This week's UK news: 20 February 2009
20 February 2009

Life and death on television

One of the strangest and saddest UK news stories of the week is about a 27-year-old mother of two who is dying of cancer.

Jade Goody has lived her life in the public eye since appearing in a reality television programme called Big Brother in 2002. She did not win the programme but her character and looks made her its most famous and controversial contestant.

Since then she has earned a living as a celebrity, appearing regularly in magazines, popular newspapers and on reality programmes. She was told she had cancer whilst being filmed on an Indian reality show, and her treatment has been the subject of a television series.

This week she heard she had only months to live and has decided to marry her boyfriend immediately. She wants to make as much money as she can from selling her wedding pictures and interviews in order to provide for her two young sons after her death. It is said she will make £1.5million from her wedding.

Sea bed surprise

We found out this week that a British and a French nuclear submarine crashed into each other 1,000 feet below the surface of the Bay of Biscay earlier in February. There was a great deal of surprise about this, but experts say that the accident happened because both submarines are designed to be hard to detect.

Each submarine carries nuclear warheads and other missiles, and there were fears that the accident could have been really serious. It seems that there were no injuries or leaks, but £50 million of damage may have been done to the French submarine.

No Kissing

People saying goodbye at a UK railway station are now banned from kissing unless they go to a special area.

Warrington station, in North West England, has put up the sign just outside the entrance. It is a busy area for cars and railway workers say long kisses were causing delays.

The sign shows a man and a woman with lips almost joined, in a red circle. The station has created an area for kissing in a car park, but say there are no plans to punish people who kiss in the wrong place. Most people think the sign is a joke to attract attention.

Too many tests

Lessons for English schoolchildren are too narrow, says a new report into education for under-11s. The report, led by a well-known professor of education, says that children spend too much time on maths and English and lack knowledge of other subjects.

It also says that tests which children take at 11 before moving on to new schools are part of the problem, and that there is too much political control of the curriculum.

There is a great deal of public debate about the state of education, and recent governments increasingly control what schools do and teach. This report, published by Cambridge University, is not official but is likely to be very influential as it has a great deal of support.

A university professor is using whoopee cushions to conduct an experiment to find the world's funniest flatulence noise

Trevor Cox, 42, wants to discover which sounds make us laugh the most and has set up a website to help.

Visitors hear six noises and are asked to grade them depending on how much they make them laugh.

The acoustics professor, who works at Salford University in Manchester, has a long-running interest in the whoopee cushion and up until recently held the record for having the largest one in the world.

Prof Cox, who designs concert halls, said: "The whoopee cushion has much in common with the human voice and how wind instruments work, so it is a memorable way of portraying some important science.

"This is a great way to contribute to science just by having a laugh.

"For too long, acoustic engineers have concentrate on issues such as neighbour noise and concert hall acoustics, it is about time we got to the bottom of some more important fundamental issues.

"Really what acoustics is about is understanding people's responses to different sounds so I've come up with a website which samples whoopee sounds for people to go on, listen to and rate in order of funniness.

"The idea is to get people thinking about sounds. My theory - although it is unproven at this stage - is that people will laugh the most at something unexpected.

"Like with jokes - it is more funny if people don't expect the punchline. So the most unexpected noises will probably get the most votes.

Organisers at Comic Relief asked Prof Cox to come up with a sound experiment that involved the whoopee cushion - the new logo for comic relief along with the standard red nose.

Visitors are encouraged to donate to the appeal and can watch short YouTube videos revealing the secret science of whoopee cushions.

According to Professor Cox, who made worldwide headlines in 2007 with his horrible sounds research, there are some solid scientific principles behind why we find different whoopee noises funniest.

To take part in Prof Cox's experiment go to


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