodwood Cup in the UK, in 1878. Not even Red Rum, Arkle or Desert Orchid has that kind of record.

In terms of earnings, it would be difficult to top the Japanese champion horse Deep Impact, which earned over £10 million for his owners. The least successful horse ever has not had its name recorded, but is rumoured to have been called Pedigree Chum.

Who’s the best boxer ever?

The best boxer ever is Sugar Ray Robinson. There is a general consensus that this pugilist, real name Walker Smith Jr, was even better than those often cited as the best boxer ever by other sources, such as Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Manny Pacquiao and Joe Louis. Even the Louisville Lip himself claimed Robinson was the greatest.

Robinson’s professional boxing career stretched from 1940 until 1965, when he retired for the final time at the age of 44. He had been in 200 fights, winning 173 (108 KO), with 19 losses, 6 draws and 2 no contests. In that time he won the World Middleweight Championship 5 times and also won the World Welterweight Championship. In 1997, Ring Magazine chose him as the greatest pound for pound fighter ever.

Worst boxer ever? Ivan Drago for killing Apollo Creed and for allowing Rocky Balboa to single-handedly bring down Communism by giving him a shiner.

What is the dumbest animal in the world?

Man of course! However, it is too conceited to say the human being is the dumbest animal in the world considering all the stupid things that people do. You could also pick an animal like a worm, which doesn’t actually have a brain, they have nerve centres, but it seems a bit harsh to call a worm dumb. Fish aren’t generally known for their intelligence and birds have very small brains. Basing the answer on a creature with some basic level of intelligence would lead to choosing the Afghan Hound, which truly is the bimbo of dogs.

However, even an Afghan Hound looks like a member of Mensa compared to the dumbest animal ever, the stegosaurus. This animal could weigh around 4,500kg yet its puny brain weighed around 80g. It would be like a human having a brain slightly larger than a pea, a condition known as Rooneyism.

When are men at their premium? On the decline what stuff starts to go first?

Men are at their peak at 18 years old, especially with regard to their sex drive. There is no biological set-list of what goes first, but generally losing hair, gaining weight and decrease in libido are the most common things that occur; it depends on genetics and environment.

Women have their sexual peak at around 40 years of age, so it would make sense to see more women of that age with young men rather than the other way round. But then that would see a lot of Porsche salesmen, Viagra vendors and hairpiece-weavers out of a job.

What’s the biggest phobia in the world?

The biggest, or most common, phobia in the world is arachnophobia, the fear of spiders (and other arachnids, like scorpions). It has been estimated that up to 55% of the female population and 18% of the male population are scared of these eight-legged monsters. It has been supposed that this fear has an evolutionary trait, that our ancestors often had to contend with venomous spiders and this has somehow passed down in our genes.

The least common phobia in the world is a fear of sharing a twin tub with a supermodel whilst drinking champagne and lighting cigars with £20 notes, which oddly enough does not have an official name.

What are the top five silliest phobias?

There are plenty of silly phobias and made up phobias, there is even a phobia of phobias called unsurprisingly phobophobia. The top 5 silliest phobias are:

  • Hippopotomonstorsesquipedaliophobia: which is not a fear of hippos, but actually a fear of long words. Cruel in the same way that dyslexia is the word for a spelling disorder.
  • Koumpounophobia: a fear of sewing buttons.
  • Nomophobia: a fear of being out of mobile phone contact, constructed from the words no mobile phone phobia.
  • Porphyrophobia: a fear of the colour purple, not the Alice Walker book/Steven Spielberg film, the actual colour.
  • Panphobia: you aren’t getting out of bed ever if you have this one, it is a fear of everything.

How do phobias and the law work? Are they a legitimate defence?

The law has to be flexible with phobias, as many of them are considered medical disorders and can be crippling. However, others, such as homophobia or xenophobia, are not a legitimate defence in a court situation, if anything they can be incriminating. Claiming you have pavophobia after being caught killing peacocks is not a mitigating circumstance.

Examples include a man who had been charged under the Road Traffic Act 1988 for being over the legal driving limit. He refused to submit to a blood test claiming he had a fear of blood (haemophobia) and this was later accepted in court. However, a woman who was being charged under the same act claimed she had a phobia of needles (trypanophobia) preventing her from giving a blood sample. In her case, the prosecution rejected this claim. It basically depends on the forensic medical examiner at the time.

Do any famous people have crazy phobias?

Being famous doesn’t mean you can avoid having a phobia, as shown by these unfortunate souls. Anne Rice, author of the famous Vampire Chronicles, has ahluophobia (fear of the dark). For a man who conquered half of Europe, you would be surprised to find out that Napoleon Bonaparte had a fear of cats (ailurophobia). Howard Hughes famously had a fear of germs (mysophobia) leading him to be a glove-wearing recluse.

Walt Disney may have had nightmares over his most famous product; he had a fear of mice (musophobia). He may have played on the wing, but you won’t see David Beckham visiting an aviary anytime soon due to his ornithophobia (fear of birds). Brad Pitt has a fear of sharks (selacophobia), actress Shannon Elizabeth has a fear of chickens (alektorophobia) and Pamela Anderson has eisoptrophobia (a fear of mirrors). Finally, Nicole Kidman has lepidopterophobia, a fear of butterflies, probably because if one landed on her the extra weight would snap her in half.

What’s the best phobia to develop?

The best phobia to develop is ergophobia, or the fear of work or finding work. It comes from the Greek “ergon” which means work and “phobos” which means fear. If you could convince a GP to give you a doctor’s note stating that you have this debilitating condition then it would be great to wave it at your better half when she tells you to get your lazy backside out of bed and look for a job. Or even make a cup of tea.

Other not too bad phobias to have (depending on their severity) include ablutophobia (fear of bathing), great for those too lazy to jump in the shower; coulrophobia (fear of clowns), great for getting out of taking kids to the circus; lipophobia (fear of fat in foods) common in supermodels and scolionophobia (fear of school), school’s out for ever!

Which country’s police are the most brutal?

There are many contenders for the world’s most brutal police. Countries frequently mentioned are Kenya, Uganda, North Korea and Egypt, with the police forces of the cities of Chicago and Rio de Janeiro also being cited. However, the country with the most brutal police is Indonesia. The Indonesian National Police is a relatively new institution; it was actually part of the army until 2000. Since becoming a sole entity, the force has been accused of brutality, extortion, racketeering, torture, corruption and frequent deaths in custody, not bad going for an organisation barely 11 years old.

Amnesty International released a report specifically about the police in Indonesia which also included details regarding sexual abuse and exploitation. It’s probably best not to get caught speeding if you are planning a trip to Jakarta in the near future.

Which country’s police have the most power?

Naturally, the police force in a police state will have the most power, as they are sanctioned by the state for every move they make. The police in Nazi Germany and the former USSR wielded a lot of power thanks to the policies of their respective governments. Bearing this in mind, North Korea is the country where the police have the most power, with China and Saudi Arabia not too far behind.

A former Deputy Secretary General of Amnesty International wrote in his autobiography that he got arrested twice whilst in North Korea, for the heinous crimes of jogging and riding the subway. Journalists often complain of being arrested without cause in North Korea and are not given explanations to their arrest. In North Korea you can be executed for theft, political dissidence and even the consumption of media not approved by the government. So you won’t be watching Coronation Street in Pyongyang then.

Which country’s police are the most dangerous/well armed?

The most well armed police are not necessarily the most dangerous police (except maybe in the cases of the heavily armed Mexican and Brazilian police who are known for being trigger happy). It is hardly a surprise to find out that the richest country in the world (GDP per country) has the best armed police force, the USA.

The most common weapon carried by the American police forces is the handgun, such as the Beretta 92F, Smith & Wesson 459 and Glock 22. Some forces are allowed to carry around shotguns and semi-automatic rifles as well. SWAT armament also incorporates tear gas grenades, sniper rifles, tasers, stinger grenades, Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns, assault rifles and battering rams. So next time you get pulled over on the M1 by a couple of grinning British traffic cops waving a citation pad at you, be glad you’re not looking down the business end of a Beretta.

What rights over normal civilians do community support officers have?

Police Community Support Officers have quite a few rights over normal civilians and their powers bridge a gap between regular people and the police. Everyone has the right to make a citizens arrest, the main difference between a PCSO and a police officer is a PCSO does not have the same powers of arrest. But they can still nick you for arson, criminal damage, theft and other anti-social behaviour. They can also carry handcuffs if permitted by their local force and are allowed to use reasonable force when necessary and can even detain a suspect. The biggest difference between a PC and a PCSO is a PCSO has to be in full uniform and on duty before they can arrest someone, whereas a PC has powers of arrest in and out of uniform.

So what can a PCSO do? They can issue a fine for minor offences, confiscate alcohol, seize drugs, control traffic, stop bicycles and stop and search people if supervised by a PC. For those who think they can get away with blowing raspberries at PCSOs there are various criminal offences relating to them, so if a PC is patrolling with the PCSO at the time of an incident you could get lifted for acting in an anti-social manner under the Police Reform Act 2002.

When did the police start? Who started it? Why were they invented? What would England be like without them? Why don’t we just get the army to do it?

The Chinese could be attributed with starting the police, as they had “prefects” for thousands of years. In Medieval England there were sheriffs and constables who would enforce the law. Naturally, these entities were created to protect civilians and their belongings from people who coveted them. It can be said that the modern police started with the Bow Street Runners in 1749, followed by the New South Wales Police Force of Australia founded in 1788, the Thames River Police in 1798, City of Glasgow Police in 1800 and the world famous Metropolitan Police in 1829.

England would be anarchic without a police force: when Somalia had no police force it was one of the most violent and lawless states in the world. Ironically, a sign of democracy and development in a state is the presence of an established and regulated police force. People want to feel safe in their homes and feel they have someone to protect them or assist them in times of emergency. The army has a separate remit to the police and are trained for a specific and different purpose. British police have probation and training for 2 years; it would be difficult to train regular soldiers to become police officers. Also, there is a deep sense of civilian discomfort when seeing heavily armed soldiers and military vehicles in the street; it can create a sense of oppression that the average British person is not used to. Plus, caterpillar tracks wreck havoc on tarmac.

What is a McDonald’s burger actually made out of?

McDonald’s hamburgers are made from beef with no extra additives except salt and pepper, which is added for seasoning after the burger has been cooked. The company states that no preservatives and flavourings are used in the production of their burgers and that the meat used is 100% pure beef. The cuts they use are forequarter (from the front of the cow) and flank (cow’s abdomen).

There might be meat from more than one cow in the burger but apparently this is common in meat from supermarkets and butchers as well. So you won’t find mouse tails, bat wings, pig snouts, shark fin or Jabberwock eyes in your Big Mac. You might find some rat crap though, but this is OK as the FDA in the USA has stated that there should be no more than 2 micrograms of rat faeces per gram of meat. Don’t forget to take your scales next time you go to the drive-through then.

Who are the top three greatest ever serial killers?

The 3 worst ever serial killers of all time, by number of victims, are Luis Garavito of Colombia, Pedro Lopez of Colombia and Amelia Dyer of the UK. Figures vary for many serial killers: Harold Shipman of the UK is accused of killing between 218 and 250 people and Thug Behram of India is believed to have been in attendance at over 900 murders, although many were at the hands of his followers.

Amelia Dyer is believed to have killed 274 babies in Victorian England, with some figures suggesting she murdered up to 400. She was involved in baby farming, looking after the babies of parents striving in poverty. Pedro Lopez is known as the Monster of the Andes, his total is thought to be over 300. He wandered around various South American countries killing girls. No one knows if he is alive or dead. Luis Garavito, aka The Beast, is currently in prison in Colombia for killing over 300 street children. Garavito once stated in a television interview that upon release from prison he would like to start a political career in order to help abused children.

Is it really better to have a large manhood? I quite like mine being average.

It is not better to have a large manhood, and having an average sized penis is all you need. The average penis size, regardless of race or nationality, is 5.75 inches. The average depth of a woman’s vagina is 3.5 inches, so having a large penis is not going to make much difference. In fact, many women would prefer a man with an average sized penis simply for reasons of comfort. As the old cliché goes “it’s not the size of the boat but the motion in the ocean”.

Speaking about the ocean, barnacles have a long penis that can be up to 8 times the length of their body, so this would be like a man having a penis that was over 45 feet long. There have been no reports of female barnacles complaining, but maybe that’s because they can’t walk anywhere.

What’s the best way to skin a cat?

As everybody knows, and to the annoyance of the RSPCA, there is more than one way to skin a cat. The best way to skin a cat is to become a gymnast and then hang from a horizontal bar and swing your legs between your arms. This is actually known as “skinning the cat”. The best way to skin a catfish (which is where the saying probably came from) is to boil it then wax it. The waxed catfish is then dipped into cold water and the wax can be pulled off, pulling the boiled skin with it.

However, if you are referring to the feline mammal, then the best way to skin it is to use a pair of tough scissors on an animal that is certifiably dead. Make an incision and start cutting upwards from the abdomen to the neck. Cut from the neck to the mouth, and then cut to the pubic region. Cut down the inside of the legs and then you can start gently pulling the skin away from the corpse. For the head you might need a scalpel, cut away the ears carefully and then the skin around the eye sockets. Cut the flesh off the nose deeply so that the skin retains the nose. Keep pulling gently and the skin will eventually come off. After vomiting several times you can then stuff Fluffy with sawdust, find some marbles for his eyes and then sew him back up to put in your garden to keep the crows away from your prize marrows.

