Chewsday-August 26th-The Debunking Edition

Nice to put a spin on old concepts, so this week I’ll take a break from the facts and hit on some common misconceptions. Below are two that spring to mind as I write

1. Humans only use ten per cent of their brain

How this made it into mainstream thought at large, I do not know. I’m not here to go research on why people are wrong, just here to tell them that they are. At any one time, it is true that humans only use certain parts of their brain. This is perfectly fine. Our brains are divided up into lobes each of which has areas generally connected to certain functions, senses etc. Therefore, when going about your day-to-day life, your brain (the part we commonly consider the brain is the cerebral cortex) combines relevant areas with more primitive nerve tissue in the brainstem and the lower central nervous system, and as a result we have movement, sensation and so forth. The new movie Lucy and Limitless before that both touch on this subject and aim to show that pharmaceuticals could somehow enhance that and allow for all areas of the brain, or “hidden areas” if we really want to get the fake science out here, could be accessed, thus improving our ability to be charming like Bradley Cooper or be a role model like Scarlett Johannson.

Of course, under no circumstances would it be even feasible to be activating large areas of the brain to carry out most of the body’s function. Even higher thought and emotion have defined pathways and can be approximated to certain areas, showing that even our newly acquired functions (and when I say new that is obviously relative) don’t need us to turn on all the lights in the proverbial house at the same time. Activating large parts of the brain’s electrochemical circuitry does remind me of one REAL life phenomenon. We call it epilepsy, and it isn’t Bradley Cooper.

If people are really so fascinated as to “access those hidden areas”, then I’m sorry to say you’ll be disappointed. You can, however, make great use of what is there, and tweak it for your desires. Things like muscle memory, priming, conditioning and memory retrieval are all real life possibilities, and can have their proof traced to exact neural pathways. Using drugs to modulate the electrochemical side of the brain is as real as Chewsdays, but expanding that to say we could find a drug that could harmonise the entire central nervous system into performing not only in perfect tandem with other parts but also at some advanced level without basically killing you from the contradictory effects is only a dream, I’m afraid.

2. Loads of people out there just have “natural” or “inherited” intelligence

Nothing is worth shaming more than hearing “they get it all from their father” or “And their mother is a doctor”. Granted, as with almost everything based on proteins, intelligence does have some link back to our genes. Some research shows a figure of 50%. No, it doesn’t mean that half your intelligence is from your parents, but it does mean is that half of the differences in people’s intelligence could be genetically related. That being said, you have to wonder when we have this solid figure to work with, why is it we overlook the other portion so much, especially since it’s the only one we have any effect over. Of course, I’m talking about environment. Environment ranges from your relationship with your parents, to how your school runs, to well..the actual environment, Basically, if you know it’s not mapped out in the genetic code, it’s environment. In the modern world, we strive to find peculiarities. We aim to look for odd things, or things that don’t fit the norm. That is why the media and society as as whole is constantly obsessed with the concept of a genius. A genius, if played correctly by the media, can be a shining example that somewhere back the line the ole’ intelligence gene (actually had to write that term) fell into place. After that point, no matter what circumstances a child grows up in, they are destined for greatness.

Sound familiar. Well, plausibly, it can happen. Depending on which area of intelligence an inherited factor could pertain to, it is conceivable a person could show up on our radars if they followed the right path. From a biological point of view, however, the figures don’t add up. With only very small fractions of people having an IQ of even >130 (so ya know, take it easy with the amount of 170s out there), it is far more likely any perceived intelligence is based in environment and not in genetics. I once read a quote on cancer causing genes that went like “genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”. Perhaps it is poignant here also. After all, even with an inherited level of genius, things have to fall into place during childhood for this to emerge. The “naturally smart” quip fails to explain how people far down the dubious IQ ladder can outperform their counterparts higher up in social, academic, emotional or business settings in any shape or form. Commitment to education or determination in training easily outweighs most of the genetic abnormalities of intelligence people could be born with. And both these concepts are the roots of environment.

 

 

Chewsday-August 19th

One thing that always makes for a good fact is weird stories surrounding those in the public eye. This week, I went digging to find out which celebrities/stars have made a weird name for themselves. The following two are only some of my results.

It’s hardly surprising that footballers make it on the list as people who leave us pondering just what on earth were they thinking. In today’s world, with finances just as crucial as three points on a Saturday, contract signings can become a source of amusement.When footballer Stefan Schwarz signed for Sunderland in a record transfer for the club in 1999, it was explicitly written into his contract that he was forbidden from travelling into space.

Sunderland were worried that Schwarz, a well known space entusiast, would be tempted to accompany one of his advisers, who had tickets for one of the planned upcoming commercial tourist flights into space that were then scheduled for 2002. In the end, by the time Schwarz ended his playing career with Sunderland in 2003, only two paying tourists had actually flown in space, and regular tourist flights into space are yet to become a reality.

Jockey Frank Hayes holds the dubious distinction of being the only jockey to have won a race while dead. In 1923, he suffered a heart attack mid-race while riding at Belmont Park in New York. By the time the horse, Sweet Kiss (a 20 to 1 long shot) crossed the line in unexpected triumph, Hayes was dead – although he managed to stay in the saddle. Hayes’ death was not discovered until Miss Frayling and race officials came to congratulate him shortly after the race. It was theorised that the fatal heart attack was probably brought on by Hayes’ extreme efforts to meet the weight requirements, possibly followed by the excitement of riding to the front of the pack. After the discovery of Hayes’ death, all further post-race regulations were waived by the Jockey Club, the result being declared official without the customary formality of weighing in. Hayes, dressed in his colorful racing silks, was buried three days later.

Chewsday-August 12th

On this day in 1860 Klara Polzl was born in the Austrian village of Spital. Less than thirty years later, she would give birth to Adolf Hitler.

Klara Polzl had several children during her life, but only Adolf and his sister Paula would survive into adulthood. Klara Hitler first discovered a lump in her breast in 1905, two years after her husband’s death, but initially ignored it. After experiencing chest pains that were keeping her awake at night, Klara finally consulted the family doctor, Eduard Bloch (a Jew), in January 1907. Dr. Bloch told Adolf that Klara had a small chance of surviving and recommended that she undergo a radical surgery. The Hitlers were devastated by the news. Klara underwent the mastectomy at Sisters of St. Mercy in Linz whereupon the surgeon, Dr. Karl Urban, discovered that the cancer had already moved to her chest. Dr. Bloch informed Klara’s children that her condition was terminal.

For the next 46 days (from November to early December), Dr. Bloch performed daily treatments of experimental chemotherapy. Klara’s mastectomy incisions were reopened and massive doses of iodoform soaked gauze was applied directly to the tissue to “burn” the cancer cells. The treatments proved to be futile and Klara died at home in Linz from the toxic medical side effects. Despite her death, Adolf pledged his gratitude forever to their family doctor. Even as late as 1937, he inquired about his well-being. During the start of World War II, Bloch asked Hitler for help, and was allowed emigrate to the United States after being protected from the Gestapo. Klara Hitler may have gave birth to Adolf Hitler, but her death caused the life of one Jew to be saved.

On this day in 30BC, Cleopatra died. Regarded as one of the most influential leaders in history, the Pharoah met her end under debated circumstances. Some argue she used a cobra known as an asp to bite her, putting her body into a paralysed state which eventually led to death. Others suggest after her capture she was murdered. Most historians agree Cleopatra killed herself, rather than face public humiliation in Rome for her defeat. Her husband, Marc Anthony, had killed himself with his own sword after hearing she was dead. Realising this wasn’t true, he was brought to her, where he died. Cleopatra’s son by Caesar was killed shortly after.

Chewsday-August 5th

On this day in 1944 possibly one of the greatest escape attempts by POWs occurred near Cowra, News South Wales, Australia. It was the largest prison escape of World War II, as well as one of the bloodiest. During the ensuing manhunt, four Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers were killed. The remaining escapees were captured and sent back to prison.

By August 1944, there were 2,223 Japanese POWs in Australia, including 544 merchant seamen. There were also 14,720 Italian prisoners, who had been captured mostly in the North African Campaign, and 1,585 Germans, mostly naval or merchant seamen. Although the POWs were treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions, relations between the Japanese POWs and the guards were poor, due largely to significant cultural differences. A riot by Japanese POWs in New Zealand, in February 1943, led to security being tightened at Cowra. Eventually several machine guns were installed to augment the rifles carried by the guards, which was composed mostly of old or disabled veterans or young men considered physically unfit for frontline service.

In the first week of August 1944, a tip-off from an informer at Cowra led authorities to plan a move of all Japanese POWs at Cowra some 400 km to the west. The Japanese were notified of the move on 4 August. At about 2 a.m. the following night a Japanese ran to the camp gates and shouted what seemed to be a warning to the sentries. Then a Japanese bugle sounded. A sentry fired a warning shot. More sentries fired as three mobs of prisoners began breaking through the wire, one mob on the northern side, one on the western and one on the southern. They flung themselves across the wire with the help of blankets. They were armed with knives, bats, clubs studded with nails and hooks, etc.  Within minutes of the start of the breakout attempt Privates Hardy and Ralph Jones manned the No. 2 Vickers machine-gun and were firing into the first wave of escapees, but they were soon overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers and killed. However, Private Jones managed to remove and hide the gun’s bolt before he died. This rendered the gun useless, thereby preventing the prisoners from turning it against the guards. 359 POWs escaped. Some prisoners, rather than escaping, attempted or committed suicide, or were killed by their countrymen. Some of those who did escape committed suicide, or were killed, to avoid recapture. All those still alive were recaptured within 10 days of the breakout.

On this day Harry Houdini, world famous escape artist, also performed a rather commendable escape. Houdini’s second variation on Buried Alive tests was an endurance test designed to expose mystical Egyptian performer Rahman Bey, who had claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey on August 5, 1926, by remaining in a sealed casket, or coffin, submerged in the swimming pool of New York’s Hotel Shelton for one hour and a half. Houdini claimed he did not use any trickery or supernatural powers to accomplish this feat, just controlled breathing. He repeated the feat at the YMCA in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 28, 1926, this time remaining sealed for one hour and eleven minutes. Houdini believed that his experiment could serve as an example for miners who were trapped in shafts with limited oxygen. He said that it was important not be overwhelmed when faced with a lack of oxygen.

“The important thing is to believe that you are safe, don’t breathe deeply and don’t make any unnecessary movements,” he remarked.

The underwater coffin experiment would be Houdini’s last great escape. The famed magician died two months later, on Halloween, from peritonitis due to a rupture in his appendix. He suffered the injury when a McGill University student named J. Gordon Whitehead punched him in the stomach to test his abdominal muscles.

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Chewsday-July 29th

Today is World Tiger day. With the numbers of tigers across the world dwindling at a rapid rate, so much so that six of the eight recognised subspecies are now considered endangered, we take a look at one of the world’s most fascinating animals. One of the newest ways to study animals is to measure physiological attributes. Bite force has been researched across a large number of species, including the tiger. The Bengal tiger, which roams parts of India and Nepal, has a bite force of a staggering 1050 psi. While this pales in comparison to the agreed world record of circa 7700 for the Saltwater crocodile, this number represents the largest among big cats and the second for carnivorous mammals. For reference, it is suggested a human has a mere force of 150 psi, making it roughly seven times weaker than a tiger bite. Tigers have the largest canines at nearly three inches.

Tigers prefer to hunt large prey by ambush. If you look at a tiger, it is less likely to attack, as it has lost the element of surprise. In some locations in India, people traditionally wear a mask on the back of their head while walking through forests to prevent tigers from pouncing from behind. Some tigers develop a taste for human meat by chance and continue to hunt. One female tiger was infamously known as “Champawat tiger” and was responsible for over four hundred deaths in the early 1900s. The tiger began her attacks in a region of Nepal close to the Himalayas during the late 19th century, with people being ambushed by the dozen as they walked through the jungle. Hunters were sent in to kill the tiger, but she managed to evade them. Eventually, the Nepalese Army was called in. Despite failing to capture or kill the tiger, soldiers managed to force the tiger to abandon her territory and drive her across the border into India, where she continued her killing activities. She eventually grew bolder, and began killing people in broad daylight and prowling around villages. Life across the region grew paralyzed, with men often refusing to leave their huts for work after hearing the tiger’s roars from the forest.

In 1907, the tiger was killed by British hunter Jim Corbett The tiger had killed a 16-year-old girl in the town of Champawat, and left a trail of blood and limbs, which Corbett followed. Corbett found the tiger and shot her dead the next day, a dramatic feat confirmed by about 300 villagers. A postmortem on the tigress showed the upper and lower canine teeth on the right side of her mouth were broken, the upper one in half, the lower one right down to the bone. This injury, according to Corbett, probably prevented her from hunting her natural prey.

If that had been the only mass big cat killing, Corbett would have had an easy career. It seems as the time all hell was breaking loose in Asia, as several serial killer cats were active. I’ll provide the information below, which makes for a chilling but interesting read.

Champawat tiger as above http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champawat_Tiger

A pair of Bengal tigers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tigers_of_Chowgarh

A leopard that terrorized a pilgrim road http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopard_of_Rudraprayag

The Panar leopard and other stories http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panar_Leopard

The Thak man-eater http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thak_man-eater

Chewsday-July 22nd

Today will be an “On this day” version of Chewsday, with our facts coming specifically from the many July 22nds gone before us.

On this date in the year 1298, the most infamous battle for Scottish independence took place. Having won a decisive victory at the Battle of Stirling, Wallace and his men had caused enough of a disturbance to sway King Edward I away from his campaigns in Europe and back to England. The king assembled a force of about 15,000 (2,500 of which were cavalry), which at the time would have been considered colossal. Wallace chose to allow this army to advance into Scotland, adopting tactics to lower their morale and waste their supplies. When they turned for home, the Scottish would harass them all along the route.

Today’s our fact centers around Scotland’s tactical formation; this was to use four schiltrons. A schiltron was a group of two thousand or so spearman, each armed with a pike up to fourteen feet in length. Between the gaps then were placed archers, so that overall the formation gave formidable defense against the then standard cavalry attack that was seen in medieval warfare. In fact, for the first portion of the battle, the Schiltron actually held firm and won some losses against the English. Sadly for Wallace though, Welshmen equipped with longbows brought an end to his tight-knitted units and to his rebellion. In the movie Braveheart, the use of schiltrons is best scene paradoxically at the Battle of Stirling scene.

July 22nd was also the date that the world’s most famed bank robber was shot dead. John Dillinger was head of the Dillinger gang, who were a successful group of bank robbers that at times featured names like Baby faced Nelson. On Sunday, July 22, 1934, at 5 p.m., Anna Sage, a woman who was aware of Dillinger’s true identity and working in a brothel, told FBI agents that she and Dillinger were planning to go to the movies, and were planning to either go to the Biograph or to the Marboro theater. Purvis, a detective on the case and member of the ever-growing ‘Dillinger squad’, decided to stake out the Biograph himself. Two other agents were posted at the Marboro. Purvis was standing just a few feet away from the theater entrance when the movie let out. As Dillinger passed, he looked Purvis directly in the eyes, but made no indication of recognition of suspicion. Following the pre-arranged signal, Purvis lit a cigar. As Dillinger and the two women walked down the street, Purvis quickly pulled out his gun, and yelled, “Stick’em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded!” Dillinger began to run, reaching into his pants pocket to draw a gun. He entered an alley just as a volley of gunfire greeted him. Four bullets hit Dillinger’s body, three from the rear and one from the front. Two bullets grazed his face just next to his left eye. A third, the fatal shot, entered the base of his neck and traveled upward, hitting the second vertebra before exiting below his right eye. Dillinger died instantly and a crowd gathered around him. It had taken the newly formed FBI years to take out ‘Public enemy number no.1″, but on July 22nd, they got ’em.

Chewsday-July 15th

This chewsday is the day preceding my 21st birthday. As a result, today I’ll give two facts on birthdays.

The song “Happy birthday to you”, which is widely popular in western culture as a feature at every party, originated from a different song composed by two American siblings. This song was “Good morning to all”. The melody and lyrics were written by two sisters – Mildred J. Hill (born 1859) and Patty Smith Hill (born 1868). Patty was a schoolteacher who developed the “Patty Hill blocks” and was a faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College. Mildred was also an educator who later on became a composer, organist and pianist. The melody was composed by Mildred and the lyrics were written by Patty, but it was originally for a classroom greeting song titled “Good Morning to All.” The song “Good Morning to All” was part of the book Song Stories for the Kindergarten which the sisters co-wrote and published in 1893.

From then on the lyrics were changed from its original form to “Good Morning to You” and then to “Happy Birthday to You.” It is still unclear who changed the lyrics that turned it into a birthday song, but it was first published in 1924 on a book edited by Robert H. Coleman. It is widely hypothesised that the children of the original class changed the lyrics themselves, so much so that the tune was picked up by the eventual (and probably unwitting) publisher. Since then, the song became popular and in 1934, Jessica Hill, another Hill sister, filed a lawsuit because of the unauthorized use of the “Happy Birthday to You” melody which clearly resembles the melody of “Good Morning to All,” the song her sisters originally wrote. Now, the Hill foundation reaps about two million dollars every year in royalties for the use of the song.

Of course, birthdays are quite special, but not uncommon. With over seven billion of us crawling all over this rock and only near four hundred days to separate us, overlap is inevitable. But what are the odds we share a birthday with a friend? Better yet, what are the odds we share the date with anybody at all? This is the underlying premise behind what is dubbed ‘the birthday problem’. By simple probability (and just sheer logic) we know that for every 367 people two of them have to share the same birthday (not leaving out our leap year babies). But what if we don’t want 100%? What if just shy of 100% would do. It turns out that when we reach seventy people the odds are 99.99%. Sounds crazy, I know. Worse again, if you assemble just 23 people, your odds are a staggering 50%! If you can cast your minds at all back to Leaving Cert (or SATs or A levels) you will remember that we must calculate 23 choose two, which actually extrapolates out to 253 combinations, which seems far more reasonable to work with. We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the numbers here, but if you like, you’re free to try your hand over http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem.

Indeed the numbers do speak for themselves, although I’m sure gathering a random group of people would be a much funner experiment. Based on the theory above, we could share our birthday with anyone, even famous people. A quick google search told me I will be celebrating tomorrow with comedian Will Ferrell and Champions League winner Gareth Bale. Comment below if you find anybody interesting you will be sharing your date of birth with?

Chewsday-July 1st

This week it’s the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. In order to do it justice, we’ll give both our facts to the infamous stage where champions emerge and supposed favourites are crushed by the outsiders.

Since the World Cup began in 1930, the competition has seen controversial matches of all shapes and sizes. Back in 1966, Pele was on the losing side of a bloodbath, when a talented Portuguese side, having seen the success the Hungarians (who were a jaded team living in the shadow of a masterful 1950s side) had in dealing with the Brazil No.10, proceeded to violently foul the player for an entire ninety minutes and not even have a player dismissed. Forty years later, things were different when a passionate Zinedine Zidane bowed out of international football on the grandest stage of them all; his end coming in the form of an enigmatic headbutt to the body of Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Fairly shocking. But then what was the most violent match of them all, at least by statistical standards? Enter the Battle of Nuremberg, a round of 16 clash in the 2006 finals, played out surprisingly by the Netherlands and Portugal. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov had his hands full, having to issue a record four red cards and 16 yellow cards, setting a new record for cards shown at any FIFA-administered international tournament.

