Country Life Today: The surprising truth about cows breaking wind

This morning we look at why studying animals' noxious emissions can help us make the world a better place, celebrate the anniversary of the house of Windsor and wonder at the greatest photographs in the galaxy.

The truth about cow farts

It’s not every day that you come across a lengthy article discussing the scatological habits of birds and animals, but that’s the offering from Quartz this morning in a piece penned by Dani Rabaiotti, a researcher at the Zoological Society of London.

‘I have been asked about cow farts and how they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions,’ he writes. ‘The truth of the matter is that most of the methane cows emit actually comes from burps, not farts. However, our demand for beef contributes significantly to both climate change and habitat loss.’

He also discussed snakes that fart to deter predators, the fish who live up other creatures’ backsides and a type of frog with notoriously gunky skin. Studying such things seriously can not only help broaden our understanding, he adds, but also bring another benefit in the form of engagement.

‘I strongly believe that as people learn about animals and their strange and hilarious habits, they will be more inclined to want to make sure wildlife exists on this planet long into the future,’ adds Rabaiotti.

‘That’s why I love writing about animal farts.’

Full story (Quartz)


The photographs that are literally out of this world

We’ll be honest: we didn’t even know the Royal Observatory Greenwich ran an astronomy photography competition until yesterday. But they do, and the shortlisted pictures for the 2019 award are just magnificent.

See all the shortlisted entries (Royal Museums Greenwich)


The man who’ll save the planet?

Professor Sir David King

The Times carries an interview with Sir David King, the former top science advisor to the UK government, and the man who now heads up the the Centre for Climate Repair at the University of Cambridge. That’s the newly-created unit looking into ways to stop climate change.

It’s a fascinating read, starting off with King’s pivotal role in stopping the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, and moving through to his latest ideas. Everything from growing underwater forests to seeding clouds in the arctic to stop the sun melting ice is on the table.

Much of it sounds like science fiction, but as Sir David explains: ‘Space travel was science fiction. HG Wells and the rest built up the notion of space travel before it ever happened.’

Not that it’s all bright ideas for the future.

‘We’ve now gone too far — it’s very late in the day,’ he says at one point, while warning of a potential 7m rise in sea levels.

‘We started these discussions as scientists in the Eighties. If we had all acted then we would be in a very safe place now.’

Full story (The Times – subscription required)


On This Day: The dawn of the House of Windsor

The first royal wedding in the house of Windsor. The Duke and Duchess of York on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after their marriage, April 1923. Queen Mary, the Duke and Duchess of York (the future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and the future King George VI), and King George V. Credit: Print Collector/Getty Images

Queen Mary, the Duke and Duchess of York (the future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and the future King George VI), and King George V in 1923. Credit: Print Collector/Getty Images

On June 19, 2017, King George V decided to change the family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor — it proved a PR masterstroke. ‘Tradition and romance, service and ceremony – these qualities, instantly evoked by the image of Windsor Castle, have provided the family that bears its name with what has mostly been an impregnable mystique,’ wrote Clive Aslet in Country Life on the centenary.

Full story of the Royal Family’s great rebranding (Country Life)


A man who made millions in oil on the need to live without it

Row of wind turbines in a wind farm on the hilltops viewed across rolling agricultural land in a concept of alternative power

John Browne, the high-profile former chairman of BP, has written a very interesting piece in The i, adapted from a book he’s written about the future of civilisation. It’s full of interesting snippets about renewable and non-renewable energy. ‘If we picked a very sunny area, the Sahara Desert for example,’ he says in one example, ‘and covered a patch about the size of Spain with photovoltaic panels, we could supply every person on the planet with abundant electricity.’

There are also passages on how wind and solar have both come an enormously long way — particularly in supposedly-polluting China — yet still have clear paths to get better and better. It’s well worth a couple of minutes of your morning.

Full story (The i)


Where was the rain at Royal Ascot?

Is there really a secret system for pausing the rain while the open top carriage arrives? I think we should be told.


And finally… Quote of the Day

‘The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.’

 – Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist