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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
10 things we didn't know this time last week

It's easy to lose track of the news. So at the end of the week, it's good to keep an eye on some of those things which shouldn't go unnoticed.

If you spot something you think should be included next week, send it to us using the form at the bottom of the page.


1. Can you tell what children will be like from the way they eat their sweets? Maybe you can. When Paula Radcliffe was a girl, her mother says, she would visit a sweet shop, buy a finger of fudge, and make it last for the rest of the week. From there it's a short step to jumping into baths filled with ice cubes - her preferred method of recovering after long runs.

2. If fudge is good for the body, chewing gum can be good for the mind, British psychologists have found. People who chewed throughout tests of long- and short-term memory did significantly better than people who did not. Why? Er... not sure, comes the answer. It could be that chewing stimulates a part of the brain important for memory (though scientists aren't sure why); or because chewing ups the heart rate, which in turns pushes more oxygen into the old grey matter.

3. A British firm is offering software that will convert mobile phones into sex toys. "Purring Kitty" turns certain Nokia phones into a device with "tender purring vibrations". A spokesman told Wired News: "The reaction has been pretty good. There's a clear 50/50 split. Half the girls know immediately what it's about. The other half look at the kitty and say, 'Aw, that's cute, but why is it vibrating?' Then the penny drops."

4. The waxworks at Madame Tussaud's are not made of wax at all. The material is too heavy to support its own weight, so only the faces and hands of the famous are cast in beeswax while the bodies are made of fibreglass. A notable exception - and a new addition unveiled in London this week - is Brad Pitt's bottom, which is made from a foam and silicon mixture to make it squeezably lifelike.

5. Mussels can live for up to 100 years. The youngest mussels in English rivers are now middle aged, after numbers declined due probably to illegal pearl fishing, falling salmon stocks, and pollution. Mussels become sexually active when they are 12; breeding occurs when male mussels release their sperm into the water and females catch it. The resulting larvae hitch a ride on the gills of a passing salmon and are taken upstream.

6. There are just 190 Muslims in the British Army out of a total 65,000 soldiers. Army recruiters have however had big successes in increasing the numbers of non-white soldiers in the past few years - 6% of the armed forces are from ethnic minorities, and that is five times the level in the late 1990s.
Hear Mike Thomson's report for the Today programme

7. Songs downloaded from the web could have their own chart by the end of the year. And within 18 months, the download statistics could even be incorporated into the main charts, which would certainly give a new twist to the race for Christmas number one.

8. A typical gamer is a geeky man-child who spends much of his time locked in a bedroom, right? Wrong. Those who indulge their passion for fantasy role-play games are just as likely to be well-paid professionals in their 40s. How do we know this? Well, a psychologist [well-paid, professional etc] who by night becomes Bloom Eternal, a wood elf druid, tells us so. With colleagues at Nottingham Trent University, he has co-authored a study into people who play games online. Another "startling" find is that 85% are male.

If all this is old news to you, you could always try our weekly news quiz, Seven Days Seven Questions

9. Some looters who ransacked museums in Baghdad and Mosul knew what they were looking for and were most likely stealing to order, says archaeologist Eleanor Robson. For amidst shattered, empty display cases stands an unscathed plaster-cast replica of the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (king of Assyria 858-824 BC). With no controls on imports and exports, she says the risks are worth it to criminal gangs - 10 years ago, a legally owned Assyrian relief was auctioned for almost 8m, at the time a record price for an antiquity.

10. The late Sir John Paul Getty moved to Britain in 1971, and spent many years being generous with his wealth. When he was awarded British citizenship in 1997, he went in person to the American embassy to hand in his US passport. When there, officials tried to convince him that he was making a mistake. He did not listen.

If you see something you think should be included next week, let us know using the form below.

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