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Are Thursdays wetter? / Unusual magazines unique to Britain / Health risks ornithological ... and health risks celestial

Are Thursdays wetter?

Norse god ThorIn the late 1960s there was some minor excitement among weather experts following the publication of a note in Weather, the journal of the Royal Meteorological Society.

A Mr Nicholson claimed that his rainfall records, over a period of some 14 years, showed that Thursday was the wettest day of the week, both in terms of the number of rainy days and in the total amount of rainfall that fell on Thursdays.

There followed some interesting correspondence in that journal, in which various meteorologists attempted either to prove or disprove Mr Nicholson’s assertion, culminating in the throwing of accusations of the misuse of statistics.

Eventually, Mr Nicholson was advised that his results were due to chance but that a much longer period of records might, just might, reveal something. This he did in 1993, with a note both to Weather and to the Independent newspaper.

Mr Nicholson’s records showed that after nearly 40 years, both his own rainfall records from his garden in Middlesex and those of official observing sites near London and Brighton indicated that Thursday was still the wettest day of the week. Sunday had the lowest rainfall of the seven days.

Again, statisticians vied to castigate Mr Nicholson’s results as being due to chance alone.

On rereading this correspondence in my archives recently, I decided to look at my own long-term weather records, fortunately kept on a computer database, which makes analysis simple. I was astonished to find that Thursday was indeed the wettest day, both in frequency of rainy days and in the total amount of rain falling on Thursdays.

Admittedly, Thursday was only the wettest by a smallish margin, and this would probably not stand up to statistical scrutiny, but the preponderance of wet Thursdays was plainly visible. Sunday, by contrast, in both my records and those of Mr Nicholson, had the least rain.

Now, the name Thursday is traditionally said to be Thor’s day after the Norse god. Thunder in Norse mythology was the sound of Thor’s hammer.

Is it possible that in millennia past, before recorded history and certainly before the keeping of weather records, there was a weekly weather cycle, which resulted in what we call Thursday being the day on which rain most often fell (and when there were more frequent thunderstorms)?

Likewise, could Sunday have been the day of the week which was more often fine and sunny?


Unusual magazines unique to Britain

Britain is probably unique in the number of different types of magazines and journals published and on sale to the general public. In addition to these, there is a huge range of professional and trade journals. One has only to stand in any large newsagents, or indeed the newspaper and magazine section of your local supermarket, to see the amazing range of titles, covering all kinds of interests.

Some are highly specialised and one wonders if there could possibly be enough people interested in their topics to justify the publication costs, let alone make a profit. Others seem to be little more than duplicates of other journals.

In one store, I counted at least six magazines devoted to family history, for instance, not to mention a complete stand holding computer magazines and another range of titles for aviation historians and those interested in the various sports.

One journal that I came across recently in Cambridge University Library is called 3rd Stone and is described as “the magazine for the new antiquarian”. The magazine contains a fascinating range of articles, many of which would not make it into the professional archaeological and historical press because they cover topics such as ley lines and eccentric theories about standing stones and other prehistoric remains.

The journal started life in a small way as Gloucestershire Earth Mysteries and ended up as an expensively produced glossy. Sadly, it expired with issue 47 in 2003. Many such specialist publications do not even get this far.


Health risks ornithological …

Since the scares about bird flu, the Merlins have been most careful with hygiene when feeding wild birds in the garden. However, ornithology brings other health risks.

A few years ago, a paper in Nutrition and Food Science looked at the incidence and possible modes of transmission of campylobacter infections. One suggested mode is by birds such as magpies and jackdaws pecking at milk bottle tops to get at the cream and contaminating it. Smaller birds, such as blue tits, have also been accused of causing infections by this route.

Now, campylobacter may be regarded as a relatively mild infection, but it is a notifiable disease. It has been reported that the ingestion of as few as 100 individual organisms can cause symptoms. Many local council websites offer advice on dealing with campylobacter infections, and all mention magpies and jackdaws.

Salvation may be at hand, since it appears that, with the advents of cartons and plastic bottles, traditional glass bottles with foil caps are on their way out. In the meantime, do not leave your milk bottles on the step all day.


… and health risks celestial

Many will remember the disappointing showing of Halley’s comet over 20 years ago, when it passed on the far side of the solar system. At the time, there was some discussion in the press about possible health risks if Planet Earth passed through the tail of the comet.

At the previous visitation of Halley’s comet in 1910, people were so afraid of the supposed cyanogen contained in the tail that many took “comet pills” or sniffed “comet inhalers” to ward off the harmful effects. As far as we know, no one came to harm from the comet, whether or not they took their comet pills.

Even in the 1986 apparition, it was possible to buy comet pills (supposedly yoghurt-flavoured). However, I have so far been unable to discover what ingredients comet pills contained. Does anyone know?

Brewer’s ‘Dictionary of phrase and fable’ of 1894 refers to “comet wine”, stating that it is claimed that the grapes in years when a comet is seen are better in flavour than in other years. A clinical trial is obviously necessary here.

Younger colleagues who hope to see Halley’s comet on its next visitation in about 2060 will, sadly, be disappointed as it is scheduled again to pass on the far side of the solar system.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10005943

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