The match ended 1–0 to Portugal, with Maniche scoring in the 23rd minute. Before the goal, Van Bommell had been booked and in the eighth minute, Dutch defender Boulahrouz was cautioned for a foul which injured Ronaldo and would eventually force the substitution of Portugal’s star winger before half time. Ronaldo left in tears, and proceeded to describe Boulahrouz’s tackle as “clearly an intentional foul to get me injured.”In the meantime, Maniche had been booked for a foul on Van Bommel after 19 minutes.Costinha was sent off just before half time, the culmination of a foul and a handball. After Petit had been cautioned in the 50th minute, Van Bronckhurst and Luis Figo both received yellow cards, with Figo’s coming as a result of a headbutt. Portugal manage Luis Felipe Scolari controversially approved of the foul after Figo had been incited, “Jesus Christ may be able to turn the other cheek but Luís Figo isn’t Jesus Christ. Scolari also escaped punishment.

Boulahrouz was sent off in the 63rd minute with a second caution after fouling Figo, which sparked a melee on the touch line. Portugal’s playmaker Deco roughly fouled Dutch defender Heitinga and was booked; the Netherlands had held onto the ball after Portugal had cleared it into touch to allow a player to receive medical treatment, thus breaking one of football’s unwritten rules. Deco received his second caution and was dismissed in the 78th minute for delaying the restart after a free-kick was awarded. Philip Cocu escaped a caution for wrestling Deco to the ground in his attempt to retrieve the ball. Meanwhile, Van Bronckhurst received his marching orders. Overall, Sepp Blatter quoted on the matter saying “the referee should have gave himself a yellow card”, but later apologised.

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For our second fact, we go back to 1990. It’s the second round, Italy is the scene and two nations hold their breath as it becomes clear only one team is going to emerge. And no, this fact is not about the Ireland-Romania match. While Ireland’s heroics in the second round of Italia 90 are applauded to this day, one of the surprisingly lesser known matches came in the form of a Brazil-Argentina clash. At half time, the game was stuck at 0-0, and although Brazil seemed to be controlling the play, no goal was in sight.Aan Argentinian went down injured around this time. During this interruption Branco – later to play in England with Middlesbrough – drank from a bottle supplied by Argentina’s physio Miguel di Lorenzo.Shortly afterwards, against the run of play, Claudio Caniggia scored the only goal of the game from a Diego Maradona pass, putting Argentina into the quarter-finals.

Suspicion of foul play was first raised two days later by Branco, who said he had felt dizzy and ill after drinking the water. Maradona later admitted on public TV that after he offered the water to the Brazilians, Branco was ‘falling over’ after taking free kicks. The coach Bilardo has also said “I’m not denying it happened”. So although the incident has never been proved, the suspicion remains.

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Chewsday-June 24th

The world cup is well underway now, with most teams fighting out their last group games for pride or progress. Portugal are finding their return to their former colony isn’t as triumphant as when they first came conquering. In fact, Portugal are used to victory in the field. The Portuguese have etched out the tenth largest empire in known world history. This came in 1815, when Portugal controlled over 4 million square miles, or to put it roughly, about one fifteenth of the earth’s land belonged to Portugal. So what empire was the biggest?

It seems the obvious answer to this would be the roman empire, right? I mean,Veni, vidi, vici; I came, I saw, I conquered. The truth is rather shocking. Rome actually only represents the seventeenth greatest empire, much smaller than the Portuguese,but respectable given their methods of transport. The largest was actually that of the British Empire, which at its height in the aftermath of the Great War in 1922 was over 12 million square miles, which is over a fifth of the world’s land. A part of me likes to think we Irish were behind the great collapse, given the year in it (note this part represents no known historical basis, but hey, give us this one). Behind that, the Mongols and the Russians make up spots two and three. 