Is the world going to run out of chickens soon or what? I eat two of them a week on my own.

The world is not going to run out of chickens soon, even if you eat two a week. 50 billion chickens are reared worldwide specifically for consumption each year. The current world population of humans is 6.91 billion, which means there are 7.2 chickens per person per year. If you eat 2 a week then that is 104 a year, which is much more than 7.2, but there are millions of people around the world who may only have chicken once a month, so this balances the figures out. There is always the threat that an avian disease could wipe out the world‚s chicken population, which is why there are always some nervous looking ducks at the pond. At the moment 2.3 billion ducks are eaten per year but this could change if we had no chickens left. We also eat over 1 billion pigs, 292 million cows, 4 million horses, 2 million camels and 4 Catholic missionaries a year.

If there had been no wars or disasters how many people would be on the planet right now?

It has been estimated that 100 billion people have walked the Earth throughout human history. Around 160 million people were killed in wars in the 20th Century alone. However, if you could calculate exactly how many people have died in wars and disasters since the birth of mankind, it wouldn‚t make a huge difference to the current population, as disease is the biggest killer of all. The worst disaster on record is the Great Chinese Famine which saw the death of 43 million people, which pales into comparison to the 100 million killed by the bubonic plague outbreak known as the Black Death. If you include genocides and colonisation, then figures of deaths for wars and disasters starts approaching 1 billion. Researchers state that the European colonisation of America cost 100 million lives. If all these people who had died in wars and disasters had survived then there would have been millions of descendents and even less chickens to go around (see previous question).

Is there a failsafe way of betting on any sport? What are the best techniques? I’m skint.

The simple answer is no, if there was a failsafe way of betting on any sport then everybody would be doing it and the bookmakers would soon go out of business. As the old gambling saying goes „the house always wins‰. Many people have tried to find a foolproof way of gambling, but none are guaranteed. One of the most famous systems is the Martingale betting system. This involves doubling a bet every time you lose so that when you win you recover your losses plus a small profit.

Unfortunately, this system assumes the gambler has infinite wealth to cope with extreme odds. Arbitrage betting is possibly the closest to a failsafe method. This involves betting large amounts on a sport or team using several different bookmakers who are offering different odds for the same result. If this is done in the correct manner, especially for football games, then it is possible to make small profits. However, like all gambling, things can go wrong for the punter. Errors are easily made and bets can get cancelled, which will ruin an arbitrage system. If you are skint then you will simply have to do what everyone else does when they are skint, sell your junk on eBay.

Why do people queue outwards from cash points instead of against the wall? It’s really annoying and just a bit stupid.

People queue differently in different countries; there are many places you could visit where you will see people queuing for a cash point standing against the wall, although in many cases this is through necessity to avoid standing in the road. It is common in pedestrian areas to see people forming a queue for a cash machine in a single file pointing outwards. A possible reason for this is that this type of queue should prevent people trying to cut in; people have a primordial dislike of people getting to a destination before them if they have already been waiting.

Another possible reason is for privacy. It is bad enough having someone peer over your shoulder from behind when your inputting your PIN, but having someone staring at you from the side is even more off-putting. Finally there is a practical reason; if the queue is too long people will start blocking shop windows and doors, annoying both shoppers and shopkeepers. The problem is people don’t tend to adapt their queuing behaviour, so if there is room to queue sideways, they still queue outwards. To address this problem, every time you are next in line for using the cash machine, queue sideways and hope that the fad catches on.

Which is the most popular sport in the world? How do we measure this?

Football is the most popular sport in the world. This is measured by data collected in a 2001 FIFA survey which states that over 240 million people in 200 countries around the world play football. The reason football is so popular is down to its simplicity, ready excitement and basic equipment needs. FIFA claimed that 750 million people watched the 2006 World Cup Final, although this figure has been frequently contested.

Possibly the least popular sport in the world is wood chopping. Although there are many events around the world for this esoteric sport, it doesn’t make great television unless one of the competitors lops a finger off. Rules for the sport govern the type of wood used, the size of axe or chainsaw allowed and maintaining the ban of using woodchucks.

What does David Cameron’s Big Society actually mean?

David Cameron’s “Big Society” is simply political spin, it does not really have any profound meaning. The Conservative Party claim the idea behind the catchphrase is to devolve power from politicians and give it to local people and communities. However, thanks to the Blair and Brown spin-heavy governments, the media need policies summed up in convenient sound-bites. So however useful or necessary the changes or proposals the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition feel they have to make, they have to be summed up into an ambiguous phrase.

