Magazine

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A Czech scientist has contributed to a unique discovery –how migrating monarch butterflies use body clocks to find their way. The Prazdroj brewery has produced a “beer bible” for bar-tenders and a discarded statue of Lenin which formerly stood in a small town in Czechoslovakia has sparked a storm of controversy in France. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Jan Švejnar, photo: CTK
Presidential candidate Jan Švejnar, nominated by the opposition Social Democrats, is giving incumbent president Václav Klaus who is considered a favourite to win a second term in office, a run for his money. Mr. Švejnar has shown a fighting spirit, touring the country in an American-style election campaign and even paying a visit to the rival camp – Civic Democrat deputies and senators in Parliament. The meeting lasted less than ten minutes as the Civic Democrats demonstrated a complete lack of interest in Mr. Klaus’ rival – but the Czech-American professor of economics displayed a good sense of humour when he gave one of the senators present an Albanian dictionary as a gift. His surprise gift came in reaction to the senator’s recent statement that Mr. Švejnar had about as much chance of being elected Czech president as the senator had of being elected an MEP for Albania.


Czech Railways had long been plagued by rail theft and its management assumed that homeless people were dismantling parts of railway lines in order to sell them as scrap metal. Over the past five years six kilometers of railway lines worth over one million crowns had disappeared without a trace. This month Czech Railways finally caught the culprits red-handed. Much to their amazement the three thieves were the company’s own employees who knew exactly which lines were not being monitored and how to cover up their tracks. Czech Railways said it was shocked not so much by the theft itself as the fact that its own employees had risked public safety. The three men are now in custody and face up to eight years in jail.


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Czech scientist Ivo Šauman has contributed to a unique discovery –how migrating monarch butterflies use body clocks to find their way. Scientists have known for years that monarch butterflies use the sun as a compass to guide them on their migratory route from the US and Canada to their winter roosting sites in Mexico and back again. The butterflies use the sun as a compass to guide them on their impressive journey and as a calendar that tells them when to begin that journey. But a compass based on the sun’s moving position in the sky would not work unless the insects also had an accurate clock to tell them the time of day. No one had been able to locate this internal timepiece until now. An international group of scientists headed by Prof. Steven Reppert from the University of Massachusetts has now identified the gene that acts as a biological clock in the monarch butterfly. This throws more light on their awesome migratory habits. As the butterflies fly north in the spring they breed several times during their summer journey. Four or five generations later their offspring make the long journey home again, often landing in the same Mexican valley and even on the same tree that their great, great grandparents left the previous winter. According to Prof. Reppert much still remains unexplained – for instance how the tiny brain of the monarch butterfly, no bigger than the head of a ballpoint pen, can arrange information about time and space that leads it to carry out the appropriate flight behaviour.


Photo: CTK
A couple of absent-minded robbers made headlines last week when they returned to the site of the crime twice in the space of fifteen minutes. They appeared at an all night store, pulled out a gun and demanded the woman behind the counter to hand over all the cash she had in the till. When they had the money they jumped into their car and sped off. But they hadn’t got far when one of them realized they had failed to empty the safe. They turned around and sped back to the store. When the woman behind the counter saw them again she almost fainted, thinking they had decided to come back to do away with any witnesses. The robbers demanded the keys to the safe - she said she didn’t have them - and off they went again disappointed. The police, who arrived a few minutes later, couldn’t believe their ears when they were told what had happened. They say that such a bungled robbery was most certainly the work of amateurs. The fact remains though that they haven’t caught them yet – and stupid as they were the amateurs had luck on their side.


Photo: CTK
The Prazdroj brewery has produced a “beer bible” for bar-tenders outlining the rules that make the Prazdroj brew exceptional. The eight commandments for pub owners who want to sell their beer start in the cellar stating the temperature and position in which their tanks and barrels should be stored – between five and eight degrees Celsius. The beer should be chilled to seven degrees exactly before being served – any more would not make it refreshing, any less would not allow the full taste to develop. The bar-tender should tap your beer holding the beer glass at a 45-degree angle and should serve it with a smile on his face.


A discarded statue of Lenin which formerly stood in a small town in Czechoslovakia has sparked a storm of controversy in France, where a controversial regional politician wants to buy it and erect it on a square in Montpellier. Many Czech towns and cities have either discarded or sold unwanted statues of Stalin, Lenin and other communist leaders. Some have been demolished, others are gathering moss in backyards and some towns have managed to sell theirs to private collectors or museums. This seven-ton bronze statue of Lenin was originally purchased by a US seller who has now put it on the market. Geroges Freshe – a controversial regional politician who was expelled from the Socialist Party last year for racist remarks – claims that Lenin is one of the 20th century greats and that young residents of Montpellier could gain a sense of history by seeing the statue in Montpellier. The very idea has evoked strong protests from many locals and rightwing deputy Jacques Domergue, who is running for Montpellier mayor in the March municipal elections says it would send the worst possible message and could even harm the economic development of the city. Well it looks that even long after his death Lenin may trigger a small revolution in France.