A few things I wonder about

May 20, 2007

Continuing the line of thought from a previous blog post, here's some more things I wonder about, complete with answers that I have helpfully researched for you:

How many ants live in an ants' nest? An ant colony can range in size from a few 10s of individuals to over a million, depending on species and age of the colony.

Can a swan really break your arm? Yes, but only in exceptional cases.

How do the screens at London bus stops calculate when buses are due? Currently, they use a tag and beacon system, which records the location of the bus when it passes roadside beacons along the route. However, Transport for London has been trialling a GPS system where a GPS device on each bus would update a central computer every 30 seconds. They plan eventually to be able to send SMS updates to passengers' mobile phones, which would be pretty cool.

[What is RFID and] when will it appear in supermarkets? Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method; tiny electronic tags are attached to an item, and these tags can be read remotely, within a range of a few metres. In Japan, the government wanted consumers to be able to track food right back to the producer, so tags are applied to the packaging of fruit and vegetables right after they have been picked and packed. RFID readers attached to mobile phones allow consumers to view information about the produce. Bring it on! Although I suspect the British government will cripple the technology in some way; I'm not particularly cynical about our government, but there's simply too many Sun and Daily Mail readers to let any technology that exciting into the country.

How many countries are there in the world? According to a Wikipedia entry, there are 245 entities that are considered countries. Of the countries eligible to be members of the United Nations (i.e. sovereign states), all but one or two are. I say one or two, because it depends on how you define Taiwan's status as a country (in 1971 it was replaced in the United Nations by the People's Republic of China, but since 1991 has been actively trying to rejoin) . The other one is Vatican City which has chosen not to join.

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