British-Empire

Much of this World Cup is centering as usual around controversial refereeing decisions. Some of the greatest moments in World Cup history have come down to referees, such as allowing the England goal to stand in ’66, or dismissing Zidane after he went headbutting in 2006. Only moments ago, Suarez put his own meaning to “Chewsday”, though I’m sure he only reads my blog from time to time. John Langenus refereed the first world cup final in Uruguay in 1930. Langenus first undertook his refereeing exam only to fail it when he wrongly answered a question posed by examiners. The question asked of him was: “What is the correct procedure if the ball strikes a low-flying plane?”. Langenus did not answer and failed the exam. One of the major talking points under his officiating was an incident involving one of the US medical staff, after Langenus had given a foul against one of the American players; “the team’s medical attendant raced, bellicose, on to the field, to berate Langenus. Having had his say, he flung his box of medicines to the ground, the box burst open, various bottles smashed, including one full of chloroform, and its fumes rose to overpower the American. He was helped from the field.”

Having been selected to watch over the final, which was played between the host nation and the ever-passionate Argentinians, he demanded a quick escape route to his ship after the final occurred, in case any controversy surrounded him. So though we may whinge still over the wrong decisions that have swung the pendulum in some of the most hotly-contested games, we re safe in the knowledge that refereeing has gone to great lengths before for the game, and should do again.

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Chewsday-June 10th

What better day than Tuesday to have two facts to chew on for a week or so? None! That’s why starting this week I’m gonna give ye two facts to sit back and think about. Not bad for a Tuesday.

1. The scale of the Rwandan genocide.

Not an optimistic one to start on, but it comes in to my head from time to time. Of course, most of western culture would be somewhat familiar with the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’, a true story of Tutsis saved during the Rwandan genocide. Although the movie does touch on the massacre elsewhere, the overall result if looked at is terrifying. At 8:30 p.m. on April 6, 1994, President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda was returning from a summit in Tanzania when a surface-to-air missile shot his plane out of the sky over Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali. All on board were killed in the crash. Although it has never been determined who was truly responsible for the assassination, Hutu extremists profited the most from Habyarimana’s death. Within 24 hours after the crash, Hutu extremists had taken over the government, blamed the Tutsis for the assassination, and begun the slaughter.

In short, over a hundred day period roughly 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus (who sympathized/helped the Tutsis) were slaughtered. This does not even begin to take into account the countless rapes and other war crimes that occurred. So we reach our fact : using simple maths we can take from these figures that nearly 6 Tutsis were killed every minute…consistently…for one hundred days. This dwarfs the killing rate of the Black Death easily and towers even over Hitler at the height of his ‘final solution’. Just a scary thought when we consider this was happening in our lifetime.

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2. Just Fontaine

Given the World Cup is finally about to hit our screens, I thought a good fact about this would be appreciated. One of the ongoing talking points in the build up to Brazil is the inclusion of Miroslav Klose in Germany’s squad. The rather aged striker (36 years) is now setting off to his fourth World Cup, an accomplishment that has seen him net fourteen times and remain only one shy of Brazil’s own Ronaldo as the player with the highest tally of World Cup goals. Of course Gerd Muller, also a German, is tied with Klose on fourteen goals too, and rather impressively he did this in only 13 world cup games (Ronaldo and Klose are 19 a-piece). With a goal/ game average of 1.08 over two games, Muller is king right? Not exactly.

First off Sandor Kocsis has the highest goal/game average having slammed home 11 goals in the ’54 finals, a feat he achieved with the then unbeaten Hungarian national side. But who needs averages when we have more goals? At least that what France’s Just Fontaine would say. He appeared in the 1958 finals (remembered fondly as the games that announced Pele to the world stage) and managed to score THIRTEEN goals in just six matches.

Unfortunately for the french it was to be Pele’s day, as his hat-trick in their semi-final tie saw them pummel the French 5-2. Just Fontaine did net another three impressively in the third place play-off against defending champions West Germany, but then it was curtains. Forced to retire early at twenty-eight due to recurring injuries, his name faded out of history pretty quickly as the Brazil side of the sixties dominated the headlines. Yet to this day, nobody has ever managed to out-do his 1958 legacy. it’s over to Brazil to see will it hold for another four years….

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Come back next week for two more facts to chew on