new internationalist
issue 230 - April 1992

...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

How does a fly land on a ceiling? How does a fly take off from a ceiling?

As it approaches the ceiling it does a flip so that it arrives feet first. When it takes off I imagine that it does the same in reverse springing away from the ceiling and flipping back the right way round again before buzzing off.

T Wyatt,

Are large scale eucalyptus planting programmes a good thing or a bad thing for Third World countries?

Like many development and environmental issues there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Debate has raged for some years about eucalyptus. It is a fast-growing tree under the right conditions, but this is because it consumes a great deal of water and rapidly depletes soil fertility. It is therefore an unsuitable genus to plant alongside crops, especially in semi-arid areas. It is a good woodlot tree and can be grown to produce fuelwood quickly. However, due to its incompatibility with crops, it is usually only richer farmers with land that can be put aside for a woodlot who benefit from eucalyptus planting programmes. The main arguments against eucalyptus are therefore environmental and social, and it would seem that although it may be a useful genus in some cases, it should on the whole be avoided on the large scale.

Justine Dunn,
Calabar, Nigeria

What are 'ghost acres'?

The term was first coined by US agronomist, George Borgstrom, to describe land in Third World countries used to grow food for the rich world. Under this system the wealthy industrialized nations feed their own populations and make big profits for themselves by importing foodstuffs very cheaply. There are well over one million square kilometres of ghost acreage - most of it in countries where hunger and malnutrition are rife. Without it countries such as Germany, Japan and the UK would have great difficulty in meeting the food requirements of their populations and would have to radically change their national diet and consumption patterns.

P Roberts,
Birmingham, UK

Awaiting your answers...

Why do men have nipples?

Allen Wells,
Coventry, UK

What is the difference between ' child mortality rate' and
'infant mortality rate' - and why does it matter?

Peter Little,
Henley, UK

What is the origin of the term 'Left wing' or 'Right wing'?
I have an idea that it dates back to the French revolution. Is this so?

Alan Hunter,
Greymouth, Aotearoa (NZ)

Why do some cultures write from left to right,
and others from right to left?

S Quinn,
Belton, UK

What were the origins of the Geneva Convention?

B. Hastings,
Rugby, UK.

Who was the world's longest surviving dictator?

Paul Wells,
Truro, UK.

Cartoon by P J POLYP

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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