The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Why we’re all just big BA­NANAS!

...and how vend­ing machines are far dead­lier than sharks – just two of the cu­rios art col­lec­tor CHARLES SAATCHI re­veals in a mind-bog­gling new book


HE IS best known for a col­lec­tion of mod­ern art which fa­mously in­cluded Tracey Emin’s un­made bed. But busi­ness­man Charles Saatchi is a writer, too. And it seems he also has an eye for col­lect­ing facts and truths about the world we live in that are no less strange, colour­ful or oc­ca­sion­ally eye­pop­ping than the ex­hibits in his gallery – as this ex­tra­or­di­nary new book makes clear…


CHIM­PANZEES are of course our clos­est liv­ing rel­a­tives but, be­wil­der­ingly, mankind shares 50 per cent of its DNA with ba­nanas, the world’s most pop­u­lar fruit. Seven bil­lion of us con­sume a bil­lion of them an­nu­ally, with the av­er­age Bri­tain eat­ing a hun­dred ba­nanas a year. Myths that are rou­tinely spread in­clude claims that ba­nanas are ra­dioac­tive and that their high potas­sium lev­els make them dan­ger­ous. Rest as­sured there is lit­tle to fear un­less you man­age to eat 400 a day. Con­ve­niently, ba­nanas are used by our bod­ies to pro­duce sero­tonin, mak­ing us feel more con­tent. More pro­saically, ba­nana peel can pol­ish sil­ver­ware, put a shine on leather shoes, and will pro­duce a healthy-look­ing house plant if you smooth it on the leaves. So next time you are ac­cused of be­ing ba­nanas, don’t be in­sulted… be­cause you ac­tu­ally are.


WIN­NING the jack­pot on the lottery is a stroke of blind­ingly good luck. To put such a win into per­spec­tive, you are more likely to be killed as your make your way to buy a ticket than to ac­tu­ally win. Or be hit by a part of a plane fall­ing from the sky. Or be on board the plane when it crashes. Or crushed by a me­teor, or hit by light­ning. You are also more likely to be­come an as­tro­naut, win an Os­car or an Olympic gold medal, than that elu­sive jack­pot. Startlingl­y, you are even more likely to die from flesh-eat­ing bac­te­ria.


ACROSS a coun­try that knows some of the most grind­ing poverty on Earth sits more than £745bil­lion of gold. In fact In­dian housewives own more gold than the IMF, the USA and UK com­bined. It is cru­cial to In­dia’s cul­ture and tra­di­tions, and the girls in even the poor­est fam­i­lies can ex­pect to wear a gold nose ring for a wed­ding. His­tor­i­cally, gold given to brides was their so­cial se­cu­rity. Land may be lost or stolen over the years, but no one ar­gues that a woman’s gold is her own, and is a lady’s right. Only a third of In­di­ans own bank ac­counts, due to the bu­reau­cracy in­volved and an in­her­ent be­lief that the for­mal fi­nan­cial sys­tem is stacked against them. Even in the most dif­fi­cult of times, In­di­ans are re­luc­tant to give up their gold – do­ing so is con­sid­ered a stigma.


IN LAB­O­RA­TORY tests a dozen rats were fed on card­board and wa­ter – and lived longer than an iden­ti­cal group fed on cornflakes and wa­ter. In other words, the pack is more nu­tri­tious than the cornflakes in­side. How could this be? Ap­par­ently break­fast ce­re­als are man­u­fac­tured us­ing the ‘ex­tru­sion’ process, forc­ing a wa­tered grain mix­ture through lit­tle holes us­ing high tem­per­a­ture and pres­sure to form shapes, balls, flakes, shreds or puffs. Un­for­tu­nately, ex­perts be­lieve that the ex­tru­sion process de­stroys vir­tu­ally all nu­tri­ents in the grain. There re­ally is more nour­ish­ment in card­board. Nat­u­rally, this is dis­puted by sci­en­tists em­ployed or funded by ce­real man­u­fac­tur­ers.


SOME ex­perts ar­gue that there are more peo­ple alive on Earth to­day than have ever lived, though other statis­ti­cians dis­miss this no­tion as un­prov­able. What is a cer­tainty is that, over the years, more than half of the en­tire hu­man race has been killed off by mos­qui­toes that carry malaria. The most ef­fi­cient hu­man army of killers in his­tory were the Mon­gols, who mur­dered 11 per cent of the planet’s pop­u­la­tion. Other than peo­ple and mos­qui­toes, snakes are the planet’s most dan­ger­ous crea­tures, killing 50,000 peo­ple a year, fol­lowed by dogs, caus­ing 25,000 deaths an­nu­ally.


EVERY year, the Parker Brothers toy com­pany prints about £20 bil­lion worth of Mo­nop­oly money to go with new sets of the clas­sic game. This far ex­ceeds all the cur­rency pro­duced each year by gov­ern­ments across the world. The game was in­vented

by an Amer­i­can anti-mo­nop­o­list, who at­tempted to il­lus­trate the neg­a­tive as­pects of con­cen­trat­ing land in a few pri­vate hands. It was orig­i­nally called The Land­lord’s Game and you could play with two sets of rules: an anti-mo­nop­o­list set in which all were re­warded when wealth was cre­ated, and a mo­nop­o­list set in which the goal was to ac­cu­mu­late max­i­mum power and crush op­po­nents.