Even though the term “Big Society” is basically a contrived title for a whole set of complex and far-reaching policies, it is far from being the worst political slogan that has been created. “Progressive Austerity” is quite a howler (thank you Nick Clegg) but the worst political slogan goes to Walter Mondale, a former US Vice President. When he ran against Ronald Reagan in the 1984 US presidential election his slogan was “the man who dares to be cautious”.

Why does everyone hate Nick Clegg so much?

There are various reasons why there seems to be so many people who either dislike or even hate Nick Clegg. His agreement to form a coalition government with David Cameron alienated a lot of supporters immediately, as he was seen simply as Cameron’s messenger boy. Many voters feel he has either lied or forgotten promises he has made, although this is a common problem with politicians. His defence of the much maligned funding of higher education program has simply made more people dislike him, whilst even Cameron seemed to put some space between them.

Clegg and the Liberal Democrats attracted a lot of votes from the left in the last general election, from people who would have normally voted for Labour but had become disenchanted after 13 years of Blair and Brown. Many of these swinging voters now feel Clegg has moved too far to the right and practically “stolen” their votes. He’s also worth about 2 million quid. Git.

If I had never read a book, which five would get me up to speed with life the quickest?

If you had never read a book and you wanted to read 5 to get you up to speed with life the quickest then you should read these:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Outsider by Albert Camus
On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Although this list does not include works by Shakespeare, Proust, JK Rowling, Tolkien, TS Eliot, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, Joyce and a whole host of wonderful writers, these 5 would make an excellent start. Anna Karenina is often considered the greatest novel ever written and The Outsider is a troubling existentialist masterpiece. The other 3 books would help you fill gaps in your general knowledge and stimulate thought.

In a very close 6th place was Crystal by Katie Price.

What could we possibly do if we used more of our brain capacity?

We could levitate and read minds? We could move objects just by using our brain waves and set fire to things with laser beams from our eyes? No, it is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain and the rest is packed full of superhuman abilities waiting for us to evolve and access them. Humans use 100% of their brains; each part of the grey matter has specific functions, so if we only used 10% of the brain then we would be missing important functions such as talking or sleeping. The simple fact is we are already using all of our brain capacity… unless you’re a Manchester City fan.

Is it possible aliens live among us but our senses can’t spot them?

The classic John Carpenter film They Live was based on the premise that aliens had infiltrated the Earth so successfully that no-one knew they were there, until lucky Rowdy Roddy Piper came across a pair of magic sunglasses that gave him the ability to see the cheeky alien infiltrators. Conspiracy theorists would argue that aliens could live amongst us, maybe even control us and govern us. Fortunately, the reality is much more prosaic. There are no humanoid alien creatures hiding amongst us, they would have soon got bored of reality TV and Dale Winton and returned to their planets.

What are the three most dangerous plants I could grow in my back garden?

The three most dangerous plants you could grow in your back garden are Aconitum, Nerium oleander and Cicuta. Cicuta is better known as water hemlock and it contains a high level of cicutoxin, which is highly poisonous. It has been reported that two children who rubbed Cicuta on their skin ended up dying from the toxic effects. Even though that sounds dangerous enough, it is not as dangerous at Nerium oleander, commonly known as oleander. This shrub is known as one of the most poisonous plants in the world and yet it can still be frequently found in places such as school yards. 10-20 leaves eaten by an adult would be fatal, whereas a single leaf could kill a child.

However, the real bad boy of a flowering garden is Aconitum, also known as Monkshood, wolfsbane or Devil’s helmet. It belongs to the same family as the harmless buttercup, yet this beast is so poisonous that with large doses death is instantaneous. The British murderer Lakhvir Kaur Singh killed her ex-lover by adding aconite to his curry. Stick these three in your herb garden and you have a novel version of Russian roulette to play when you’re looking to pick some coriander for your curry.

Who is the greatest sportsperson who has ever lived?

It is almost impossible to choose the greatest sportsperson who ever lived when considering a list of luminaries that includes Muhammad Ali, Pele, Diego Maradona, Steffi Graf, Duncan Edwards, George Best, Michael Jordan, Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer, Daley Thompson, Tiger Woods, Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Donald Bradman, Lance Armstrong, Sergey Bubka, Carl Lewis and Eddie the Eagle. Muhammad Ali is the person who is most frequently cited as the greatest sportsperson of the last century.

