Cabs that run on brain power

17th March 2000 at 00:00
LONDONERS have long suspected that taxi-drivers are the fount of all knowledge, but now scientists say they have developed bigger brains to accommodate it.

The two years or so the cabbies spend learning The Knowledge (the routes and street names through the capital), expand the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with spatial awareness. And the longer on the job, the bigger it gets, say researchers at London University's Institute of Neurology.

Other research by Scottish palaeopathologist Daphne Lorimar has given the perfect excuse to pear-shaped women - in abundance in Britain: blame the ancestors. She claims wide lumbar regions are a product of having to lug peat up and down mountains. Others have dismissed her claim, saying wide hips evolved because they are better for childbirth.

Another relic was unearthed by Ivor Hockman who, as a schoolboy in September 1939, borrowed a book from Clapton lirary, days before he was evacuated from London. He found The Bulpington of Blup, by HG Wells among some old possessions and returned it with a cheque for pound;13.25 - one old penny for each week overdue.

Back in the modern world, school bullies have found a new use for the dreaded mobile phone: they send threatening text messages to their victims. But such mobile menace is "very stupid," says Pauline Haslet, of the Anti-Bullying Campaign, because messages can be used as evidence by the police.

Nottinghamshire police have come up with a novel way of reducing truancy. They are offering free tickets for a football match for 150 pupils who show the best attendance, punctuality and behaviour records at Bramcote Park school. The success of this pilot scheme is now down to the Nottingham Forest team. If they don't perform, young fans might be tempted to bunk off from the City Ground as well.

Diane Spencer

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