23 May 2015

Things I Learnt From Reading Gavin Francis

Posted by John Clegg

From Empire Antarctica:

  • It is possible to taxidermize a baby penguin using carpet tacks, a toffee hammer, rolled-up tissue paper, wood glue and marbles (for the eyes).
  • Early whaling vessels used penguin corpses as fuel for rendering whale blubber, ‘burning penguins like faggots beneath their colossal whale-oil cauldrons’.
  • Antarctic practical jokes include filling peoples’ boots with ‘a variety of cereals’.
  • There is a glacial feature in Antarctica called the Whale Meat Sausage Berg.

From Adventures in Human Being:

  • Our sense of balance comes from ‘sensitive hair cells, wired to the brain [and] embedded in a jelly studded with particles of chalky material’.
  • Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ isn’t just capturing any moment in the Last Supper, but the particular point when Jesus said to his disciples ‘One of you will betray me’, which explains why everyone is looking so shocked. Really I should have known that before, shouldn’t I?
  • Pig livers are much lumpier than human livers. Human livers are relatively smooth.
  • ‘Fetoliths’, or ‘stone babies’, are ossified miscarriages which can remain in the womb for thirty or forty years.

Gavin Francis will be speaking at the Bookshop on Wednesday 27 May, in conversation with Gareth Evans. You can book tickets here.