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1 February

In the headlines

Today is the biggest day of industrial action in over a decade. More than 150,000 teachers are on strike, leaving 85% of state schools in England and Wales at least partially shut, along with 100,000 civil servants, 70,000 university lecturers and 12,500 train drivers. Britain and the EU have struck a customs deal that would avoid the need for checks on European products destined for Northern Ireland, according to The Times. Officials in Brussels have also reportedly conceded that the European Court of Justice can rule on issues relating to the province only if a case is referred by the Northern Irish courts – a “critical step towards ending the impasse” over the protocol. A pea-sized radioactive capsule that went missing in Western Australia has been found. Emergency services armed with radiation detectors located the gamma-gushing gadget by scouring a road 870 miles long – roughly the distance between John O’Groats and Land’s End.


Top prize in the 2022 Close-up Photographer of the Year competition went to Samantha Stephens’s shot of two young salamanders inside a carnivorous northern pitcher plant. Other finalists included a sunflower refracted through dozens of water droplets, a female jumping spider perched on hot rocks, and the one-millimetre-wide capsule of a Schistidium moss plant. See the full selection here.

On the money

Banks in Argentina are running out of space in their vaults. With inflation at almost 100%, says Bloomberg, the volume of cash is growing so fast that there simply isn’t enough room for the “piles of pesos”.


Two of Britain’s largest water companies are still using the “scientifically discredited method of dowsing” to locate leaky pipes, says New Scientist. After a 2017 investigation found that nearly all providers regularly used the ancient technique – walking around with two rods in the belief they will cross in the presence of subterranean water – regulators demanded that they stop. Today, nearly all the country’s tap-fillers have complied, with the exception of Thames Water and Severn Trent Water. “Some people they work for, some people they don’t,” says Thames Water’s Lloyd Butter. “If they work for you, you come to trust it.”

Gone viral

An observatory in Hawaii captured this footage of a flying spiral swirling across the night sky in the early hours of 18 January. Spoilsport scientists say the phenomenon is not the result of aliens or a distant galaxy – it was probably part of a SpaceX rocket jettisoning excess fuel.

Love etc

For $10 this Valentine’s Day, San Antonio Zoo in Texas will name a cockroach after your ex and feed it to an animal. You can also upgrade to a dead rodent, for $25, or pay $150 for the zoo to record a personalised video message showing the named nosh being devoured. Order your ex-cursing package here.


It’s John Major, looking downcast after a speech in 1994. The photo was constantly used by the newspapers to illustrate stories about his premiership going wrong, says Matthew Parris in The Times, but I’m told the truth behind it is rather different. Someone else was making a lengthy speech, and Major was “composing a limerick on a scrap of paper on his lap” – looking down to shield his eyes from the “dazzling” lights. Rishi Sunak should take heed: once a “media narrative” sets in, it’s difficult to shake it off.


quoted 1.2.23

“One must not be a name-dropper, as Her Majesty remarked to me yesterday.”

Tory MP Norman St-John Stevas