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Martin Fone investigates the scientists so intrigued by cloud formations that they decided to sort them out into different types.

As a child, I was fascinated by cloud formations and often spent my time gazing into the far distance, imagining that I could see the shape of an animal or a face in one of the clouds.

In later life, I regarded the habit as a harmless form of pareidolia, perhaps even a sign of some latent streak of creativity within me, as some neuroscientists seem to think.

I was gratified to find that I shared this quirk with Shakespeare’s…

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If you thought it was Edward Jenner, think again: Martin Fone discovers that the practice of inoculating against the smallpox disease has much older origins than you’d have believed possible.

It was not the Valentine’s Day treat we really had in mind, but my wife and I were more than happy to visit the local vaccination centre — appropriately sited at the former venue of the BDO World Darts Championship — to receive the first of our two Covid-19 injections. The sense of hope it brought gave me a metaphorical shot in the arm.

When I listen to the debates…

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Martin Fone examines the science behind snow and explores the history of snowfalls in the UK.

It is estimated that about a million billion snowflakes fall around the world every second, averaged over a typical year. My mind is boggled by such incredibly large numbers: to put it into context, that is enough snow for every person on planet Earth to make a snowman every ten minutes.

Some flakes have chosen to fall in my garden as I write this, but, alas, not in sufficient quantities to warrant me rummaging around for a carrot and two pieces of coal.

According…

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Samuel Clemens Leghorn — better known as Mark Twain — was a man of many trades besides writing, and one of his inventions is still with us today. Martin Fone explains more.

I have always preferred wearing a belt to a pair of braces — or suspenders, as the Americans rather prosaically call them, a perfect example of the opportunities that exist for embarrassing confusion between the versions of English spoken on either side of the Atlantic.

Belts, for me, are easier to use and fulfil the dual purpose of giving a little bit of shape to my ever-expanding waistline…

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In the last few weeks, Martin Fone has been taking a look at how dogs were first domesticated and the tricks of canine evolution which have made human hearts melt. But what about cats?

It’s a curious quirk of statistics that cats outnumber dogs in the UK, with 10.9 million to 10.1 million, despite there being more dog owners: 23% of households have a dog, compared to 16% with a cat. The reason, of course, is that a cat owner is likely to own more than one moggy, an impression borne out by a 2018 census by PetPlan. In almost…

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It’s no accident that your heart melts when dogs gaze into your eyes — it’s simply a fact of thousands of years of evolution and selection, as Martin Fone explains.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the mystery of when the first dog was domesticated — and by whom. The answer is at least 14,000, and quite possibly as much as 35,000 years ago. As for who, the question is far harder to pin down — but it seems certain that dogs and humans teamed up long before we moved from hunter-gatherer to agrarian societies.

Its…

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Murmurations of starlings — the vast clouds of thousands of birds, flocking and swooping through the sky — are one of nature’s great displays. But how do the birds do it? Martin Fone investigates.

There is something mesmerising, but profoundly disturbing, about watching humans moving in synchronicity, whether it be swimmers or those massed marches of service personnel that certain countries seem to specialise in on high days and holidays. …

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Dogs have never been more popular — as soaring puppy prices (and the worrying number of scams) show. But our love affair with dogs is anything but new — it’s older than even our most ancient civilisations, discovers Martin Fone.

We are a nation of pet owners with some 41 per cent of UK households revealing that they owned at least one type of pet in 2019–20. Top dog amongst the pets we own is the pooch, twenty-three per cent of households reporting dog ownership, leaving its closest rival, the cat, trailing in its slipstream at 16%. …

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Martin Fone takes a look at the first Indian restaurant in Britain, discovering what was on its first menu, and finding out how lager became the traditional accompaniment to curry dishes.

Steak and kidney pie? Sunday Roast? Fish and chips? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding? It’s impossible to define what is Britain’s national dish, but curry has as good a claim as anything.

As of 2015 there were around 12,000 Indian restaurants in the country, employing 100,000 people and generating revenues of £4.2 billion. That said, the word ‘Indian’ is a misnomer: most of the traditional curries served in Britain…

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It’s not your imagination: there really were far more acorns on the ground than usual this autumn. Martin Fone looks at the phenomenon of the ‘mast year’.

Over the last year I have taken the opportunity to discover the attractions of my local area, shamefully neglected as hitherto I had been all too ready to answer the siren call of far-off, exotic lands. My quest for daily exercise has taken me to the extensive woodlands just a stone’s throw from my house.

Part owned by the Ministry of Defence and the local council, it is a mix of pine, oak…

Martin Fone

Martin is a blogger and writer. His blog can be found at https://windowthroughtime.wordpress.com and his website at https://martinfone.wordpress.com

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