10 things you don’t need to know, yet. Or do you?

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During project research, we stumble across thousands of facts that can’t be used for that project but are still interesting – maybe we’ll be able to use them one day. Below are just ten examples. Some are fun, some are serious. All of them useful in the right context.

If you know all of these already (and somebody will), please make a comment. You’ll be instantly invited to join our pub quiz team.

1. Australia is on the move

Since the last GPS calibration in 1994, Australia has moved around 7cm closer to Singapore every year: that’s 1.75 metres so far.

The next calibration is happening in 2020, so it’ll all be OK again soon, but this helps understand why Lidar scanners and other mobility sensors have found a market in some unexpected places.

In Australia, there’s a harbour called Port Hedland. The ships that collect hundreds of thousands of tonnes of iron ore are vast. At certain times, the draft clearance between the ship and the seabed is no more than 25cm, making navigation accuracy critical. In this context, 7cm is a lot and 1.75 metres is huge.

2. Your great, great, great, great-grandchild is in the next booth

Without getting hung up on the future of the ‘booth’ in the workplace, is this really possible? Well, there are now five generations in the workplace for the first time in history. Today, Alpha Gens (people born since 2012) are about 7 years old. In another 10 – 15 years they’ll be entering work. So yes, feasibly, with life-expectancy rising, it is possible to imagine a time when six generations will be working side by side.

To qualify this, it’s also thought the person who will live to 150 years has already been born. Great news for Aubrey De Grey and the SENS Foundation.

3. The Wild West wasn’t so wild after all

Life in a new continent may have been wild and scary, and we know that lawlessness was a big challenge for early settlers in the USA. But movie studios have a habit of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. In my early film-watching years, I was regularly shown gangs robbing banks. In fact, if you believed the TV, this was going on every week.

In fact, between 1850 and 1900 there were eight recorded bank robberies in the US.

Compare this to published FBI data showing that there were 2,451 US bank raids in 2016 alone. It’s getting wilder out there.

4. Where has all the sand gone?

Right now, the world is running out of sand suitable for construction. Massive home and urban building programmes across the world have decimated supplies of this humble raw material with serious environmental effect. The manufacture of cement and concrete is a huge user of water and the material isn’t easily re-usable. As a result, we’re seeing development of wood-based alternatives: engineered wood, recycled wood, wooden load-bearing structural elements. All these are recyclable and all of them can be regrown after harvesting.

It’s calculated that Canada can regrow the wood used to build a ten-storey building in just ten minutes.

5. The apostrophe dies

The Apostrophe Protection Society has hung up its quill. For eighteen years, the APS has been trying to maintain standards by campaigning for the correct use of the apostrophe. Famous supporters, including Lynne Truss and Simon Griffin have championed the cause in print.

This is a sad indictment of the low standards we set ourselves when we write. Websites are harbours for poor SPaG and the APS founder says “…fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language. We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!”

That said, apostrophes don’t make it easy on themselves. The word ‘influenza’ was originally abbreviated to ‘flu. No-one knows why the ‘in’ is more important than the ‘enza’.

6. Tumbleweed migration

Another feature of my movie-watching career has been desolate landscapes punctuated and accented by strategic tumbleweed moments. I don’t mean the embarrassing silence during a project pitch, but actual tumbleweed in movies.

This may have been the original Fake News. It seems tumbleweed is indigenous to Ukraine and was an early accidental import to US [agri]culture. Tumbleweed is actually the dried carcass of Russian Thistles and crossed the ‘pond’ with flax imports in the 1870s.

7. Water Stress

When we run projects and workshops that help teams create future-proofing strategies, there is a temptation to introduce concepts that are almost too huge to comprehend, and convert them into useable ideas. We have to be sensitive to the audience and strike a balance between what is really going on in the macro-environment and what is needed by a business to stay relevant to its customers.

Water is one of these subjects. In the world today, water migration is a real phenomenon. People are displacing themselves because they cannot survive on available drinking water. Similarly, whole cities (e.g. Cape Town) have faced complete drought and more are forecast.

In our part of the world we are lucky enough to have potable supplies, but even these are threatened. In some US states, suspicion about polluted water supplies from leaking chemical plants has caused local government to close public drinking fountains. The Guardian ‘Today in focus’ podcast explores this man-made exacerbation of a general threat to the supply of our most basic resource.

We may not worry about water while we have it, but things do change. A signal of water stress is how you consume. If you buy water in a single-use plastic bottle, there’s a chance you trust that supplier over what comes out of your tap. Something to think about.

8. Cars will kill the Mars Bar

Research an issue from the right angle and adjacent opportunities become apparent.

Cars are gradually being electrified. There are @8,500 filling stations in the UK and @123,000 across the US. Just two market examples.

All of these outlets sell confectionery that you buy on impulse when you fill up the car/truck/van… Take away the footfall from gas stations and the ‘impulse’ to buy chocolate goes away as well.

We haven’t been asked to come up with a strategy to overcome this yet and suspect the issue sits beyond the strategic view of brands like Mars. There’s probably a board game idea in this too.

9. When was DNA discovered?

The so called ‘molecule of life’ is thought to have been discovered in the 1950s when, in fact, this discovery was built on work from the 1800s. If you watch CSI, you’ll know just how important DNA is and how we are all unique.

We’ve been tracking the development of DNA exploitation for a decade and believe that its application to diet, nutrition and medical predisposition has just seen a seminal moment. It’s too long a story for a paragraph here, but watch this space…

10. Crocodiles do smile

And finally, if you’re short of somewhere to spend the holidays, consider a trip to Africa.

Issue #14 of The Happy Reader tells us that there’s a town in northern Ghana called Bolgatanga that boasts the ‘friendliest crocodiles in Ghana and perhaps the world’. We want to believe this, even if we don’t know how you test for a friendly crocodile and feel the old Peter Pan song may contain a more sensible sentiment:

“Never smile at a crocodile
No, you can’t get friendly with a crocodile
Don’t be taken in by his welcome grin
He’s imagining how well you’d fit within his skin…”

Thank you for reading this and see you next year.