However, even though it may court some controversy, the greatest sportsperson who has ever lived was actually Edwin Moses. Moses utterly dominated the 400m hurdles from 1977 until 1987. In that 10 year period, the American athlete won 122 consecutive races (and 107 consecutive finals) and broke the 400m hurdle record 4 times. His exact record consisted of not a single defeat in 9 years, 9 months and 9 days, which is a spectacular effort in a competitive sport. He won 2 Olympic gold medals and 2 World Championships and watching him run at his peak was a joyous thing to behold. He did it for love of the sport and competition, not for money or fame. His greatest achievement was leaping over a 10ft wall without using the rope in an international version of 1970s TV classic Superstars. So much for Brian Jacks and his squat-thrusts.

Apart from humans, which are the next three cleverest animals on the planet?

The next three most intelligent animals after humans are primates (chimpanzees, orang-utans etc), dolphins and pigs. Everyone knows monkeys and apes are clever and dolphins have always been held in high regard because of their brain power, but not so many people realise just how clever pigs are. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs, although that is no surprise if your dog’s favourite pastimes are eating faecal matter and trying to catch passing cars. Pigs can be trained to perform tricks and tasks and are used to find truffles, which can be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a kilo! It makes Fluffy’s morning offerings of a dead bird look cheap in comparison.

When is this bullshit obsession with celebrity going to end? We need an exact date please Know It All…

An exact date for the bullshit obsession with celebrity to end will be on 26 Dec 2060. Why this date? Well, that will be about 10 years after the world’s oil runs out. From 2050 onwards, celebrities will keep their jobs by being paid to inform the public about the myriad of different ways that we can save oil (as they buy their latest Bentley to park on their Blohm + Voss super yacht). However, after 10 years of their hypocritical and patronising infomercials everything will all come to a head on 25 Dec 2060, when the Christmas Day TV listings will be full of celebrities showing off their wonderful houses/cars/rhinoplasties in one reality TV show after another, followed by charity announcements made by these greedy celebrities asking us to give generously to the now bankrupt ExxonMobil and BP companies. Celebrity saturation and overdose will hit its peak by Boxing Day 2060, when people will finally just turn off the TV and play Ludo instead.

If you can’t wait that long, then consider joining an apocalyptic cult that believes the world will end on 21 Dec 2012. Some of these cults reckon that aliens will invade and destroy the Earth on that date… probably because they are tired of receiving episodes of Dancing on Ice and Loose Women on their ET TVs.

Does lifting weights make you a better person?

In 3 words: yes and no. Lifting weights can make you a better person if you do it in moderation. Exercising will remove excess fat from your body and increase your stamina and strength, which means you will feel better both physically and mentally. Exercise also triggers the release of endorphins which make you feel happy. Feeling better with yourself mentally and physically and being happy at the same time can only lead to you being a better person.

But there is a dark side. Too much exercise can make you a worse person. Some people become obsessive about training and find it affects their mood. Over training can lead to injuries and even illness and can make you feel bored or unmotivated. Like many aspects of life, it is all about striking the right balance. Of course, the worst thing about lifting too many weights is that you might end up starring in films such as Cactus Jack, Hercules in New York and Jingle All The Way.

What exactly is everyone’s problem in Egypt at the moment? And how does it affect the UK?

The 2011 Egyptian protests were caused by general citizen unrest regarding the quasi-dictatorship that is the presidency of Hosni Mubarak. The protests were inspired by other recent revolts throughout North Africa and the Arab World. Mubarak has been in power since 1981 and the people of the country have become increasingly disgruntled with what they see as a corrupt government, operating with a brutal police force and economic hardship.

These protests affect the UK in several ways. British tourists are either leaving the country or avoiding travelling there for fear of further violent protest. Mubarak was backed by the West when he came to power because he promoted peace with Israel and suppressed Islamic militants. Because of this, there will be some diplomatic fallout when things calm down. Officially, the UK government has condemned the violence occurring in Cairo and Egypt, but they will be looking for a government that encourages trade with the UK and is preferably pro-Western. Egypt has been called the cradle of mankind, as opposed to the grave of mankind, also known as Middlesbrough.

How many wars are currently ongoing in the world? And should we be worried about any of them?

There are at least 7 full-blown wars currently ongoing in the world. There are also 12 insurgencies, 12 conflicts, 1 crackdown, 1 crisis and 1 stand-off still taking place. There are 9 wars or conflicts still ongoing that the UN believes cause over 1,000 deaths a year. The bloodiest ongoing wars are the Afghan Civil War with 400,000 to 2 million fatalities and the Somali Civil War with 300,000 to 400,000 deaths.

People should worry about any war, not just because of the damage to humanity, but because small conflicts are often just the fuse to a greater crisis. The First World War started out as what was known as the July Crisis. No-one could have imagined that the assassination of an archduke and his wife could eventually lead to the deaths of over 16 million people. Arguably the most worrying war at the moment is the War on Terror, due to the fact that the enemy is difficult to clearly distinguish. It has already been called a perpetual war, in that there is no clear ending in sight. Bit like EastEnders.

Why is the world scared of China?

The world is not really scared of China, but there are some ruffled diplomatic feathers around the globe. For a long time there had been a relative status quo, with the USA and USSR (now Russia) as the global superpowers and various other minor powers meddling in how the world was run (UK, France etc). However, this state of affairs and the Cold War gave China the chance to flex some economic muscles without too much fanfare or observation. Everyone knew China had a huge army and a powerful air force, but it seems foreign governments weren’t paying enough attention to China’s bank balance.

The surge in global influence that China has enjoyed in the last few years has left some governments worried. The Chinese now have enough power to do what they want and don’t need to be influenced by foreign investment or political suggestion/coercion. If you combine a massive armed force (only the USA spends more money on defence) with a strong economic base (again, only second to the USA) then you can see that China has the confidence to influence global politics. However, as previously stated, the USA still has the world’s largest economy and spends the most on defence (6 times as much as the Chinese), so perhaps the world should be scared of America? Or at least of “quality” American entertainment such as The Hills, Survivor and Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

What is the most peaceful country in the world?

According to the Global Peace Index, New Zealand is the most peaceful country in the world. 23 points are taken into consideration when working out the ranking for the Global Peace Index, including criteria such as deaths due to internal/external wars, level of violent crime, number of prisoners and amount of heavy weapons. In second place is Iceland and in third place is Japan. The UK is in a reasonably safe 31st place whilst the USA is in a violent and scary 85th place. Unsurprisingly the bottom 3 places are taken by Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, not the best places for a relaxing peaceful weekend.

Some possible oddities in the list include Ireland in 6th, so much for the clichéd rowdy behaviour that many attribute to the Irish; India in 128th place – very low for a place where many bored middle-class university gap-year types go to find their inner peace; and the fact that Botswana, the 114th poorest country in the world is more peaceful at 33rd place on the Global Peace Index than Italy is in 40th place. So if you want to relax and find your inner self? Go to Ireland. You want to go somewhere dangerous and turbulent? Go to India. You want to go somewhere safer than Naples? Consider a holiday to Gaborone.

Will robots ever control the world?

Considering the ever increasing leaps the technology world constantly takes, it seems to be just a matter of time before robots control the world, perhaps even in a similar way to the robots in the film I, Robot or in a more sinister way such as the computers and robots in The Matrix. However, it has to be asked whether robots, upon reaching a state of sentience where they could decide to take control of the world, would actually want to take over the world?
It is difficult to envisage the future of the Earth being controlled by some dictatorial mechanical agents and their artificial intelligences though. Some could argue that there will be programming laws to prevent such an outcome, like those suggested by renowned author Isaac Asimov in his story Runaround, famously known as the Three Laws of Robotics. Although these laws have been shown to be fundamentally flawed, the South Korean government has gone so far as to create a “Robot Ethics Charter”. The best advice for now is simple, don’t p*ss off your toaster as some day it might rule the world.

What is the most confusing film ever made?

Eraserhead is the most confusing film ever made. Although Vanilla Sky was recently voted as the most confusing film ever, it is not really that difficult to understand: Tom Cruise is rich and spoiled man, he has an accident, doesn’t like his life, goes to sleep for 150 years, has a lucid dream and has to jump off a skyscraper to wake up… simple. But Eraserhead makes Vanilla Sky look as confusing as a 4 piece jigsaw puzzle, thanks to dazzling auteur and Hollywood weirdo, David Lynch.

So how is Eraserhead more confusing than other Lynch films such as Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive? Is it really harder to explain its plot compared to complicated films such as Inception, Memento, Twelve Monkeys, Donnie Darko or the cerebral mess that was The Matrix: Revolutions? Yes, it is. Watching the film even gives you the sensation that Lynch himself has no idea what was going on: tiny woman living in radiator? Check. Scary looking inhuman disfigured baby? Check. Antagonist’s head assayed for use as a pencil eraser? Check. Baby turning into planet? Check. Audiences buying painkillers for their immense headaches by the skipload? Check.

Who are smarter: left or right handed people?

It has long been believed that left-handed people are more intelligent and more creative than right-handed people. Chris McManus of University College London wrote a book called “Right-Hand, Left-Hand” in which he states that although there is a smaller proportion of left-handed people, they have produced a statistically higher proportion of high-fliers than right-handed people. Research has been shown that there are more left-handed people with IQs over 140 than right-handed people, the level at which some psychologists class as genius level.

Out of the last 14 US Presidents, 6 of them were left-handed and 1 was ambidextrous, which is a significantly higher average than the general population (8-15%). This has led a professor of human genetics to state that it is statistically significant and not a co-incidence that so many presidents are left-handed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, George W Bush is right-handed.

Who are the most popular comic book characters ever?

The most popular comic book characters ever are Batman, Superman and Spider-Man. Just behind these world renowned comic book heroes are characters such as The X-Men (especially Wolverine), Wonder Woman, Tintin, Asterix, and in the UK Judge Dredd and Desperate Dan are certainly two of the most well known characters. Batman may just have the edge over Superman in popularity because of being a more human personality and for being involved in a darker series overall.

Being a popular comic book character involves big numbers. Over 350 million books of The Adventures of Tintin have been sold since it was first published in 1929; the Asterix books are on about 325 million sales. The recent 2 Batman films (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) grossed over .3 billion, The X-Men films grossed over .5 billion and the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man film series has grossed nearly .5 billion. Apparently, one of the least popular characters is Aquaman, possibly due to his arch nemesis being dry land.

How does Formula 1 actually make any money? Looks like they’re just tossing it away to me.

The main sources of revenue for Formula One are broadcasting deals, advertising and sponsorship. Formula One racing has an estimated global viewing audience of over 500 million, which means television companies are willing to pay huge amounts of money to the Formula One Group for broadcasting rights. Naturally, having such a large TV audience also attracts lucrative advertising deals on the cars themselves and on the circuits.

Even though the biggest teams like Toyota and Ferrari can spend over 0 million a season, they can actually make a profit when given their share of the broadcasting/advertising revenue. Sponsorship also helps cover the team costs, for example, Vodafone sponsor McLaren Mercedes for million a year. Just enough for Jenson Button’s yacht mooring fees.

Does Nigel Mansell actually need a passport? I saw him in a hotel once and he said he didn’t. What kind of people don’t need passports, are there any?

Nigel Mansell would need a passport if he wished to travel abroad. Considering his chosen career is an international racing driver, it is safe to say Nigel has a heavily stamped passport. The only people who can get away with not having a passport when travelling internationally are those people who have passports containing official statements saying they are issued in their name, i.e. The Queen. British passports are issued in the name of the Queen, so she doesn’t need one. However, other members of the royal family do require a passport. On a side note, when Nigel Mansell gets pulled over for speeding does he get annoyed when the police officer says “who do you think you are pal? Jackie Stewart?”

If I put drugs up my bottom on a plane journey will I get caught? If so, how?

Putting drugs up your bottom on a plane journey is not a sure-fire way of getting illegal narcotics past the ever vigilant staff at airport security. There are several ways you could get caught. Airport security staff are taught how to pinpoint likely traffickers, generally single men of a certain age travelling alone. Another way drug mules are caught is by cavity search, a procedure involving a suspicious security person and either a torch for a visual search, or fingers and latex gloves for a manual search.

Another way people have been caught with drugs up their bottoms, or in other parts of the body, has been through ruptures in the containers of the drugs. This could be something like a condom filled with heroin bursting in the trafficker’s stomach, which would lead to an emergency medical situation. Finally, there are X-ray machines, which can show foreign items inserted into rectums that shouldn’t be there. X-ray machines and body scanners are used at airports in the Netherlands, USA, Canada, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. Finally, if you have drugs inserted up your bottom and they start passing into the blood stream all airport security have to do is collar the guy acting like Russell Brand at a bikini competition in the Playboy mansion.

How do sports get the go-ahead to be in the Olympics? What’s the criteria/process?

The IOC Olympic Programme Commission recommends sports for inclusion in future Olympic Games and this is then followed by a round of voting by the IOC membership. The program of sports for an Olympic Games is selected by the IOC; general criteria include whether the sport is widely practiced around the world, whether it has an effective governing body and if it will have a broad appeal. IOC members vote on which sports should be included; naturally they want people to watch the games, which then attracts advertisers. So you will see football, athletics and swimming but it is unlikely you will ever see cheese rolling, caber tossing or Morris dancing (although ballroom dancing is an IOC recognised sport). Sadly it is unlikely the IOC will ever take that extra step with beach volleyball and finally approve topless beach volleyball.

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