CAT­TLE herds in the West Coun­try are claimed to have the dis­tinc­tive Som­er­set twang – more of a ‘moo-arr’ than the tra­di­tional moo. In the Mid­lands, farm­ers claim their beasts moo with Brum­mie ac­cents, while Ge­ordie tones are heard in herds in Tyne

and Wear. It is be­lieved the cat­tle pick up their ac­cents from farmhands and pass them on to their off­spring. Re­gional vari­a­tions were first no­ticed by the mem­bers of the West Coun­try Farm­house Cheese­mak­ers group who no­ticed dif­fer­ent moos when vis­it­ing herds across the coun­try. The Na­tional Farm­ers Union main­tains that when cows are moved from one area of strong ac­cents to another, there is a prob­lem of them ini­tially not re­spond­ing to the new herd.


THE world’s ants weigh more than all the peo­ple on the planet. That, of course, is be­cause they out­num­ber us by 1.4mil­lion to one. Ants lived on Earth at least two hun­dred mil­lion years be­fore early man. Re­mark­ably, within one square mile of ru­ral land you will find more in­sects than Earth’s en­tire hu­man pop­u­la­tion. In a break­through re­search study, it was re­ported that ants are ac­tu­ally pro­tect­ing the planet from the dan­gers of global warm­ing. They are ‘weath­er­ing’ the min­er­als in sand, trap­ping at­mo­spheric car­bon diox­ide. In fact, ants started farm­ing long be­fore hu­mans, to help raise their own crops. They en­hanced the plants they wanted to pro­tect by se­cret­ing chem­i­cals with an­tibi­otic qual­i­ties to in­hibit mould growth and even de­vised fer­til­i­sa­tion pro­to­cols us­ing ma­nure.


WE ARE talk­ing about rocket sci­ence now – and it seems that suf­fer­ers from dyslexia are bet­ter at it be­cause of su­pe­rior prob­lem-solv­ing skills and bet­ter spa­tial aware­ness. No won­der more than half of Nasa’s em­ploy­ees are dyslexic. Peo­ple with dyslexia can also of­ten demon­strate higher cog­ni­tive and lin­guis­tic func­tion­ing, rea­son­ing, conceptual abil­i­ties and prob­lem-solv­ing. A quick glance at the dis­tin­guished roll call of dyslexic suf­fer­ers, in­clud­ing Winston Churchill and Al­bert Ein­stein, is con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence. Ten per cent of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion are thought to be dyslexic. WHY AFRICANS JUST LOVE A TUBBY LADY IN SOME African so­ci­eties, be­ing ex­cep­tion­ally tubby is a sym­bol of sta­tus and wealth. This is why in the Nige­rian city of Cal­abar, ‘fat­ten­ing cen­tres’ are at­tract­ing rich cus­tomers who want to gain a great deal of weight quickly. The BBC World Ser­vice spoke to a cou­ple who opted to go through this be­fore their wed­ding. ‘In the morn­ing you eat fine,’ says Hap­pi­ness Edem, ‘and af­ter eat­ing you can take a bath. From there you can sleep, you sleep fine, you wake up, you eat, you sleep.’ Hap­pi­ness at­tended the weight-loss clinic-in-re­verse for a to­tal of six months lead­ing up to her wed­ding at the re­quest of her hus­band, Mor­ris Eyo Edem. By the time she had emerged, her body shape had changed tri­umphantly – to her hus­band’s de­light. As one of the coun­try’s princes, Mr Edem re­quires a par­tic­u­larly large wife, and says that a slim wife would have no ap­peal. ‘Peo­ple will think I am not rich... if a woman is not fat, she does not qual­ify for mar­riage.’


SCI­EN­TISTS have pro­duced a study that sup­ports the sex­ist stereo­types of talk­a­tive, gos­sipy women and strong, silent men. In her re­port The Fe­male Brain, Louann Brizen­dine, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try, claims that women not only talk more, but that of­ten it is twice as fast. Her con­clu­sion is that fe­male brains func­tion dif­fer­ently. Many ob­servers have also noted that women are usu­ally more emo­tion­ally lit­er­ate and will­ing to talk about their feel­ings, whereas men tend to close off. At its root, the ex­pla­na­tion for this seems to be a clin­i­cal one – that women are en­dowed with more of a spe­cific ‘lan­guage pro­tein’ called Foxp2. In a Jour­nal Of Neu­ro­science re­port of tests of girls who were aged un­der 12, they were found to have 30 per cent more of this pro­tein in their brain area con­nected to lan­guage and speech.


EACH year more peo­ple are killed try­ing to get a snack out of a vend­ing ma­chine than die in shark at­tacks. Other mur­der­ers that are more deadly than sharks in­clude jel­ly­fish, hip­popota­muses, dogs, fire ants, horses, bees, cows, co­conuts fall­ing on to your head, Amer­i­can foot­ball brain trauma, cham­pagne corks fly­ing into your fore­head, trip­ping and fall­ing, chok­ing

on food… and lad­ders. © Charles Saatchi, 2017 l We Are Ba­nanas, by Charles Saatchi, is pub­lished by Palazzo, £16.99. Of­fer price £12.74 (25 per cent dis­count) un­til June 18. Or­der your copy at www. mail­book­ or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on or­ders over £15.

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